[From the archives.]
A Call from the Principal
Years ago I got an unexpected call at work from my son’s junior high principal. Not a good thing under most circumstances, and this was no exception to the rule. She wanted to tell me that my son might be upset and she called to let me know immediately rather than learn about it when I came home from work.
It turns out she had called him to her office to reprimand him. She said he was circulating an inappropriate petition concerning one of his teachers. I started to get an idea of the problem. He’d told us a few days before that some of the students were concerned with how this teacher was handling the class and we had talked about it with him in the days leading up to this phone call.
His idea of how best to handle it was to put the problem in writing and see if enough kids agreed so that he could then talk to her about it. He didn’t want to bother bringing it up with her if not many other kids were bothered by it. I didn’t know the details of his plan, but the general topic of a petition came up.
I listened incredulously as the principal told me that once she found out about it she pulled him out of class and into her office.
I listened in sorrow as she described him getting upset and teary at being reprimanded.
I listened in disbelief as she told me her main concern was for the teacher – the TEACHER, mind you – as she might get her feelings hurt at the petition being circulated.
I didn’t hear her say anything about students handling concerns in a creative and constructive manner. I didn’t hear her say anything about listening to my son’s intentions, or what he was concerned about in the first place. Nothing. The way she explained it, this conversation in her office was pretty one-sided. She spoke and my son sat there.
I said thanks, ended the conversation as quickly as I could, and prayed for my son.
The Bike Ride to Suspension
It’s been a while since I thought of that phone call. Then I read about a group of high school seniors in Michigan who decided to stage a massive bike ride to school as their senior prank on the last day of classes. Sounds innocent enough, constructive and creative even, right? Not to the principal. She told all sixty-four participants it was a dangerous stunt: traffic could have snarled and they might have been injured – “your brains could have ended up splattered,” she told them. She would not countenance it! They were prohibited from senior activities for the rest of the day and sent home. Some even missed a final exam.
Turns out the Seniors had more on the ball than she gave them credit for. They had contacted the authorities ahead of time to take care of safety concerns and rode with a police escort. Not only that, the Mayor even accompanied the students on their route to school that morning. The only ones not in the know were the school officials, but letting them in on it would have defeated the purpose of a rather creative – and rather responsible – senior prank, of course.
Cooler heads eventually prevailed. The suspension was lifted, teachers offered make-up tests, and the school district issued an apology complete with a statement from the Principal.
Waiting for All the Evidence to Come In
Jumping to conclusions is rarely a good practice – even if it is out of concern for the feelings of a junior high school teacher or the safety of a few dozen graduating seniors. And it really doesn’t work at my job.
One thing I tell jurors repeatedly throughout trial is not to form their final opinions or conclusions, but to wait until all the evidence is in, deliberate with all the other jurors, and then see if they can reach a verdict. In fact, this admonition has been adopted into a formal jury instruction that applies to all trials in my state. The wisdom underlying it goes back to a time long before California existed.
Through presumption comes nothing but strife, but with those who receive counsel is wisdom. (Proverbs 13:12.)
Don’t presume. Seek counsel and talk things over with others. Then come to a reasoned conclusion. It’s so simple, right?
I don’t know about you, but I see people around me and then jump to conclusions about them all the time, thinking I know what’s going on in their lives. But I don’t. That might hurt only me, except there are times when I then act on this utter lack of knowledge, this lack of reasoned consideration. That can lead to mistakes, big mistakes. So what should I do?
God’s wisdom still applies: don’t presume; get the facts; find someone to talk things over with. So how do you do that? Please share your experiences here in the comments.
After all, none of us want to presume we have all the answers.