Right Working Romantic Related Learning Friendly Healthy Legal Inspirational Unfiltered

How To Break A Principal

, , , , , , , , | Learning | August 28, 2021

Many years ago, my school system separated sixth, seventh, and eighth grades each into their own schools. The eighth-grade principal was still committed to maintaining the tradition of middle-school grades having the ridiculous and very specific school-system-wide dress code unforgivingly enforced upon them (and only them).

Early in the first full week of school, the principal announced that he was sick of students saying they didn’t know something was forbidden by the dress code that was in the handbooks he hadn’t given us yet. Because of this, we were to have an assembly where we’d be given the handbook as we walked in and he’d read the entire student handbook to us as we followed along, so we’d have no excuse.

He was so in control that, after we were seated, the other adults would leave. After all, since the bleachers couldn’t hold us all, it’d only be half the grade at a time — boys on the first day, girls on the second. Reading to the boys went just as planned, but on day two…

The principal had droned on through the handbook and was just getting started on the several pages devoted to the dress code.

“Sleeves must be no less than two inches wide. Students may not wear shirts or dresses in the style of tank tops, halter tops, or spaghetti straps. Students may not wear clothes, such as T-shirts, that display profanity or promote substances such as alcohol, tobacco, or any other illicit substance. All clothing must be hemmed and intact. Students may not wear clothes…”

We turned the page. The principal didn’t. He paused, longer and longer. We waited anxiously for him to go on — make a joke, retroactively ignore it, anything.

His eyes widened all, deer-in-the-headlights, as he started staring into the middle distance.

Please, man, clear your throat, cough, something. Don’t leave us here, we silently begged with small, excusable hand motions and urgent faces.

His jaw slowly dropped and his lips started quivering.

For the love of God, man! Bigger gestures, desperate faces.

The principal stood there, transfixed.

There was no changing it, so we gave up. Some of us started counting the seconds. How long could this go on? We all knew what the next words were supposed to be, but that didn’t change what happened — the words that came out of his mouth — and, by not continuing, he left us stuck, too. We resisted as long as we could.

Did the principal…

Five seconds. Scattered murmuring in the crowd. “Did he mean it?” “Couldn’t have.” “Yeah, but still…”

…just say that…

Ten seconds. Someone laughed and was quieted.

…we have to…

Fifteen seconds. A girl coughed from the stress.

…come to school…

Twenty seconds. Collective gulp.

…naked?!

Twenty-five seconds after the principal last changed — to say nothing of when he last made a sound — we couldn’t take it anymore and the gym of 250 thirteen-year-old girls burst into uncontrollable laughter.

The principal stood there like a terrified statue for several more minutes as we continued laughing. We couldn’t help it; we’d try to get a hold of ourselves but glance up at this art piece of a petrified man and find ourselves laughing harder than when we’d started. After a while, the principal went from “freeze” to “flight” and darted out of the gym, leaving us laughing girls unsupervised.

The whole lot of us laughed together for several minutes. It took another several minutes for spurts of laughter not to spread across the whole group. We had never considered that a school official might tell us we must go nude before abandoning us. But the laughter faded, scattered bursts lessened, and we went to quietly chatting with whoever happened to be around. We whispered about the principal, the page-break-o’-doom, and his eventual bolting, and began to talk about other things, waiting for the vice-principal to show up or the principal to return.

Eventually, word about the time started spreading: we’d been adult-less for over half an hour and we’d been gone longer than the boys were the previous day, yet nobody had come for us. We’d only been in that school a few days; we had no idea who we could go to when the principal flaked. We collectively decided the best time and way to leave — slowly, not long before the next bell to change classes — and that we should be super-good because this was bad enough without giving any reason for people to think we’d use this to break rules.

With five minutes to go, a teacher popped her head in and looked around.

“Where’s [Principal]?”

The room threw up its hands in a collective shrug. The cluster of girls nearest that door became our speakers. They told the teacher how long we’d been alone, that it all started because of an awkward page-break and failure to go on, and that none of us could talk about a further explanation. Everyone agreed. The teacher got some pencils and paper for us to write anonymous accounts if we wanted while school employees searched for the principal.

Ten minutes later, the principal shuffled in with downcast eyes, quickly read the rest of the handbook in a robotic monotone, and shuffled back out, never looking up. The teacher who’d come in earlier passed around a box to collect our consistent accounts of what happened and gave us excuses for being late as we left.

It was an awkward (but unifying) couple of weeks for us girls, nothing worse, as we never had to say anything more than we wanted to. But the principal… The display of power he’d intended instead led to him being caught in the worst page-break and led to all the girls in the school laughing their heads off, toward him, if not precisely at him. The man broke. It was weeks before he’d interact with a female student, and even then, he couldn’t do it empty-handed — he needed a school-office version of a blankie for this scary task — and he didn’t look a girl in the eye the whole first semester. Pitiable and also creepy. Creepier than the mistake that led to it all.

Thus ends the story of how hubris, a page-break, and inability to recover from a verbal flub broke a principal and the degree to which this brokenness prevented him from doing his job. What this broken man did to regain a sense of more and more power and the interesting places that led is another tale.

1 Thumbs
336