I was not being patient. I seethed. We’d boarded the plane with the thought we’d take off. Waiting to deplane after sitting in the cabin for almost an hour, knowing we’d miss our connecting flight, I’d already made the silent vow never to fly that particular airline again. This was the first day of our summer vacation, and all I wanted to do was get to Vancouver Island and find our hotel.
As a principal, I know I’ve been on the other side of the phrase “thank you for your patience.” It’s not unusual to be called upon to deliver tough news to parents, teachers, and students. There isn’t a great way to say “we’ve got to close the theater until we can get out the rats” or “these are the nicest port-a-potties that we could rent.”
I’ve always done my best to be honest and direct, but even so I know I’ve left people feeling like I did as I pulled my carry on down from the overhead bin.
I checked Twitter once we got back into the San Diego Airport and were given a time, an hour or so away, that we’d be getting back on a plane. I keep a professional account, so there wasn’t any real temptation to post something snarky about the airline, but I was frustrated, the kids were jostling, and I hoped for 140 characters of humor or inspiration.
And I realized one of the reasons I’d been so frustrated at being thanked for the patience I didn’t have. Perspective.
No one really told us why.
“We have a computer part that isn’t working,” they’d said in an almost inaudible tone over the intercom, the pilot’s voice so soft it felt like he didn’t really want us to hear.
Writing this from the balcony of our hotel in Victoria, I have the distance to realize that the pilot had no control over the broken part. He certainly wasn’t pleased about it any more than I was. He may have been a little embarrassed or a little shaken himself.
I’ve been that pilot at my own school, and I know that whether the difficult news I have to deliver is a result of a decision I’ve made or something I beyond my immediate control, I can’t lower my voice so as not to be heard. I need to speak clearly and provide a rationale to why what’s happening is happening.
“If we take off without replacing this part we’re all going to die.”
Maybe not that bald faced. I’m not sure that would have made me feel all that much better.
This year I know that I will do my best to explain the why in the messages I deliver. Like the pilot whose mission is to get passengers from point A to point B safely, mine should be as simple: “Do what’s right for kids.”
I’m certain there will be times I need to ask for people’s patience in the months ahead, and as I do I won’t forget what it feels like, luggage in hand, kids tugging on my jacket, to have to hear it.