Last week, during our Open House/Meet The Teacher event, I was approached by a woman who asked how she could get on my calendar for a meeting. The way she said it sounded ominous and defensive, as if this meeting wouldn’t be a meeting at all, but rather a big ol’ argument. Years ago, this would have twisted me into some sort of awkward, anxious response. This time, I came back with a confident, “Of course! What is it you’d like to discuss?”
“Just an issue with my daughter.”
I had a hunch this was one I should take care of immediately. I pressed further. “Oh, no! What type of issue?”
“Something I heard.”
“Why don’t you talk with me now? Let’s head toward my office.”
When we sat down beside one another, she got right to the point. “I don’t want you vaccinating my daughter.”
I was speechless. Rare, for me.
“Nothing, you hear me? Not even the flu shot.”
I sputtered, I think. Then: “Ma’am, I don’t give vaccinations. We. We don’t give vaccinations. Only a medical professional does—can—vaccinate children.”
“Well, I heard you do.”
People talk, and they spread all sorts of false rumors about schools—what we do, what we’re about, what we teach, laws we must follow. I thought I’d heard everything. This, though: this was new. And a doozy, it was.
I chose my words carefully. “I don’t who might have given you this information, but assure you—promise you—we don’t vaccinate.” I took a breath. It’s a tricky thing, to tell someone that what she believes to be true is emphatically, thoroughly wrong.
Her eyes were suspicious. I kept talking.
“There are very strict laws that we follow—they prohibit us from doing anything medical with our students. In fact, we won’t even give your child a Motrin. Neosporin. Calamine lotion. Nothing.” I said.
Over and over, I said it. Different ways, again and again. It took a good ten minutes before she relaxed and relented. “Okay,” she said. “Good.”
She left—no apology, of course—and it was all okay, and the day went on. But I kept thinking about it. It's an uphill battle that we're fighting, here in education. And the odds are stacked against us because we have to keep doing the right thing—taking care of kids—in spite of the unfair judgements of their parents. And the parents can say and do whatever they want to. Much of the time, we don't even have a chance to defend ourselves and get the truth out there. And it's worse, now that social media can run rampant; it's impossible to even know what might be circulating out there.
But there's only one thing to do: keep on keeping on. One problem, one rumor, one untruth at a time, with a focus on the real work, we've got this. Right?
Of course we do.
So, we will.
Happy new school year, everyone. May it be your best yet!