I have a tendency to take things for granted. It’s as though I’m so used to the constant presence of fill in the name here that it’s easy to think that nothing will ever change, that nothing can ever really happen.
No, this post isn’t about someone who’s dead.
This post is about acknowledging someone who continually influences me, who continually encourages me, who inspires me to be more than who I thought I could be.
No, it’s not about my parents. Or my husband. Or my children. Or my family. Or my students.
It’s about my boss, my principal.
Sure, I can hear you all now, thinking your jaded, sarcastic thoughts. Oh, Graceless, you’re just sucking up.
And that’s a bit frustrating. Because I’m not. I have written about my principal before. And, frankly, what I have to say about her in writing I have actually said to her personally. And I’ve said this behind her back (a nice form of back-stabbing).
Last week, I attended the Teacher of the Year celebration, a “gala” that honored the teachers in my county who were voted as the “Teachers of the Year” for each of their schools. And (wow…it still feels really weird to talk/write about it), I was honored to have been chosen by my colleagues as our school’s representative.
I was shocked. Am still shocked. I don’t like talking about it that much because…well…it’s just so amazing and wonderful. But I work with so many other teachers of the year, people who, day-in-and-day-out, amaze me.
But someone who doesn’t really get a lot of attention (or at least positive attention) is our principal.
Yeah, she has a really loud voice. One student has even described it as a “weapon of mass destruction.” And when I’ve stood under the loudspeakers while she’s talking, I’ve sometimes wondered if I’m going to have hearing problems in my future. That’s okay, I know enough sign language to ask for the bathroom, say thank you, cuss out people, and spell my name. Oh, and I know the sign for “boring” and “lousy” (which both are associated with the nose ironically).
And sometimes my principal will get on the loudspeaker and talk. And talk. And talk.
But at the same time, she’s also giving directions to about two thousand people who may or may not be listening for the first, second, or third times. And given how hard it is to direct and focus the attention of thirty people, well…I can understand now why my principal might need to say something once, twice, three times.
What’s really sad is that it might not be the kids who require the repetition but the faculty. I know that I’m so quickly unfocused in a faculty meeting that I certainly don’t hear everything. And my best friend…well…I have to sit next to him to keep him from snoring (too loudly).
But what I can truly say about my principal is the she ALWAYS looks for the best in others. No matter who they are, she wants people to know they are loved, that they are exceptional, that they have the ability to be wonderful because she thinks that everyone can be wonderful.
I’ve written about this before. But I will never forget the time when I came into an exceptional education room and saw my principal in a business suit and heels doing Wii Sports with the kids. It’s quite amazing seeing a woman dancing and doing aerobics to the song “Who Let the Dogs Out?”
My principal reads my blog (please forgive me if I have offended you with the earlier comments about voice and repetition). And she talks with me about what I’ve written.
I’m forty-three, but talk to me about my writing and you’ll see the teenager emerge from her shell. You like my writing? Oh thank you! You have no idea how much it means to me. Because it does. I love writing as much as I love teaching. And to be told by people I respect and admire that they like my writing…well..it makes me into emotional goo.
Not only does my principal compliment me about my writing, but she asks me questions that shows she understands my thoughts, my themes, my ideas. She read my blog about my mother, the blog in which I discussed how I was proud to be my mother’s daughter. And my principal complimented my mother on her beauty, saying that I looked just like my mother.
That meant the world to me.
Because my mom can be the target of some pretty mean jokes.
At the dinner during the Teacher of the Year celebration, my principal tried her best to draw out my husband. I felt really bad for both of them. Pat (my husband) HATES social settings, big crowds, formal occasions, and rooms full of strangers. He happened to be in a room with about 250 strangers. All dressed up.
And my principal is amazing. She chatted with us about my husband’s job. Talked with us about fishing and her home on the water. She complimented us on our children and how wonderful they are.
God, I love my principal.
She bought me flowers. When she gave them to me, she said, “I bought sunflowers for my sunflower.”
God, I love her.
Because my principal is powerfully human who sees the humanity within others and she cares about the fabric of humanity who are the warp and weft of her daily life. She cares about the students. She knows them by name. She wants them to succeed, even if they don’t always see it.
She cares about her colleagues, the teachers who follow her. And because she cares about her teachers, she cares about their families. My son was supposed to go a different school, but my principal guaranteed me that she would do everything in her power to help me get my son to come to our school because that was where he wanted to go.
And now that he is there, she cares about him like he is a student in her school and not my son which means that she sees his shadow and sees him for himself.
God, I love this woman.
She wants us to do well. She wants us to rise to any occasion that we dream for ourselves and to achieve. Last week, she invited the teachers to come down for a “snack and chat,” a five minute moment in which we were encouraged to talk about ourselves.
Not our students.
Not our classrooms.
Ourselves. And our personal successes. She wanted us to talk about something good that has happened.
She’s not intruding. She’s showing that she cares.
Not everyone is going to see this. And I understand that not everyone is going to see this. I understand that not everyone is going to like her or love her like I do. And I know that some people are going to read this and think that I am writing this because….
But I am writing this because I suck at writing thank you cards. But I’m good at pouring out my heart and opening up the valves and ventricles to let people see that sincerely I care about them. And I want to give something back to my principal that will last longer than a card or a note on stationary that might not fully represent who I am.
My principal is the person who came up with the idea of the pings, the moments that set off one’s heart and helps one make it through the bad days.
She is the one who wants us to know that success is something richer than numbers or politically quantifiable bits and pieces of data.
She’s human. She’s made mistakes. I dare anyone to hold up the microscope and focus it on hers and forget their own. If you would like, I’ll start listing my flaws and my mistakes, let you see the reality of all the pain and drama I have caused because I am so good at making mistakes because of all the remarkable flaws that I have.
But, in the end, I’ll follow her. Because I have been following her for over ten years and the road continues to stretch out before us. And she inspires me and encourages me.
And she’s just a great human being. Nothing more than that. She’s great. And it’s time she knew it.