Friday, November 16, 2007

Playing Principal

So, I'm standing in guidance the other day, having just finished putting the science lab together, when Mr. Enforcer comes by.

"You've got your Master's Degree, right?" he asks.

"Yeah, sure do," I reply, wondering where this was going. After all, I have the student loans to prove it.

"We're really backed up on discipline referrals, so do you think you could help out since you have a student teacher in your class?"

I took a look at the mountain of discipline referrals. He wasn't kidding. It was huge. Massive. Tottering.

"Sure, I could help out as long as someone tells me what to do. I've never done admin before."

"Meet me in my office in the morning and I'll show you the ropes. You'll be great."

So this morning I met up with Mr. Enforcer, who gave me a 5 minute lesson on how to do a referral, turned his office over to me (newly decorated and painted by his wife and The Principal as a surprise), and he took off for a meeting downtown. I had a pile of about 15 discipline files, all for tardies. Basically in The Building, three tardies earns a kid a discipline referral. It's pretty easy to work. They get 5 points in their discipline record and it's up to the administrator (which was me today) to decide what to do with them. This involves looking in their discipline file to see what they've been written up for, counseling the kid and finding out what they think the problem is, and coming to a decision. Most of the kids get your basic after school detention which really isn't a big deal at all.

I had worked one referral when all hell broke lose and the sixth graders lost their minds.

First I had a little sixth grader walk into The Enforcer's office and inform me that a girl he knew had a razor blade and was going to hurt someone.

This was not what I bargained for when I said I'd work the tardy referrals.

I told the kid that he did the right thing by reporting this and walked him across the hall to the Guidance Goddess who had him write his statement. A few minutes later she shows up at the door.

"We need to go get the kid with the razor blade out of gym and you're the only administrator I have," she says. "Mr. Enforcer is out of The Building as is Deputy Dude. The Principal and Mrs. Squirrel are in an IEP meeting with a parent. You're it kiddo." Great. So we walk to the gym, get the girl, and plop her down in guidance to cool her jets until a real administrator was free. In guidance we find three little sixth grade boys furiously writing statements. Apparently there was a fight in the boys locker room.

Oh boy.

They turned in their statements and we sent one of them, Miracle Boy (he's tiny and according to his mother, it's a miracle he's alive) to the nurse. He apparently was choked and slammed into a locker by another kid in the locker room. It fell to me to interview the victim and the two witnesses to see what happened and to get to the bottom of the incident.

The first I talked to was Miracle Boy who was, quite honestly, a laugh riot. We're talking the cutest little sixth grader on earth with freckles, curly hair, big eyes, you name it. You want to take him and hang him on a charm bracelet. It was all I could do not to laugh at some of the things that came out of his mouth. He held nothing back. He informed me that he was ADHD and did pretty good in school but by the time he gets home his meds have worn off and it was all he could do to get homework done what with the cats distracting him and all. His binder was a disaster and he loses everything, and well, that probably has to do with the missing assignments. He's disappointed that he went from being an AB honor roll kid in 5th grade to "just not doing well academically" in the sixth grade, and well, sixth grade is "just not being a good year this year." He admitted to an anger management problem, a bit of a temper, and yeah, well, he does have issues with behavior on the bus. In short, a good kid with a lot of issues, who still didn't deserve to have someone choke him and slam him into a locker.

I talked to the witnesses, neither of whom saw Miracle Boy defend himself, nor saw any reason why the perp would want to hurt him. They did mention that Perp Boy was a bit of a snot who was "always talking trash", and saying mean stuff to everyone.

By the time I finished with that little drama, Mr. Enforcer was back and I gave him a briefing and he took care of dealing with the Perp (who was, I believe, suspended). By this time The Principal and Mrs. Squirrel were dealing with Razor Blade Girl (who tossed her razor blade in the faculty bathroom trashcan where we found it) and her accomplice who sat and cried for two solid hours and finally admitted she'd brought the razor blade from home and gave it to Razor Blade Girl.

Finally. Back to tardies.

Actually the tardies were a bit amusing to work. You get the kids who oversleep ("How about setting two alarms? You have a cell phone, right? Use the alarm on that as your backup."), to the chronically social, ("How about carrying books for more than one class at a time so you don't have to go to the locker and get caught up in the drama?"), to the kids who just can't seem to get life together ("You really need to let Mr. Math know that you are having trouble with your locker.") I'd talk to them, get their side of the story (which was often highly creative), and we'd look at the problem of tardies and find a solution. Most of them either were counseled and warned, a few got two days of after school detention ("You do realize, you have been tardy 15 times this year?"), and most got one day of detention.

It was actually kind of amusing in it's own little weird way.

The part I liked the best was counseling these kids on goals and ways to solve their behavior problems. I discovered that one eighth grader was working towards going to the 8th grade dance this spring and was concerned his discipline points would prevent him from doing this. Considering that this kid had 175 points last year, and only had, as of today, 30, I'd say there was some major growth and maturity. It was nice being able to point this out to him and find out if there was a teacher who could work with him on this goal and maybe find a way to get him to the dance. The teacher he said he felt the most comfortable with was one of our new ones, a science teacher, so I emailed him and told him the story. It's nice seeing these newer teachers connect with these kids.

I had the pleasure of working a referral for one of my most troublesome kids from last year - a kid who nearly drove me, and all of us on the team, insane. You name it, he did it. His referral was for tardies, and there was another one there for talking back at Mrs. Respect. Now Mrs. Respect is just one of those people you don't talk back to. She loves the kids and does everything in the world for them, and she rarely, if ever, writes a kid a referral. If there's a referral written by her, you know it's serious. So I sat Mouthy Boy down and we talked about the tardies (which he readily admitted) and then talked about the disrespectful attitude he had towards Mrs. Respect.

"I honestly can't believe that you'd talk this rudely to her and disobey her," I told him. "She never, ever writes referrals so you really must have crossed the line."

He hung his head (something he never did last year). "Yeah, and she's my favorite teacher this year."

"You owe her an apology," I said, "And although I hate to do it, this really does warrant a day in ISS. "

"That's fair," he said.

What? Did I hear right? He said that a day in in school suspension was Fair???? Last year this kid would have gone on and on about how it wasn't his fault, he didn't deserve to get in trouble, and so forth and so on. And now he's agreeing with me and saying that his consequence is fair?

Wow. It's wonderful to watch them mature and grow up.

And I'm drinking wine tonight.


Darren said...

Why drink wine? It sounds like you had a great day!

Now, *my* day? (reaches for the nearest bottle) No, not really. My day was pretty good. Glad yours was, too.

HappyChyck said...

Thanks for the day-in-the-life of an administrator. It's pretty much how I imagine life for our dean's. Never-ending! You deserve wine, for sure!

Mrs. T said...

I used to watch "Boston Public" (not that your day resembles the show). One of my friends often criticized it , stating that "all of that couldn't happen in one day!". Um, yes it could. Isn't it crazy how when it rains, it pours?
Here's to you, Mrs. Bluebird! (raises glass, *clink*)

askthehomediva said...

I really enjoyed reading this… I teach high school and it's interesting that much remains the same... the kiddos just get bigger.

Cheers to you!