The Principal’s Office

Principal's office

The thought of being sent to the Principal’s Office is notoriously fear-inducing with the implication that some misdemeanour has occurred and that punishment will follow. Of course, I know this only from the stories of others. It’s true: I have no recollection of ever having been sent to the Principal’s Office during my school days. In fact, I have no recollection of there being a Principal’s Office at all, or indeed who that principal might have been. Perhaps there are some serious omissions in my memory files.

In a previous post, I introduced you to Robert Hoge and his memoir Ugly through a lying incident he relates. Robert also shares recollections of being sent to the offices of a deputy principal and a principal while he was at school. Both incidents are also included in the version for Younger Readers.

Ugly coverUgly for kids.PNG

Robert recalls that,

Most of the school lived in a vague, unspecified fear of Mr Fuller (the deputy principal). He was the perfect second-in-command. He delivered the bad news when needed and administered a strict, no-nonsense form of discipline that mainly worked by keeping students so in fear of the threat of getting in trouble, they behaved.

One day when Robert was summoned to Mr Fuller’s office he was informed that some teasing had been occurring. As he was usually the one being teased, Robert was relieved that he wasn’t getting into trouble. Instead of informing on others who had teased him, Robert said,

“Well, sir, it wasn’t anything really. Nothing that got me very upset anyway.”

Sadly, though, it was Robert’s turn to be reprimanded for being the teaser. The children who were so good at teasing him, weren’t so good at taking a little teasing in return, and had made a complaint.

Robert confesses surprise at how much the other child had been upset because he (Robert) “was teased so often … (that he) … became better and better at dealing with it” as he got older. However, it wasn’t just the children who were cruel and sometimes, when adults were cruel, he found it more difficult to take.

Robert describes an incident that occurred in year ten when he and another student elected to do a week’s work experience as teachers at a local primary school. He was allocated to a year seven class and the other student to a year two class. Robert enjoyed the week and was pleased that his appearance drew few comments from the students.

On Friday afternoon Robert was summoned to the principal’s office. Waiting outside, expecting perhaps to get a ‘thank you’ from the principal, he was surprised when the other student wasn’t also there. What happened when he was called into the office is astonishing.

Without so much as a greeting, Robert was chastised for the school’s not having being warned before he arrived. Warned about what, Robert wasn’t sure. When he enquired, the principal quickly informed him, that she should have been warned about him; that when he’d arrived on Monday they’d had to swap the classes to which he and the other student were assigned. Robert was initially confused as to the reason, then he realised that she was talking about his appearance, that perhaps the year two students would not be able to cope as well as the year sevens.

Robert was upset. He didn’t know what to say and started to cry. When he said, “I’m sorry”, the principal responded with “Good” and showed him the door. Of course, Robert was distraught. He writes,

It wasn’t the last time I cried about the way I looked, but it was the very last time I apologised to anyone else for it.

Each of these incidents occurred in a Catholic school. Anne Goodwin who blogs at Annecdotal recently shared a guest post here about the legacy of a Catholic childhood. I was also educated at Catholic schools. While most of my teaching service occurred in the state system, I did teach for a few years in Catholic schools. I saw and experienced many instances of adults being mean to children. I also saw many instances of kindness.

For my flash fiction response to this week’s challenge set by Charli Mills at Carrot Ranch Communications to In 99 words (no more, no less) write an office story, I have decided to write an alternative encounter for Robert with a more principled  and compassionate principal. I’d love to know what you think.

movie board

The Principal’s Office, Take Two

“Ah, Robert, come in,” she said, extending her hand and shaking mine as if I was an adult rather than a work experience student. As she returned to her desk, she indicated for me to also sit. I was puzzled. I knew I’d done a good job in the classroom. Why would the principal want to see me?  I waited. She looked at me quizzically. “Robert, I’ve heard a great deal about you this week …”  I squirmed. “… and all of it positive.” She smiled. “I’d like to suggest, if you’re still undecided, that you consider teaching as a career …”

48

Although Robert didn’t choose a career in teaching, he has powerful lessons for us through sharing his story.

Thank you

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.

19 thoughts on “The Principal’s Office

  1. Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

    Going to the principal’s office was something I well remember. I am staggered that a principal would be so cruel as to treat a young boy that way because of a factor he could not do anything about. It really shows his strength of character that he came through that time. The principal in your flash should have been the norm. Encouragement goes a long way whereas as being made to feel self-conscious and probably inferior can be life-destroying for many.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. Norah Post author

      Very true and wise words you have added here, Irene. The actions of that principal are horrifying. As you say, that Robert came through it testifies to his strength of character.

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
  2. Bec Colvin

    Hi Nor, thanks for sharing this story, Robert’s experience is heartbreaking, and you have made a nice take on it. It’s remarkable that anything other than what you have described could possibly happen. I remember visiting the principal’s office a few times. I don’t think you knew about it at the time, though 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    Reply
    1. Norah Post author

      Hi Bec, Thanks for your comment. It would be lovely to erase what has gone before and create a new picture. Sadly we don’t get do-overs in real life.
      I do remember a couple of your trips to the principal’s office. One that comes to mind is when you were sprung doing a pretty poor impersonation of a friend’s mother. The deputy who told me about it was quite amused at your antics but had to give you detention anyway, as I recall. Maybe we’ll discuss the other occasions one day. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

      Reply
  3. Pingback: Office Space « Carrot Ranch Communications

  4. Charli Mills

    What a rich take on the prompt.. I love how you lead us from the fearful expectations of the principles office, to kids poking fun, to your experience (or lack of!) and then to a deep and moving rewrite of Richard’s Hoge’s experience. One would think that the principal would recognize his or her leadership role and act accordingly. Hoge’s story is amazing testimony to the human spirit and your flash is what he deserved.

    Liked by 2 people

    Reply
    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you, Charli. I appreciate your kind words. I hope Robert would think the same.
      It is sad to think that those who copped the most from life, cop the most from those of us who should be making their journey more pleasant. It is always easy to kick those who are down, as if they are unworthy of our compassion or humanity.
      I think the principal’s response only highlighted how much she was lacking. I regret all those instances in which I have been lacking also.
      Thank you for joining in the conversation.

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
    1. Norah Post author

      I agree! I’m totally appalled at her actions. She must have been mulling on it all week. Robert was certainly not the one she should have been talking to about it though. Anyone else may have been able to point out the inappropriateness of her judgement. I hope she has read his book and come to realise how heartless she was. I wonder how many other students were damaged along the way. It’s terrifying.

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
  5. Annecdotist

    What a moving post and flash, Norah, and thanks for sharing more of Robert’s story. Of course, I thought you’d use the principal’s office (here we’d call it the headteacher’s) when I saw the prompt, but you still managed to surprise me about where you took it. Thanks also for referencing my previous post – I did contemplate using Sugar and Snails for my own flash, as I like the scene where Diana’s parents are called in to a meeting with the headmaster and local authority social worker, but I ended up going in a different direction.
    I do think it’s great that Robert didn’t expect any comments from the school on his appearance, and interesting that the kids who teased him couldn’t take it themselves – a pity the principal didn’t think about getting them together and using their experience of being on the receiving end of teasing to show why it was wrong the other way round, even if Robert didn’t appear as upset as they were.
    But I love how you’ve given us an alternative version of his story in your flash – I’d actually take it a step further as, with his unusual appearance combined with his teaching skills, he’s also delivered a lesson in diversity which, as we know, is good for the brain.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks Anne. I did think about the scene from Sugar and Snails, but I thought you might use it! I’m disappointed now that I didn’t include it as well.
      Robert’s stories are interesting as they demonstrate the lack of compassion for children, and the inability to see beyond the first layer of information provided. I find it puzzling that neither took the opportunity to delve further into the situation, particularly as Robert was involved. It seems rather insensitive to a child with special needs. I am appalled that the principal spoke to Robert directly about his appearance and changes she made to his class placement. Seems to me those thoughts would be better left unsaid, and better still – unthought!
      Robert does have a lot to teach about diversity and acceptance. I guess I should have made that more explicit in my statement rather than simply implied it. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply

I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s