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From the Back of the Bus

Now I’m mad.

That parent just walked in and accused me and the rest of the staff of being unprofessional, lacking discernment, and implied that were not a faith-based staff at all.  That hurt.  That was uncalled for.  And what did I do?  I just rolled over and let her rant.  I didn’t present myself as having anything resembling a backbone.  I didn’t step up and take her apart, pointing out the wanky ideas which were completely based on misinformation, her personal demands on how we should be doing things, and her own personal bad attitude.  I just rolled over and let her stab me in the heart.  I thought I’d given up on being bullied back in high school!  I’m such a wimp!  So now I’m just as mad at myself as I am at them.

So now what?  Do I go over to the other teachers and let them know what just happened?  Do I let them know that this totally unreasonable parent just launched an ICBM into our midst?  How much do I protect the teachers from the anguish this will cause?  Ugh.  I’m going for coffee and cool down.  I don’t need to face this now.

Or do I?  What if I’m not ready to face this?  What if word gets out (and it will…), people find out (and they will…), the teachers become aware, and they’re taken aback and feel hurt because I didn’t speak up right away?  How fast should communication be?  How slow?  Do I always have to have my head/heart in the right place before I speak?  Boy, if that’s the case I’m probably going join a monastery.  One with silence.

We all believe communication is important.  We can’t have any real relationship without it.  God calls each of us to guard our tongues, and I’m sure we all have stories where our words were not honoring to God or our position as teachers and leaders.  I hear stories from others all the time where silence was the chosen response, not because there wasn’t anything to say, but because the wiser path was to not say anything at the time.  But scenarios like the one I pose, cobbled together from several real situations over the years, make it clear that not talking, not following up, and not dealing with perceptions and mis-information and the messiness of people does nothing to bring redemption and restoration to relationships.  If “now” is not the time, plan for the time when it will be right.  I’ve often taken days (and sometimes weeks) to get my heart in the right place before asking to meet with the parent/teacher/supporter and facing the issue.  “For out of the heart the mouth speaks”.    Heart/head, then mouth.

So how do you deal with these issues?  When do you communicate to the others who may be affected?  How do you communicate?  Memo?  Email?  Call a special meeting and hope that most of your part-time teachers can make it?  When do you involve your Board?  There’s probably not a formula for this.  The point is, we have to do it, after much prayer and thought.

Coffee’s gone, I’m not curled up in the fetal position anymore, I feel better… so now I have a phone call to make.


Jim Buss, principal Ebenezer Christian School


From the Back of the Bus

I don’t want to go to school today.  We have a lockdown drill planned.  They never go as well as I think they should.  I review the procedures with staff, field a ton of “what if” scenario questions, and attempt to calm my secretary because she knows that likely she’ll be the first responder to any incident on campus.  She usually barrages me with questions like “Do you call 911 first?  Do you lock the doors first?  Do you intercom the classrooms and set off the bells and whistles first?  I can’t do them all at the same time, JIM!”  Yes, I know that.  You’ll do fine.  We have procedures and that’s why we practice.  Stick to the training.

And what do you tell your kindergarten class or other small children?  That we’re practicing this just in case some bad guy comes on campus with a gun?  Well, no, we don’t.

One of the things in our favor is the local wildlife.  There are coyotes running through the soccer field in the evenings.  One of our families has had multiple cougar sightings in their creekbed.  Skunks, possums, raccoons, feral cats…we have ‘em all, and we share those stories regularly.  Our kindergarten teacher will often capitalize on that wildlife idea, with a little twist.   We also have a farm across the road which Kindergarten students can see from their classroom.  The class lockdown preparation goes something like this: “What would happen if Mr. Blanker’s cows got out and wandered over here?  Those cows are huge!  And they don’t obey like your dogs do at home, so just in case we need to keep you safe while someone rounds up the animals or something like that, this is the signal we want to use…”   And that seems to work.  For the children.

But ask the teachers about what’s going through their hearts and minds as we practice, and things are not so peaceful.

Classroom teachers worry about protecting their kids.  What if they do the “wrong” thing?  What if they do something “not according to policy and procedure” and get sued later for not being the hero as some teachers seem to be portrayed in other nationally-televised campus events?  What if they’re not up to that?  We pray we won’t ever have to find out.  But the more we talk about it, the more we play the What If Game, the more we become peaceful about it.  Not resigned, not acquiescent, not prepared to roll over and accept events as they happen.  We become peaceful because we come to a deeper realization that our God is bigger than the boogie man (insert Veggie Tales here).  Psalm 121 floats up in our minds often…  “Where does my help come from?  My help comes from the LORD!”  The LORD Almighty is in charge.  He will neither slumber nor sleep.  He who watches over us will never stop being on guard.  That should free us up to do His bidding as well as we are able in whatever circumstances we find ourselves, good, bad or ugly.

I’m going to start my truck and go to school.  I have a wonderful emergency drill to do, and everyone will be reminded of God’s sovereignty, providence, and protection as we do our lockdown together.  Hiding from the cows.

Jim Buss, principal Ebenezer Christian School

The View From The Back Of The Bus

My aversion to cats is legendary.  I find their arrogant attitudes irritating and faith-trying.  I refuse to be their servants.  I refuse to fall into their “come serve me, human” demands.   I speed up when one’s crossing the road…

But kittens are so cute!  How can something so adorable and cuddly turn into something so demonic?  Every time a student brings that batch of kittens for show-and-tell I coo like everyone else and snuggle up with the snuggle-able little balls of fur.  They’re so…well, cute.  And needy.  I guess they appeal to my heart’s desire to protect the weak and helpless.  For the record, any runt of any litter of any animal is likely going to get my heart’s attention.

I watched one of my little “runts of the litter” this week playing on the playground.  She’s too small to get up on the zip-line thingy.  She needs help getting up on the monkey bars.   She can’t keep up with the others running around because her little legs, no matter how hard she churns, just don’t have the stride.  But she never gives up.

But she’s not alone.  She’s picked up and hoisted by kids not much bigger than she is so she gets a shot at the playground stuff.  Bigger kids will sling her onto their backs and hunch their way across the playground, never really noticing the minimal weight.  She’s well cared for.   If you need proof, look at the smile that she’s got right now looking over the shoulder of the big 7th grader she’s riding like a jockey in the Kentucky Derby.

No child left behind, for sure.

That’s my view today.  Family, friends, fellowship…all wrapped up in one little package on the back of a boy who deems his worldview is not complete without helping out a little friend.

On another note, just so you don’t think everything is always so warm and fuzzy here in the far north, I was encouraged to share a piece of wisdom I’d learned a while back.  Girls may not get this one, so feel free to stop reading if you don’t share the deficient Y-chromosome.  Free advice:  If you get the chance to say “good morning” to a little boy in the middle of doing his business in the bathroom, don’t.  Wait till he’s finished, or he will turn around and return the greeting.  And now your job just got a bit messier…

Jim Buss, Principal Ebenezer Christian School

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