Dr.Dane is head of school at Brooklyn Heights Montessori School(New York).Visit his blog at http:/danesedblog.blogspot.com/.
Setting: Any school and home
Characters: Lisa’s Mother, a parent
Characters: Ms.Johnson,a school administrator
Characters: a student
Characters: Mr.Talbot,a teacher
Each Character’s Conscience
Scene 1(Ms. Johnson is working at her desk when Lisa’s Mother storms into her office.)
LISA’S MOTHER:【Agitated】Lisa is struggling in math class. Her recent grades were atrocious. I am not paying this kind of tuition for her to do poorly. You have to do something about this.
MS.JOHNSON:[Barely withholding her own agitation]Has Lisa talked to her teacher?
LISA’S MOTHER: She doesn’t feel that he cares. He doesn’t do anything except say that she has to invest more time in her class preparations. And, by the way, she doesn’t want me to talk with you, so you can’t let her know that we had this conversation.
MS.JOHNSON’S CONSCIENCE: You want me to help Lisa, but you won’t let me talk to anyone or do anything…and, yet, I hear your frustration. I need to get out of my defensive made and put myself into your place so that I can support you and Lisa-not push you away.
MS.JOHNSON: Let’s make a deal. I will talk to her teacher to make sure he is giving Lisa the time and support she needs, and you will talk with Lisa to figure out what is going wrong for her in the class. You started off talking about her grades. In my experience, it’s best not to focus on grades, but on learning. Ultimately, we want to support her in a way that allows her to develop the inner strength to do this on her own. She is such a good kid. Can you and I agree that our objective is to help her build confidence and academic independence?
LISA’S MOTHER:[Agitation subsiding] I…agree, yes.
SCENE2 (School hallway. Students and teachers passing between classes.)
MR.TALBOT: Lisa, you didn’t come for extra help today. I thought you needed help with last night’s assignment. And why are you texting on your phone while I am talking to you?
LISA: I am sorry for not meeting with you as we agreed. Mr Talbot ,I like your class, but I get grief from my parents to get higher grades. It seems that the more I try to do better, the more I end up doing worse.
MS.TALBOT’S CONSCIENCE: I cancelled my plans so I could meet with her. It’s so annoying. But I can see she is struggling. And it stinks to have that kind of pressure, Stop being a jerk. Reassure her, You are the teacher.
MR.TALBOT: Can we try again tomorrow? My job is to support you. Lisa. Let’s forget about the grades for now and concentrate on learning the material in a way that is satisfying to you. You can do it. I know it.
LISA’S CONSCIENCE: He would never understand what it is like to need to achieve the grades my parents are looking for, yet I don’t want to let him down: he’s my favorite teacher.
LISA: I can come tomorrow during my free period. Is that ok? I promise I will be there.
SCENE 3(After dinner at Lisa’s house)
Lisa: [On the verge of tears] what am I going to do about math? I can’t get the grades you want. It seems that the harder I try. The worse grades I get, I hate school. I just want to quit.
LISA’S MOTHER: [Anxious and frustrated] you just have to try harder. I just don’t get it- so why bother?
LISA’S MOTHER’S CONSCIENCE: It is obvious that she is feeling beat up. and you’re not helping. Don’t you remember when you were in the same place back in school? It is not always simple. Right now, I need to be a good listener. Anyway, that’s part of the deal I made with Ms. Johnson.
LISA’S MOTHER: I’m sorry, Lisa .Let us take a walk after dinner and the two of us can figure this out. We both have to concentrate more on understanding the math, not on your grades. I do want to be there for you and support you and your schoolwork. I know it’s not easy, but I also know you can do this and that you will be happier once you figure it out.