Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Uninvited Guest

I've written in the past, and will probably write again in the future about a principal I served under- Marie.  Marie would fight battles that I believe most administrators wouldn't bother with.  She also wasn't interested in win-win outcomes.  She was going to win all battles with administrators, teachers, parents, students, police, and anyone else who squared off with her (or else go down swinging).  Her way is so uncommon it produced frequent awkward moments (most people avoid conflict), constant hilarity, and great stories.  I have a great deal of admiration for her style, but little interest in adopting it.  Below is another one of my favorites.

Marie usually put some sort of a behavior rider on the 8th grade trip.  Students would be expected to meet some expectation of good behavior in order to attend.  Frequently, parents of children who had lost the privilege would try to simply bring their children to wherever the other students were.  Marie always got word of this little scheme and would have the police pull the parents car over and let them know that the principal wanted them to know if they continued to follow the bus to this field trip they wouldn't walk at graduation in a couple weeks.  

One year the 8th grade class went to a water park for their trip.  Marie got word that one of the students who had lost the privilege was planning on having his mother drive him to the park behind the school bus.  Marie waited, and the kid was called in sick that day.  She called up her deans who were attending the trip and asked them to call her if the boy showed up.  Sure enough, he did.

Marie phoned the water park and demanded the manager be put on the phone.  When the guy picked up, Marie went crazy.  She screamed that he had promised her that her students would be safe from outside guests and already she has been made aware that an individual who is not on the list had infiltrated her group.  She wanted this corrected immediately or she was not only not paying, but taking to a local principal's list-serve to warn other school about the dangers of this water park.   By the time Marie paused for air, the manager was near tears.  The kid and his mom were escorted to a remote area of the park.  Marie wasn't done.

She called her deans back and asked them to get photos of the student on their camera phones and send them to her.  Once she had the photos, she called the county truancy department and informed them that she had photographic evidence that a student who had been called in sick was in fact, at a water park.  Marie didn't beat her opponents into submission- she wanted total knock outs.

Of course, all of this took about half a day, involved several government agencies, infuriated a parent who would no doubt call the superintendent, and all to keep a jerky teen from going swimming with his buddies.  Worth it?  Should student consequences be upheld at all costs?  Would you have done the same?

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