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An Unprincipled Principal

, , , , | Learning | March 8, 2022

I’m a high school teacher. In my first year of teaching, I taught at a school where the principal was a major micro-manager. He expected teachers to be in their classroom at all times except our lunch break. This included our prep period, when we were supposed to be writing lesson plans, grading papers, and doing other teacher stuff. If we left our classroom for any reason — for example, to use the restroom or make copies in the workroom — we were supposed to lock the classroom door to prevent students from getting in and leave a note taped to the door saying where we were going. If the principal found an unlocked door or a door with no note, he would make vague threats about “consequences” and send us off with a warning to “be more careful”. None of these threats ever actually amounted to anything; they were purely a power trip for him.

One day, about a month into the school year, I needed to make copies, so I wrote a note saying I was going to the workroom and taped it to the outside of the door. Ten minutes later, the principal walked into the workroom.

Principal: “Ah, this is where you ran off to, [My Name].”

Me: “Yeah, I had to make some copies for [class].”

Principal: “Would have been nice to know that. I stopped by your room and you weren’t there.”

Me: “I taped up a note just like we’re supposed to.”

Principal: “I didn’t see a note anywhere.”

With that, the principal said some stuff about “consequences” and “be more careful,” and headed out. When I got back to my classroom, there was no note on the door. I suspected the principal had taken the note down himself, but with no proof, there was nothing I could do about it.

A few weeks later, I left the classroom again to make some copies. Once again, I left a note on the door, but this time I took a picture of the note with the date and time to prove that I had taped it up. But once again, the principal “found me” in the workroom, talked to me about “not leaving a note,” and so on. I showed the principal the picture of the note, which caught him off guard, but he recovered by claiming, “Oh, well, it wasn’t there when I stopped by.” Again, not having proof that it was the principal himself who took the note down and not some random student messing around, there was nothing I could do about it.

The next time I had to leave my classroom, I hatched a plan. All classrooms at the school had small windows set into the doors, so instead of taping the note to the outside of the door, I taped the note to the INSIDE of the window and then locked the door closed. The note was still clearly visible through the window, but now the only way to take the note down was to unlock the door. I took a picture of the note and went down to the workroom.

Sure enough, the principal once again “found me” in the workroom and started his spiel about “no note”. I cut him off.

Me: “Stop. I have proof that I left a note on the door exactly as you require.”

I showed him the picture, which clearly showed the note in the window.

Principal: “Well, it wasn’t there—”

Me: “Then where did it go?”

Principal: “What do you mean?”

Me: “This note is on the inside of the window, which you can clearly see in the picture, and the door is locked. So, where do you think the note went?”

Principal: “Maybe the tape just let go and it fell off.”

Me: “Okay, let’s go look in my classroom. If it just fell off, then it should be lying on the floor just inside the door.”

By this point, the principal was starting to look guilty, but he put on a brave face and walked to my classroom with me. I opened my still-locked classroom door, turned on the lights, and pointedly studied the floor around the door.

Me: “I don’t see a fallen note anywhere, [Principal]. Do you see one?”

Principal: “I suppose maybe some kid tore it down as a prank.”

Me: “You just saw that the door was still locked. If someone took the note down, they had to have a key to my classroom. Do you know any students who have those keys?”

The principal stammered for a few moments and then promised to “look into this matter” and walked off down the hallway. Again, not having actual proof that it was the principal himself who unlocked my door and took down my note, I couldn’t do anything but privately enjoy what I knew to be a victory against the principal.

The next day, I told my fellow teachers about the whole series of incidents during lunch. Nearly every teacher said that they had experienced the same thing in their first years, but everybody just tolerated it because the threat of “consequences” never amounted to anything. Nobody had ever thought of the window trick, but every teacher started doing it after I told them.

The principal continued to find ways to indulge his ego throughout the rest of the year, but because he never actually disciplined anyone, we all ignored him and went about our business. I resigned at the end of the year and directly cited the principal’s harassment as the primary reason. As far as I know, he is still the principal at that school, but I have since found a job at a school with a much more friendly principal.

Getting Through School Is A Taller Order For Some

, , , , , , , , , | Learning | December 17, 2021

I am a twenty-two-year-old woman who has always been unnaturally tall. I am currently 6’9” (2.05m), and when I was twelve I was 6’3” (1.95m)! Life is hard enough for a teenage girl, but in my case, it was worse because I was bullied for my height, and the teachers at my school (a middle-class all-girls grammar school) were generally never very good at dealing with issues like this.

As an example, when I was thirteen, my mother, unable to find shoes that fit me, had to buy boy’s shoes. Someone in my school found out about it and started calling me “Boyshoes”. This in turn led to the rumour that I was born male (I wasn’t), and of course, all the girls in my school had to see for themselves if this was true by touching my breasts (to “see if they were real”) and putting their hands up my skirt (to “see if I had a penis”). When my mother complained to the school, they said there was very little they could do. I guess they meant there was very little they were willing to do. My mother claimed that this was sexual harassment, but the school disagreed, saying it couldn’t be sexual harassment as it was an all-girls school and the perpetrators were girls. My mother went to a solicitor, who wrote to the school, and they finally did something.

On another occasion, my mother had been having trouble finding a uniform to fit me. I was tall, but I wasn’t skinny like some tall girls; I was curvy and heavyset, and buying a uniform sized for a girl my age was out of the question. She tried uniforms for seventeen- and eighteen-year-olds — I wasn’t even fourteen at this point — and although they did fit, the skirts were far too short.

The school’s uniform policy stated that the hem of the skirt should not come too far above the knee. This was measured by kneeling on the floor and measuring from hem to floor — the distance should not have been more than about two inches. In my case, it was closer to seven inches, and when I stood up, the skirt was well above my knee because my legs were so long! At this point, my mother gave up; the skirt fit, the jacket fit, and she’d found blouses that fit, so she was just going to send me to school, shorter skirt or not.

It wasn’t long before I got a detention for a “non-regulation uniform” and was told to come in the next day with a regulation-length skirt. The following day, I got another detention for “non-regulation uniform and failing to rectify this issue in a timely manner”. I also got a letter sent home with me, warning my mother that I would potentially be suspended if I turned up to school in non-regulation uniform again.

My mother was livid! She stormed up to the school and demanded to see the principal. She waved the letter in his face and demanded to know why the school was “picking on me”. The principal was uninterested and made some excuse about how “the school’s uniform policy is for everyone’s benefit”. My mother told the principal that the school’s official uniform supplier didn’t make uniforms for girls of my height and build, and that if I wasn’t left alone, she’d be taking further legal action.

The school never bothered me about my “non-regulation” uniform again.

In The Snow! With No Shoes! And No Backpack For Your Books!

, , , , , , | Learning | December 9, 2021

I went to school in a very hilly part of California. The school I went to was built on the side of one of these very steep hills. The school’s structure followed the slope of the hill.

There were three large double doors in the school: one near the top, one near the bottom, and one near the middle. For some reason, the doors near the middle were kept locked, and the top door was designated as entrance only, the bottom as exit only.

Oddly, the middle of the school was the part closest to the drop-off point where busses and parents were permitted to drop off their kids.

I once asked a teacher why the entrance and exit were set up in that strange way. The teacher said that the principal wanted us to have to walk uphill both ways. I didn’t get the joke back then, but now I understand that’s something that old people sometimes say they had to do to their kids.

So, everyone who went to that school really did have to walk uphill both ways.

What If There’s A Fire?!

, , , , , , , , , | Learning | October 4, 2021

My school was overcrowded. We had around ten times as many students as the building was originally built for. This led to some issues.

One issue was that students were always late to class. The building was built in a cross shape. Students were continually funneled from one side of the building to another, and the only way through was a narrow four-way intersection hallway that was built when kids were skinnier; it was wide enough to fit two skinny kids, one and a half normal kids, or one big kid.

Worse, freshman lockers were on the top floor and our classes were all on the bottom floor. Senior lockers were on the bottom floor and their classes on the top floor. Regardless, everyone was going to the bottom floor because there was no intersection between the four lobes of the school on any floor but the first floor.

We used to be able to go through the library on the second floor, which was much wider, in my first year. They locked the “back” doors to the library to stop students from doing that, making the traffic jam much worse.

The administration’s solution was to increase time between classes. My first year, they gave us five minutes to get from one class to the next. By the time I graduated, we were given fifteen minutes.

Another side effect of this overcrowding was that the cafeteria was too small to fit all of us, and the lines were too long for all of us to get fed. To help with the fitting problem, they broke lunch into two different forty-five-minute lunches my first semester. They still couldn’t fit everyone in, so they broke it into three different thirty-minute lunches in my second semester. That didn’t work, either, so they broke it into four different fifteen-minute lunches, year two and on.

Remember the cross shape of our school? The cafeteria was in the basement, and the stairs into it were right by the four-way intersection.

The funniest, most hilarious result of this was the fire inspections.

We had more students per room than were allowed. We had more chairs per room than allowed. Each room had several folding chairs hidden in the storage closets that had to be taken down between classes and reopened when the students came.

Some students carried their own cloth folding chairs through the hall, like people use for fireworks or sporting events.

Fire inspection days were marked on the calendar. The whole student body came together the day before to empty most of the chairs out of the classrooms and get them to the chair storage room in the basement next to the cafeteria.

Then, on the actual fire inspection day, each classroom would have maybe twenty to thirty students instead of the seventy to ninety they usually had — the larger classrooms usually kept sixty of 200 or so — and a student-teacher or a temp would lecture the kids actually in the classroom, who were usually the highest-graded students.

The actual teachers and remaining kids from each class were taken to the bleachers around the football field, the bleachers in the gym around the basketball court and hockey rinks, the swimming pool bleachers, the wrestling bleachers, the bleachers around the track, the bleachers around the soccer field, and the baseball bleachers, and they would hold classes on those precarious structures. Even the tennis court bleachers would be filled with students and teachers!

I always wondered if we could get enough space to actually fit all our students if we got rid of the more than ten different sports complexes we had.

The Wrath Of The Lunch Lady Scorned

, , , , , , , | Learning | CREDIT: BraxHecker | September 6, 2021

I am sixteen and I have type-one diabetes. I have been diagnosed for a bit more than a year and a half. I’ve kept good control over it and the doctors are always impressed when I have a checkup.

I take insulin ten to fifteen minutes before I eat so it has time to take effect. With the school lunch, there are two options: a chicken salad and a cheeseburger. I decide to go with the cheeseburger. I take my insulin and go up the line. I grab a to-go box, but before I take two steps:

Friend: “Wait, that’s a salad.”

I set the box back down and go to grab a different box, but the lunch lady shouts at me.

Lunch Lady: “Hey, don’t you dare!”

I look at her and she looks at me like I just slapped a puppy in the face.

Me: “What’s wrong?”

Lunch Lady: “You already grabbed the salad, so you have to take the salad.”

Me: “But I haven’t even opened it. I’m a diabetic and I already took insulin.”

She shakes her head.

Lunch Lady: *Sickly sweet* “I’m sorry, that’s not my problem. Take the salad and go sit down now!”

Me: “But I’m a diabetic, and—”

Lunch Lady: “Take the salad or you don’t get anything.”

I’m a little pissed at this point so I take the salad and go off to my table with my friends and tell them the situation. They removed the vending machines in the cafeteria over the summer so there is no way for me to get the correct amount of carbs without stealing another kid’s cheeseburger. One of my friends tells me I should go get the principal quickly before the insulting fully sets in.

I go to the office and tell him and the counselor the situation, a little panicked because it has been well over ten minutes since I took insulin. The principal walks me back up to the cafeteria.

Principal: “[Lunch Lady], give him the cheeseburger. He really needs it.”

Lunch Lady: “But he already took a salad. He can deal with it.”

The principal just sighs, grabs the cheeseburger box, and shoves it into my hands and tells me to go sit down. I sit relatively close to the lunch line so my friends and I can hear the principal.

Principal: “How you acted was truly out of line. I thought you understood to treat students’ health situations with care and understanding.”

He told her off for another minute before heading back to his office, and I got to eat my lunch in peace. Maybe she’ll know better next time.