Thursday, March 15, 2018

SOLSC #15: What if you could take it back?

I am participating in the
March 2018 Slice of Life Story Challenge (SOLSC).
All participants are writing about one moment, one part of their day, every day for thirty-one days.
A big thank you to Two Writing Teachers for providing this unique opportunity
for teacher-writers to share and reflect.

There is a sad, bluesy song by John Hiatt called "Slip of the Tongue," which I have always been haunted by:

Some words flew out
And made a crash landin'
No love survived
Not a trace could be found
I broke your heart
With the back of my mind
From the tip of my tongue
To the end of the line
When I listen to his heartbreak, I wonder - What exactly did he say? How come he couldn't make amends? What causes us to be thoughtless? 
These 'slips of the tongue' are so ordinary, so human, and so horrid. We're living through one right now. A colleague received a text that was intended for another colleague, and - here's the heartbreak - not only was it written ABOUT the colleague who inadvertently received it, it was offensive and hurtful. 
How will they ever make amends? How will the beautiful and important work of teaching resume?
Teaching is hard team with people that often are not your favorite folks and you have to make it work. I often joke that working on a teaching team is like being in an arranged marriage, one where even your children are chosen for you! It's not like you are sitting at a computer terminal with your back to the other person, hopeful that your one meeting together is over quickly. No, teachers spend their daily life so close together, mired in lots of social-emotional issues, communication problems, family discussions, thought-provoking strategizing, planning, planning, planning...working together as teachers in intense. Truly, intense.
We plan to have a restorative circle about this. We will now put into practice what we try to teach children - how to care for one another, how to be respectful, how to make amends.


  1. As I was reading this I thought about restorative justice circles, but I honestly think the restoration is more difficult for adults. It really isn't possible to reel in those words spoken through that text. I suppose the best hope is that some semblance of a working relationship can be restored. I think this is all tougher for elementary teachers who work so closely together. In high school we get to retreat to our separate rooms and close the doors and let time work its magic; sometimes that takes years.

    One of the main reasons I'm retiring at the end of the 2018-19 school year is I've had it w/ a few adults in my building; its the territorial jockeying for the best classes at the expense of more qualified and the incursion of certain cultural and patriarchal influences that I've grown particularly weary of dealing with. Knowing I only have one more year to go frees me from the turf wars and backstabbing--almost.

    1. It's taken me until Saturday to loop back and read through comments, Glenda. Thank you for this insight! I am sorry to hear about your retirement - and I totally get it. (I am trying to figure out my own timeline. It gets so hard and frustrating at times.) Your school is going to lose so much when you leave.

  2. Oh no! I have a phobia of this happening. I always check the recipient of the text five times--and then I try to be careful to keep thoughts that might be hurtful to someone else safely inside my head or confessed only to my mother! The restorative circle is an interesting intervention for this situation. I think Glenda is on to something here--probably easier for children than adults!

    1. I think it is probably a very good thing to walk through the same conflict resolution process as our students...and, like Glenda, I really wonder how successful it would be. I keep thinking about how hard these "slips of the tongue" are for married couples, who have so much more trust and investment, I think, than colleagues. It's a journey!