In this space a week ago I reported on the case of a defiant student in high school, a boy I called David. This is a follow-up post.
In an earlier conversation I had had with David, he had indicated that he felt like punching the teacher he felt most resentful towards in the face (my words for his more descriptive language). So, when he came in last Thursday for an appointment with that teacher, having already been expelled from school by the principal, I had made sure one of the maintenance staff was available nearby just in case.
The teacher had indicated wanting to talk to David one-on-one, rather than having a group conversation with me and the head of the department taking part as well. David walked in, looking self-assured. He and the teacher sat down at the conference table in my office. A colleague and I continued our work at our desks at the other end of the room, bracing for the worst. What happened next was most extraordinary.
The teacher opened the conversation asking David what he would like to talk about. David responded by referring to their last, very unhappy, exchange. They talked about this for about ten minutes and then parted, shaking hands, with the teacher wishing David the best for his future. What at first had seemed like a possibly highly volatile meeting had unexpectedly transformed into a moment of harmonious closure for both parties. How could this have turned out so well?
Creating a Field of Open Communication
It's the field David and his teacher were able to create together on that quiet after-school appointment. David had been composed and relaxed. The teacher had been willing to listen, being genuinely interested in David as a fellow human being. Both had come with empty pages, expecting the exchange to take shape on the basis of the dynamics of the moment, rather than on the basis of unfortunate dynamics of the past.
I call this a true miracle of living in the moment where mistakes of the past are washed away and pathways to new opportunities open up for all involved.
Afterwards, I made sure to compliment both gentlemen: as I walked David to his locker I praised him for his composure and mature attitude. Later that day I commended my colleague for his tact, his openness and approachability.
As for accolades, in a future post we'll talk about compliments and why they are such a powerful tool when used effectively.