Events like this put you on alert. You look for clues. You wonder what really happened.
Yet, you know that you can't speak unless you know for sure what happened. It would be unjust to speak up without the facts.
In general, it's best not to let events get to that place--a place beyond knowing. Instead, it's best to ask questions as you go along. What happened? Why? What could be different? Help me to understand.
Asking as you move along prevents the point of unknowing, the confusion, and the lost time associated with events that simply "don't feel right."
As I think over my educational past, most of it is quite transparent, yet there are a few confusing moments--times when I wished I had asked more questions and brought confusion to light.
This happens during the school year too. Generally a child may display a simple, unexpected behavior, then another, and another. You have an inkling that something is going on, but you hope you're wrong, and at first you just think, "It's a one time or infrequent event." Then there's the moment when you can no longer disregard the action. You have to make a call, inquire more, collect the facts, and find out.
Generally when this happens, there is relief all around--everyone has been harboring worry or frustration or even a secret for too long, and the child's actions have brought the concern to life. Usually this awakening clears the air and sets the program in a better direction, but sometimes the answer is not found, worry remains, and services and support you idealize don't exist. When this happens, you hope that you and others will advocate for what is missing. I can think of a few times when that advocacy did not result in betterment, but typically things do change for the better.
In general, it's best to take the time to observe, listen, speak, and react with care. It's best not to let those "this doesn't feel right" moments fester, but instead speak up and ask the questions--find out what's going on and respond with caring support and response.
There are a few areas in my teaching/learning life that require advocacy right now--areas I will think about this summer and strategize around. I'll ask myself these questions:
- Does this matter enough to advocate for change?
- If so, how will I advocate for change and to whom?
- What systems, processes, roles, and routines need to change in order to resolve these issues?
- How can I support just, equitable response and action?
With regard to the children I serve, I want to put less distance between initial worrisome behaviors and parent contact. When a child acts in surprising on worrisome ways, I want to talk to parents sooner or later with questions such as "I noticed____ and I'm wondering why you think that happens?" or "____ said_____, and that worried me, can you help me to understand why he/she said that?"
Similarly with issues that are confusing with regard to colleagues, I want to be more straightforward with comments such as, "Do you know why ____ happened," or "I noticed _____ changed. Do you know why?" Rather than fear asking for clarification, I'll speak up to understand well. It's always curious when people are reluctant to offer clarification or the facts. It makes you wonder why with questions such as Do they know why?, Are they hiding something?, or Is there a reason why they wouldn't want to share that information?
In education there is little reason for secrets or unknowing except that for which we've yet to discover or unearth--that related to the evolution of the field. Our mission in education is to teach children well, and when we are open, transparent, inclusive, and communicative about that aim, everyone does better.
So to avoid those "doesn't feel right" moments, ask more questions, seek clarification, converse with respect, and find out sooner than later. That will create more time for good work and less time for confusion and worry.