Sunday, April 26, 2009

Oopps. My bad.

I am an education specialist: at least that’s how my credential reads. We used to be called Resource Specialists. Bottom line is we’re the ones who are assigned to provide educational support to students with disabilities. That’s what I do.

But most jobs have a line item in the job description that reads, “And other duties as required.” My job descriptions has that line, and one of the “other duties” is managing several meeting calendars. Part of my job is to coordinate meetings with parents, administrators, the school psychologist, the school nurse, and sometimes the speech and language pathologist. (Most women handle this with ease. They have a lifetime of practice. Men? Not-so-much, and sometimes that’s a problem.)

I set up and attend three to five of these meetings a week 35 to 40 weeks a year. That’s a lot of meetings, but it’s part of the job. Communication isn’t easy, and it requires much planning and execution to pull-off that many meetings. Most of the time I muddle through. I appear competent and professional. Most of the time.

What is irritating is when I plan the meeting and one key person doesn’t show up. It’s especially irritating when the parents don’t show up. It makes the rest of us think that they don’t care. That’s what happened this Friday morning.

Although it was annoying when the parents for this particular important meeting didn’t show up, the five of us who did show up quickly filled that hour and a half slot with other urgent activities. It’s that time of year when we are all quite busy.

Later in the day, as I was figuring out what papers I’d have to have the parents sign to bypass setting up a new meeting when I a made an uncomfortable discovery: I’d never invited the parents to the meeting. My bad. They were no-shows because I missed the part where I was supposed to mail the invitation. (I had sent them a set of parent rights, and a form requesting permission to test their student, but I’d missed one key item: the invitation.)

One of the true tests of an individual is how they handle personal failure. Me? I’ve learned to simply own up to mine. Nobody likes being the “dumb-ass,” but it’s a part we each get to play on occasion. It was my turn. (Again.) I found the five people who thought the parents were no-shows, and I explained what really happened.

The interesting thing was, no one really got mad at me: they all thought it was funny. When it’s not life threatening, someone else’s failure is often a source of humor to others. This is especially true if the person who goofs up usually doesn’t. Seeing a competent person’s foibles makes it easier living with our own.

I made a choice to own up to my mistakes, and in so doing, made it easier for others to live with their own. A common, knee-jerk reaction in human interactions is to hide our vulnerabilities and shortcomings in order to maintain relationships; however, it is those very vulnerabilities and shortcomings, which provide the points of union with others.

I’m reading a book this weekend, and one of the characters tells another, “You’re going to have to develop a sense of humor.” The character in need of a sense of humor had a bigger flaw: he took himself too seriously. He hadn’t yet learned to laugh at himself. I have. (And I give myself lots of opportunities: planned and unplanned!)

I had been searching for a topic worth writing about for this weekend's blog post. Last night as I was heading to bed, I remembered my personal fiasco, and it brought a smile to my face. I thought it might bring one to your’s as well.

(I also met up with the parent after school, told her what had happened, and rescheduled the meeting for next Tuesday. She was gracious. She understood.)

Life happens, and life goes on. And sometimes, it’s a funny show to watch. I was featured this week on the "show"; unfortunately, it was only on the out-takes.


  1. I think we all can relate to the inner turmoil of owning up to mistakes; the frustrating part is that it takes some longer than others in life to learn how. I'm kind of dealing with that right now, sigh...

    "A common, knee-jerk reaction in human interactions is to hide our vulnerabilities and shortcomings in order to maintain relationships; however, it is those very vulnerabilities and shortcomings, which provide the points of union with others." Don, this is so perfectly written it belongs OUT THERE somewhere - a Times Square billboard, a CNN ticker, something! Keep preachin' it!

  2. I was a very successful local government executive - that's not meant to be a boast, just an introduction. One of the reasons I was good was because I was never afraid to own up to a mistake. This, in turn, meant that my staff were equally unafraid . An 'everyone can make a mistake, or two' culture allows adventurous folk to try new things and they know that they will be defended if others attack them for a mistake. (And yes, I accpet there are circumstances where that is not so allowable - like the health services which need a different set of criteria). Like you said, other people are usually gracious and understand - after all, there but for the grace of God they go! And life goes on whatever.

  3. Hey Don!
    I have dedicated my life to making accurate and sincere apologies. It was hard at first. It is still not easy in the approach. But it is always easy in retrospect.
    About that character: there is a saying (maybe by Chesterton or someone like) about ego and humorlessness; that "Satan fell by force of gravity."

  4. Saphron: Thanks for the comments. Perhaps this very small billboard called by blog is enough. It's "out there" at least. But thanks for the encouragement. I'm reminded that some of the "best" sermons every "preached" by Jesus, were for an audience of one. (e.g. the woman at the well)

    Scriptor: I agree with you. A work environment where it is safe to experiment and learn is a tremendous gift and accomplishment. It is also best taught by management's example. In my book, that's good management.

    Dennis: You said, "I have dedicated my life to making accurate and sincere apologies." That's a goal worth working on, and we never will run out of opportunities to practice. ;-)