Be a Backstop

 “Character is power; it makes friends, draws patronage and support and opens the way to wealth, honor and happiness.”  John Howe

 She just continued to scream at me.

 The people in the hallway stopped. They looked in, they stared, my nerves continued to become more unraveled the more she yelled. All the children in the hallway outside my office got quiet—very quiet. They just looked at this mother scream as her shrill voice continued to escalate.

 Imagine your worst, most irate customer—ever. You wish you had a vanish button, or you wish she was standing over a trap door. Suddenly your daydreams are interrupted by the harsh sound of reality, her shrill voice neither stops nor goes away.  She just continues to scream at you. Her anger continues to grow as you do everything possible to calm her. Nothing works; no suggestion makes any difference. She just continues to get madder and madder.

 Since I am the secretary, I cannot fix her problem. It is so large even the principal of the grade school cannot fix it. I try to politely inform her of that, to no avail. She is just out of control and no one can stop her. Her anger finally gets the best of her and as she storms toward the doors and as she passes the other side, she yells, “I am going to central office and I will have your job.” She is gone, but not forgotten, as the situation loomed in my mind for days.

 In our school district when a parent goes to central office, many times it meant you could go ahead and pack your bags because your career with the school district was over.  The fear and dread of her going to central office continued to build all day long.  Then the inevitable e-mail appeared.  It was from the school district superintendent asking me to come to his office.  Thankfully, a carbon copy was sent to my principal.

 My principal called me into her office to ask about the situation.  She listened carefully to my side of the story and after hearing it, realized there was no simple or easy solution for this parent.  My principal informed me to not worry about it.  She even stated that she would go to central office on my behalf.  She went and dealt with the anger of the superintendent and the angry parent. The feeling of relief for working for a boss who was a backstop was incredible.

 Of course, the story became legendary at our school.  Our principal’s reputation and admiration from all the staff grew by leaps and bounds with this one event.

 The best thing I liked about my best boss was that she was a backstop for any challenges or problems that arose.  I would have walked through fire for her, because she was there for me, even when I thought I might lose my job at the district.

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