Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Administrator as Chaplain

I've often thought about the way that job skills in one arena transfer to another; for example, this post considers the ways I've used my drama training, even though I didn't follow through with my original plan to act on Broadway.

This week is one of those weeks when I wish I had more training in pastoral care, when I'm grateful for the training I've picked up along the way.

I've tried to soothe students and their weeping parents.  I'm always intrigued by the students I meet, especially the ones who are convinced that they're about to fail a class.  Often, they're in decent shape, but they've gotten themselves worked up into a frenzy.  I calm them down, make a few phone calls, explain the truth of the situation, and try to help them make a plan to do as well as they can the rest of the term.

I'm also intrigued by the students who have failed and come to me.  They're often indignant:  "I was there every day!  I did all my work!  Except for one assignment."  Again, I explain the truth of the situation, which often involves doing Math:  "If you have a zero for this assignment which counts 30% of your grade, there's no way you were going to pass."

Are these chaplain skills?  Maybe not.  Maybe I'm more like a counselor than a chaplain.  But then again, after my encounter is over, and the student leaves my office, I offer a prayer for the student. 

I also find myself with colleagues in my office, colleagues with issues of their own.  I hear about troubled children, parents in trouble, despair about the future.  I force myself to leave the administrator problems for later.  I try to be fully present for these colleagues.  I remind myself that I'm not required to solve these problems, but that listening may be enough.

Lately, I'm feeling like a hospice chaplain (again, a Holy Spirit nudge?).  I have colleagues who have lost loved ones.  The part of the country we live in, South Florida (the east side), suffers from all sorts of grim economics, which affects our workplace.  So far, our school hasn't had too many layoffs, but the fear pulsates through the hallways.  Grim economic situations exacerbate the problems that students suffer.

What to do?  What else can we do?  Pray, of course.  It's the piece of the puzzle that I often forget, as I'm too frazzled or emotionally wrung out.  I should write myself a sticky note, or put reminders all throughout my Outlook calendar.

When Paul commanded believers to pray without ceasing, he must have had my workplace in mind!

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