The Benefit of Rehearsal

The first time I deliberately scripted an interaction in education was during my administrative internship.  I had been asked to make several phone calls in regard to students whose grades were at a D or lower.  The admin team did not want to do a robocall because they wanted to make sure the parents paid attention if a message was left.  At that time, there were three people doing their admin internships, so the list had been divided between us.  I had about forty calls to make, and ninety minutes to do it, if I didn’t want to be stuck with trying to split it over a few days.  So, I looked over the spreadsheet printout I was given with the pertinent information, and I pulled up the master schedule so I could be aware of when teachers’ planning periods were.  Then I wrote a three sentence script that I used verbatim for those parents who I left messages for.  The thing was, I also did my best to hold to that script when I spoke to them in person.  Most of them knew it was the school calling due to Caller ID (this was eight years ago) or the call coming over their mobile.  If they had questions, I also had scripted a thoughtful, apologetic response that pointed them to their child’s teacher during the appropriate planning period.  I got all the calls done in that one block.

I spent five to ten minutes planning the script, and while I was doing it, my supervising administrator said I should start soon.  I told her what I was up to, and she said she should have thought to do that before.  That was when I learned to deliberately script some responses or interactions I could anticipate.  Obviously, I’d developed go-to responses when a parent or student came to me with garden-variety issues.  Those were essentially scripted too, but through an evolutionary process.  The experience with the phone call list brought me to try it in other situations.  I have carried this over to my coaching work, especially that with novice teachers fresh from Ed School.

Most recently, I had a teacher who was very concerned about getting cornered during a Back-to-School night situation.  This teacher was fearing the worst, so we talked about what the specific fears were, and then we built scripts around those.  We established the default understanding, which was more of an internal script—that this evening event was intended as a getting-to-know-you session.  This helped the teacher plan out how to showcase the work the class had been doing, rather than starting off with a Q&A that had no direction.  Then with that clarity of purpose gained by having a clear internal statement, the teacher was able to come up with how to deflect an individual parent wanting to monopolize the time.  To do this, we came up with a contact sheet, and a statement that would re-direct a parent who was getting too specific about their own child’s needs.  It was something like this.  “Thank you for telling/asking me that.  Let me get your information so I can follow up and make sure we are able to connect when we’re not so pressed for time.  Here’s the contact sheet.”  Then as the teacher handed the sheet to the parent, “As a rule I get back to parents in no less than 24 hours.”

We not only drafted the script, but also, we rehearsed verbally to get the feeling for what it would be like to use those words.  Ultimately, the teacher did not have any difficulties during the Back-to-School night.  The scripting did not end up actually needing to be used, mainly because we had also scripted a greeting that made the contact sheet known to parents.  But, by having the teacher rehearse these responses, the teacher reported that they felt a lot more at ease while meeting parents.