Monday, June 28, 2010

Assistant Principal

David has already started his job as assistant principal.  His official start date is July 1, but he is sort of taking the entire month of July off (due to his previous commitment to direct the summer school program for his old district and our pre-booked trip to Korea).  Fortunately, his new boss took that news very well.  Still, David is never one to be a slacker (seriously, this guy was reading How to Be the Best Assistant Principal In the Universe, Ever or some similarly-titled non-fiction as we lounged by the lake a couple of weekends ago.  I, of course, had ditched Huck Finn and my teaching preparations for one of those novels from the "thriller" section of the library where the title is in all capital letters, the cover is mostly red and black, and you can't remember much about the plot or the characters except that you spent most of the novel breathlessly turning the page and skimming ahead to find out what would happen next). 

So anyway.  David has been working hard.  Directing summer school in the morning, driving out to the new school in the afternoon to meet some of the staff, get acquainted with the building, and figure out all of his new responsibilities. 

Last night he was looking over the school's discipline report from last year.  This is the name of every student who got referred to the principal's office with a short summary of their offense and the resulting action (example:  sticking hands out bus window, safety discussion with student, parent called; punching classmate in stomach, parent called,1 day In-School Suspension).  David was flipping through the list to see who the repeat offenders were.  He can pretty well expect that he will be calling their parents several times during the school year, so his plan is to go ahead and give those parents a call this summer to introduce himself so that their first encounter with him is a pleasant one.  Since it is quite unlikely that their future encounters will be so pleasant.

He was going over the discipline report last night as we were eating dinner, and both of us were cracking up at some of the offenses.  The violent ones weren't funny, of course, although "flicked his pencil at another student and hit him in the head" made me chuckle, I confess.  All the ones about kids cursing or saying inappropriate things had us laughing out loud.  The curse words were matter-of-factly written into the report:  "Johnny* said 'motherfucker' and disrupted learning time in the classroom."  Sexual jokes and innuendos were equally subject to punishment, but (much to my dismay) were not specified in the report.  One girl threw a boy's shoe across the gym in PE.  When asked to apologize, she did so "but with attitude."  When the teacher told her she needed to apologize sincerely, she said, "I'm sorry he's in this class!"

I find that hilarious rather than punishable, so this is probably why I am not cut out to be an assistant principal at an elementary school.  Although David laughed even harder at the two second-graders caught singing, "We are hustling, pimping, and stealing," so maybe finding humor in inappropriate language and behavior is an important quality in a school administrator.

The report was not long, especially considering this school has 750 students in it.  David can already tell he's going to have a trouble with a couple of kids, whose lists of offenses ran over a full page.  But he has a good sense of humor about the kinds of things kids do and say, and most importantly, he's truly sympathetic about why kids say those things and act the way they do at school (most of the time it's because they see that behavior/language modeled at home). 

He got a congratulations card from a family member that said, "Those kids need more people like you!" and as we sat giggling over the verbal threats of school children, I could see how true that was. 

Kids need discipline, of course, but they also need to feel like someone understands them.  David has high expectations for their behavior, but he also has a lot of empathy for their frustrations.

Which is why I think he will be the best assistant principal in the universe, ever.

*Not his real name.  Unless this incident actually happened to a certain Mr. Johnny Lewis, which may be entirely possible, but would also be entirely coincidental.  All of the behavioral incidents mentioned here are entirely fictional and intended to serve as hypothetical examples. 

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