It’s Not About Winning

Recently, Andy Stanley, pastor of North Point Community Church in the Atlanta area, imparted a few words of wisdom to the Georgia State Legislature. In his address he urged the two political parties to react against attempts to make their governing a contest that consisted of winners and losers. In other words, to find the middle that seemed sensible and doable.

There is something about our makeup that seeks to conquer, to win, to get the upper hand. Last week I was one of the teachers in that unique setting that we call “parent-teacher conferences.” Both sides of the table, parents and teachers, would have benefited from hearing Andy Stanley’s words. That is, it’s not about being right, being victorious, putting it to those darned educators or those dramatic moms and dads. Rather, it’s bout working together to help the student be successful.

Teachers are guides, called to lay out a course that the student can navigate.

And yet, our culture, where winners are exalted and losers become the butts of the jokes, takes over the agenda for the meeting and nothing gets accomplished except deeper foxholes being dug. Weary educators get pelted with accusations of being uncaring tyrants. Parents get whispered about as being bullies and out-of-touch.

Coming from a family that has, or has had, a busload of educators, I can see the increasing demands that have been put on teachers and administrators. They are overwhelmed much of the time. On the path of instruction that is so often covered up with state regulations, testing requirements, and extra meetings, they are trying to find the way for their students to be proficient in the knowledge and skills they are to learn.

And there are parents who are trying to hold their families together, want the best for their kids, and are worried about what will happen in the next few years in their offspring’s education. Sometimes they see things coming out of schools that are just plain weird and need to be challenged.

Both sides can be demanding. Both sides can be blind to common sense. Both sides can become proficient at talking with their mouths open and their ears closed. There were a few conferences where I was empathetic for the parents. My teaching team was looking for solutions, trying to come up with some special kind of balm that might take some of the sting out. We felt for the struggling!

And then there was a couple of conferences where the boxing gloves were coming at us at the first bell. We ducked the hooks that sought to cripple our hope, an covered up when body jabs kept coming that were one question after another about our character, our teaching style, and why would we ever think that their child should be made to do what we were asking them to do?

Winner and losers, and yet no winners at all.

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