It's open enrollment month for Seattle Public Schools. As a parent of a freshman who is unhappy at her school, it's an opportunity to request a transfer to a new high school. Last October, I met with the principal of my daughter's school, expressing concern about the mismatch of my daughter and the high school she is attending. I did not feel particularly seen or heard at the time.
So, as I recently circled the parking lot of the downtown enrollment center, I found it interesting that when my cell phone rang, it was the principal of her school, calling to resolve an unrelated issue. After completing the principal's reason for the call, I took a deep breath and said, "I feel compelled to tell you that I am here at the enrollment center, turning in paperwork to transfer my daughter out of your school." It was a challenging conversation, and as I am new to Fierce, I had in mind the objectives of a Fierce Conversation: Interrogate Reality, Provoke Learning, Tackle Tough Challenges and Enrich Relationships. I felt that we touched on the first three, and I was left with the question, "what part of that conversation enriched the relationship?" I didn't have an easy answer for that, and it was on my mind as I walked into the enrollment center.
As I walked into the enrollment center, I all of a sudden heard someone call my name. I looked up and saw the very same principal I had just spoken with! How uncanny. It was a tremendous opportunity to continue our conversation, and for me, a way to focus on that 4th objective, enriching the relationship. As we spoke about my daughter's academic needs, the subject of the principal's call came up. It revolved around an incident with a stolen calculator that ended up in my daughter's hands (through no fault of her own). As we completed (again) on the issue, I began to see a change come across the principal's face. I sensed that she was really "seeing and hearing" me, and, unexpectedly she offered to go advocate for my daughter's transfer to the high school of her choice. An offering that was completely unexpected and, I suspect, not something that happens every day.
I felt seen and heard AND supported and I welcomed her advocacy. And although her advocacy may or may not result in a change of placement, I now know that my daughter's academic needs are firmly planted in this principal, and if she stays at her current school, her needs will be considered in the coming year. As we completed, I felt connection and warmth and clearly the relationship was deepened. We parted with a hug.