As a follow up to the dreaded parent email (day 82), both issues have now been resolved. They were resolved by meeting with each student and asking them to share their perspective. In both cases, I set up the container to be one of genuine curiosity about their concerns. It was not a time for me to convince them otherwise or prove them wrong. I just listened. One student quickly owned that he had been stressed out about other things and his mother misconstrued his blowing off steam for a larger issue. The second told me specifically what he took fault with. (His mother related that he was satisfied with our conversation.) I thanked them both for their perspective and left it at that. I didn’t have to fix anything, it turned out. Of course, it doesn’t always work out so simply, but in these cases, just creating space for feedback removed the push back because there was nothing to push back against. I wasn’t trying to defend my teaching or our content. I was able to just be curious.
In a system that often tells students they are always wrong, teachers are always right, they shouldn’t question us, it can be a game changer just to allow them to speak what is on their mind. We don’t have to agree with them, but we can listen. Sometimes, it is enough to feel heard.