Rude staff don’t worry me

1st January 2016 at 00:00

Behaviour management is one of the most useful transferable skills I’ve gained during my time in FE.

A particularly important lesson was learned a few years ago, with no sign of a student involved. I was with a colleague and we were scheduled to meet in a specific classroom for our regular team meeting. My colleague, who was leading the meeting, is one of those rare and precious humans with a warm, gentle manner and a core as strong as reinforced concrete. She didn’t suffer fools…usually.

She walked into our regular room, and was confronted by a teacher there, who barked that he’d booked it for a tutorial. His tone was hostile. She politely explained that she had a group and wondered if he would mind moving to another room as there were many spare. He wouldn’t.

Utterly baffled, she conceded. We set off to look for somewhere else. By the time we had got there, her fluster had turned to outrage. That bloke’s conduct was unacceptable – winning a teeny battle was more important to him than engaging with logic or reason. And he was rude.

It was late in the day and we were all fired up by the drama. A collective protective instinct kicked in.

We discussed (but resisted) the temptation to curate an impromptu gallery of penis drawings blue-tacked to the outside of the Classroom Thief’s stolen door. Y’know, because of professionalism an’ that.

After the meeting, our colleague was still visibly miffed. Then it hit me. I behaved similarly when I felt undermined, disrespected or taken advantage of. I avoided confrontation, went silent, then allowed the experience to resurface later as sadness. I allowed myself to be the victim of someone else’s rudeness or dodgy communication – a problem which was theirs, not mine.

The answer to this was then clear: to present a calm but authentic reaction to the right person at the time of the incident, instead of absorbing feelings of injustice. My feelings were mine to decide – no one made me feel anything.

This may well be an obvious lesson but, for a multi-flawed, emotionally incontinent mess of inconsistencies like me, it was a breakthrough. One that I had the chance to put into practice recently.

A meeting was cancelled at short notice; a long-scheduled meeting for which I had been as accommodating as possible. I was the one who had put the most effort into attending – an expensive train journey and a logistical nightmare to coordinate my family. The person who cancelled due to a more pressing work commitment did so without apology.

So, remembering “Classroom Gate”, I sent a short email to say that I understood the necessity for rescheduling; however, the words “sorry for the inconvenience” would have been appreciated.

I haven’t heard back. I suspect that the fact that the person in question is in a very senior position in their world means that being pulled up on their manners is a rare occurrence. I may have shocked them. Good. It’s amazing what you learn in FE.

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