Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Hypothetical: Does Aggressive = Winner?

Hypothetical question du jour : In general, do you believe aggressive, in-your-face, lawsuit-threatening, "win" at all cost-ers really get what they want more often than people blessed with more calm, reasonable, and empathetic personalities?

Hypothetical Scenario (actually, a quasi-real life example involving an acquaintance of mine) - Father begins process of divorcing Mother, then quickly shacks up with Mother's 6-year-old son's public school Teacher. The Child starts having problems at school (natch) regarding his Teacher, who is well-intentioned when she makes it clear she wants to be his new Mommy. Father wants Child to have Teacher for every grade of his elementary schooling (as is the practice at this particular public school), so Father basically threatens the Principal to make sure he maintains the status quo and doesn't reassign the Child to a different teacher. When Mother meets with Principal, he dismisses her concerns that the current arrangement is harming Child emotionally and causing Child to act out, and he refuses her request to have Child reassigned to another teacher. Principal tells Mother she "had better not make any scenes at the school or disrespect Child's teacher in any way, or Mother would have to be banned from school property."

Mother tells hush the following: "I just feel so disrespected, I mean, I have volunteered countless hours at the school and I'm the friggin' PTA President! I've never threatened anybody in my whole life! Where does Principal get off talking to me that way, making it seem like I'm the problem?! It's like he's scared of my Ex and feels like he can just walk all over me, and he shows no concern for my son's well-being."

Is there a moral to this story? Don't make babies with an aggressive dick? Don't volunteer so selflessly for the PTA, lest the Principal consider you "the help" and refuse to take you seriously when push comes to shove? Don't meet with the Principal without a more powerful ally/recording device/written record of the conversation present? Know the school district's actual policies backwards and forwards before you meet?

Please to discuss.

8 comments:

NK: Style-ING w/ Children said...

I grew up a very calm, mild, shy child; blushed at every turn, was afraid to put up my hand, etc. As an adult, I find that in some situations I MUST put aside my natural inclination to hide under the desk/covers and not only defend myself, but forsee difficult situations and come prepared. Countless times I wish I had a recording device, countless times I wish I came to a meeting more prepared. There's a very fine line between being aggressive and proactively protecting self. It's just a way too scary world to be caught with your pants down.

I'm not anywhere close to mastering the skill of this balancing act myself. And so far, there's never been a situation that was life breaking. I feel that your friend's situation is. It is her child's well being at stake. I say pull out the big guns.

MrsHaley said...

In my experience as a public school teacher for many years, the answer is YES, the more obnoxious person gets what they want. Reasonable, moderate, thoughtful people get steamrolled.

Melba said...

Well not always. Just today, I was at a hearing, and the one lawyer was being obnoxious, stomping around and basically having a hissy fit over a motion to strike evidence that the other lawyer had filed. The judge gave him a subtle reprimand for being obnoxious and then ruled in favor of the other guy. I watched the whole thing, and in this case, I really think the hissy fit dude nailed the lid shut on his own coffin with his theatrics. He kept saying things like "with all due respect..." prior to saying something completely disrespectful. Totally obnoxious.

Please don't ask why I was at a hearing. Can't say. ;)

Anyway, in the case of your hypothetical situation, the Mother should go in guns a blazin' and fight her fight. In a respectful way of course, but when it comes to your kids, and particularly in this case it's not an issue for simply one grade, it's for all grades, well you have to feel like you have done your best and did all you could, you know? Its different when it is about your children. Right or wrong, it is.

Jac. said...

I agree that the Mother should go in guns a blazin' but I also think that she should arm herself ahead of time with lots of knowledge. It's a lot easier to go into something with confidence when you know the facts inside and out. I find it extremely difficult to believe that the school district doesn't have a policy prohibiting a teacher from teaching their own child, that would be a conflict of interest. Along the same lines, it seems that the teacher/girlfriend in this scenario would have the same conflict of interest. Even if there is no specific policy prohibiting this behaviour, teachers must be held to high level of professional conduct including avoiding even the APPEARANCE of a conflict of interest which would include placing themselves in situations where their judgement could, even unconciously, be affected by their private interest. Giving the teacher/girlfriend the benefit of the doubt, perhaps she could be giving the child extra attention to "win" him over, to the detriment of the other child in the class. Worse case scenario, she could lash out at the ex-wife through her treatment of the child.

I think it helps to be aggressive, but I don't equate that with being bitchy and unreasonable. I think you arm yourself with facts, decide AHEAD OF TIME how far you are willing to take it, and then proceed. If your aquaintance is not great at face-to-face confrontation, she should put all her concerns in a letter along with her stated desired outcome. The letter should be absolutely calm and reasonable in tone but it needs to state that if the Principal can't resolve her concerns to her satisfaction by X date, she will escalate it. Threatening (in a non-threatening voice) to escalate to the media is usually very effective (and the media would be all over a story that had a hint of sex in it).

Claudia said...

Sick. What sort of overcontrolling freak is that dad? And what sort of lame ass jellyfish is that teacher? She should know better than that.
The mom, I think, should go straight to the school board. It's a huge conflict of interest, and not done for the sake of the kid. They should NOT place him with that teacher for the very reason that she is his "new mommy" (gross. Not because stepmoms are not a new mother figure, but because the kid's GOT a mommy.)
As for your initial question, I prefer the calm reasonable approach. I also know that most people are cowards when faced with an overbearing ass, and will bend over. Sucks that the principal is bending over.

mom2boy said...

For mild mannered people, information is power. That's why I'm going to law school. ;) I would imagine that pushy, aggressive people do get a lot of short term gain from people who just want them to go away. I'm thinking of people who complain loudly about poor service or food, etc. But long term? I don't know. I would like to think not.

eta said...

This story is kind of terrifying. I can't imagine any unmentioned circumstances where this teacher's behavior isn't out of line. " . . . wants to be his new Mommy"? What on earth? If my stepmother had made anything like that clear to me--well, it would have boded poorly for us all, is all I can say.

In my experience with both public schools & tiny private schools, teachers generally feel it is best to place their own children in other classes to avoid the kids having to deal with the confusion & pressure, however inadvertent, of trying to be in a purely student role with a parent. So why would this teacher & school want to keep this arrangement as is, given the new family dynamic? & that's before we get to the father's bizarre, preemptive power moves with the school.

Based on your post, I'll hope there are good lawyers involved for the kid & the mom. Good luck to them all.

PS: Thanks for being out here; your posts are always a pleasure to read, even when they are unnerving like this one.

hush said...

The majority votes for bringing out the big guns and knowing all of the relevant rules backwards and forwards (but per @Melba - don't humiliate the decision-maker in her own courtroom by being such an obvious ass or you'll get smacked down).

@Jac - I like your idea of the letter mentioning escalating to the media.

@eta - Welcome! Thanks for the sweet words even if the story terrified you - comments like yours definitely keep me at this. ;)