Monday, January 17, 2011

I Hear Things

I hear things I don't want to hear.
Things that should never be.
Things that are not fair.
Things that hurt.
Things that mean I will never be the same, and are supposed to make me stronger.
But that is not the way it happens.

It was the week before last and I was resigned to the fact that it would be what I call an "office day."  This is when I find myself so backlogged by phone calls, emails, reports and other administrivia, that I lock myself in and tell myself that if I don't get this stuff done, I will be fired.  It rarely works, but on this day, it did.  I stayed.

No walking the halls,
No schmoozing with the parents who stay for hours after dropping their kids off,
No trying to fix all of the problems that weren't mine.

And then this mother came in.  Her first grade son was with her, and he was looking despondent.
I ushered them in to the office, cleared a chair for them, and sat across from them.
In cases like this (not that I knew what kind of case it was yet, but you could just tell), I always sit with them at a table that I have in my office.  Behind my desk wouldn't be right.
I have known this parent for a few years.  All of her kids had gone through the school, and she had two left - the boy now sitting on her lap, and a second grade daughter, probably sitting in class.

As she started to talk I focused on the boy.
His eyes were hollow.  He stared at the floor, not really seeing.
It appeared that he could not lift his head off of his mother's shoulder.  It had rested there, propped and held by her expert maneuvering, even as she sat down and took off gloves and hats and scarves and began to speak.
Her husband, the boy's father, had just been diagnosed with a rare cancer.
She said it was terminal and yet she kept on speaking, her voice unwavering, her eyes glued to mine, and her one free hand stroking, gently stroking her son's sandy brown head of hair.
I asked if there was anything I could do.
She declined, only to request that I let her know if there was a change in her children's behavior.
And she took my hand.
Told me there was nothing to be done.
Thanked me though there was nothing I could think of that she should be thanking me for.

I realized I had been crying only after she had left and walked her son to class.
I was not embarrassed, only wished I had not cried in front of her.
Wished I could have been stronger.
Wished, sometimes, that I did not have to hear things, that I could just sit at my desk and answer phone calls and return emails and fill out reports and fix all of the little problems that people wanted me to fix.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

A Rare Friday… and Then.

It being a Friday, I knew not all could possibly be going as smoothly as it seemed. 
It was a joke, a trick.
I looked up phases of the moon to see if a full moon was scheduled.
Checked my email,
Expecting word from the Superintendent:
“All principals are to report for a Special Friday Night Board meeting.” 

I radioed my Assistant Principal.  Surely he was, at this very moment, entangled in a heated argument with a dozen or so 5th graders, with which he would need my help to sort everything out and make phone calls home, letting parents know their sons would be suspended for a couple days next week. 

He was, in fact, taking advantage of the rare and quiet moment, eating lunch in his office.   A sandwich his wife had made him that morning.

I checked my watch. 
Double-checked it against the Master Clock, by which all things run in the school –
Fire drills and
Spirit Assemblies and
Washroom breaks and
Lunch schedules and
Break times and
Lockdowns and
Testing schedules.
It was 2:00pm.

I could hear kids returning from PE, or Music, or perhaps, if they had been good –
A rare afternoon recess. 
I could hear teachers shushing the kids in the hallway. 
Making more noise than the kids. 
And still, nothing.
Which is okay. 
I’ll take it, but it doesn’t usually happen, 
Not on a Friday.

My door opened.  The secretary.  With a phone in her hand.
“You’re going to want to take this one, sir.”

Ah, Friday.  Rare indeed.