Skip to main content

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.

Popular posts from this blog


I am visited by two former Seniors on a recent Friday in early June.  They have been out of school for only a short time, having graduated three weeks prior.  We stay in touch because, well, that's one of the main reasons I am in this profession - to make a lasting difference in the lives of students.  But it's not only the students; it's their families as well.  I attend their graduation parties, keep up to date on their life happenings, I even recently attended the wedding and reception of one of my former students whom I had taught when he was in the 6th grade.  He's now 28.  
But this is what is required of this job.  We are in the business of making lasting impressions.  For anyone who doesn't believe this to be true, and that your only job as an educator is to impart knowledge and provide kids with information that they could just as easily find online, you are sorely mistaken.  I could easily insert here all of the research that proves, beyond the shadow of…

Parenting and the Principal

Very REAL Life, Part I

I need to tell you about my life as principal.
Particularly from the standpoint of this life as husband, dad and foster/adoptive parent.
And the daughter I have who is sitting in prison.

It is the winter of 2009.  I had just been accepted into the Doctoral program at National Louis University, and was heading to an informational meeting about the program when my wife called.  I was pulling into the high school where our cohort would be spending a lot of class hours together over the next few years, excited about this journey my family had agreed was the best time for me to embark upon, even more ecstatic to be the first in my family to achieve this prestigious degree.

We didn't realize the road I was about to travel was actually riddled with potholes, detours, wrong turns, and dead ends.

My wife can barely speak.
It seems like a lifetime, though it is actually 10 minutes on the phone with her,
trying to calm her down,
sitting in my Volvo with the engine turn…

Real Writers. Real Writing. Real Voices

Same 7th grade classroom.
Different group of students.   It is a warm afternoon and the fans are on.   I think back to my days as a 7th grader.   My teacher's name was Mrs. Zurn.   She passed away in the mid-90's and I remember her clearly for her loud voice;  Her booming voice and I remember her because she used to make us write.
A lot.

And it was always about the things that she wanted us to write about, never about the things that I CARED about like music and motorcycles and the ATV's that I spent my weekends on, flying through the cornfields and woods that I lived next door to.  Or my parent's divorce and my dad moving to California and how much I missed him.  We couldn't write about that stuff. 
Instead we wrote about St. Thomas and our favorite lunch, and if we could be anything when we grew up what would it be, and Mother Theresa and what our favorite color was and why, and writing a letter to Pope John Paul II.  I went to a Catholic school.  You can probab…