At the end of the school year, professionals working in education often recount their successes. Oh sure, we have the usual student “graduations” from Speech, a new school assignment, a hard-won new or improved employee benefit, or maybe even an expanded supplies budget. As long and as hard as I searched through my various sources, though, I just couldn’t find a report similar to one of my most prized successes, parental anger and derision for a job well-done.
My original success story unfolded in a medical setting – a TBI rehabilitation unit. A popular high school sophomore, actively courted by several prestigious universities for his athletic prowess, sustained life-threatening injuries in an accident with a Highway Department snow plow during a blizzard. Comatose for six weeks, a dedicated, organized and skilled treatment team worked diligently to create a new life for Tory and his courageous family whose entire lives were changed in an instant.
But as progress slowed and inpatient care came to an end, Tory still looked different, walked with an unsteady gait, and processed information at a kindergarten level. It was painfully clear to the family that the service team would not return Tory to his prior state of great expectations. It was at this juncture that the family’s grief manifested as anger toward those who failed to reverse the multiple and debilitating effects of his injuries. Though we did the best we knew to do, we just had not met the family’s expectations – we had not answered their most fervent prayers. The upside to the situation was sharing the experience with my colleagues, all of whom verbalized a conviction that we had served our patient and his family with the utmost professionalism.
But I faced the most recent circumstance with no such loyal and collegial support.
Brittany, a bright, creative 2nd grade student being served in an educational setting, was dubiously identified as suffering from Reactive Attachment Disorder by the age of two. Sadly, Brittany’s adoptive parents were counseled to follow a verbally confrontational and physically coercive treatment regime that has been denounced by all leading medical associations, which they did with vigor and commitment. Once enrolled in the local school, a timid and ill-informed school team cow-towed to the unusual demands of the parents for unprecedented services and accommodations for Brittany who, quite strangely, was categorized as brain-injured.
Oh, had I known the true folly of contradicting control and fear with reason and evidence!
In both described situations, the emotional discomfort yielded an unexpected sense of success and a renewed commitment to render the best evidence-based, professional service. Our work is a discipline: we do the right thing to do for the right reason. We don’t work to achieve an emotional response.
Have you ever experienced an unexpected success?