Confessions of an Urban Principal/Miscalulation
by Frank Murphy
Installment 4 of 9
For about twenty minutes I believed that I would finally be able to purchase an assistant principal position. As soon as I completed the calculations that lead me to this conclusion, I headed to Ellen’s room. I was eager to share with her my excitement. The two of us enjoyed a brief mini-celebration before I headed back to the office.
Despite a constant barrage of distractions, I had finally scripted out the first draft of the budget. I was pleased with the outcome. Now I needed to recheck my figures. Within minutes of starting this review I figureed out that the numbers didn’t add up. I had exceeded my budget allotments by more than eighty thousand dollars. This was a big mistake. My bubble was popped as I completed this redo. Just like that, the possibility of receiving the aid of an assistant principal was wiped out. Frustrated, I put the budget aside. It is starting to feel as though I will never complete this task.
Earlier this morning, I had determinedly pulled out the budget forms that needed to be completed. It was my intention to lock myself in my office. I was going to stay there until it was done. This strategy might have worked, if I had actually closed my door.
I had hardly gotten started with my calculations when I received a note from one of my most experienced teachers. She expressed a serious concern regarding Arthur. This teacher isn’t involved in delivering instructional services to him. Her classroom is located in an area of the building in which Arthur shouldn’t have access. She felt as though he might be stalking her. Even more alarming was her allegation that Arthur had touched her breast.
As I read this message, I was reminded of Cindy’s comments about her son’s jumping hormones. Again I am faced with a situation that forces me to re-examine my assumptions concerning a person. It seems that there is always more than what meets the eye to everything that I confront in this school.
I left my budget behind, while I went to this teacher’s classroom. To my relief she didn’t feel threaten by Arthur. She was worried about him. Neither of us were sure as to what he intended by this inappropriate gesture. I decided to ask Peggy, if she would be willing to talk to him.
While she was quizzing Arthur, I handled Luis. He, too, had managed to be referred to me by a teacher. Luis had been dragging a girl around on the floor of the third floor hallway. I wasn’t looking forward to having another long drawn out conversation with him. My patience was wearing thin and I didn’t need to be tested by his denials. Surprisingly, he immediately admitted to his inappropriate behavior. He liked the girl and said he was only playing with her. The girl admitted that she had willingly participated in this roughhouse behavior.
Peggy’s discussion with Arthur wasn’t as clear-cut as the one I had with Luis. Arthur is not a very forth-coming individual. He did tell her that he does seem to be getting into more trouble as he gets older, but he denied he was stalking the teacher. Peggy and I agreed that his behavior was odd and we decided to keep a closer watch on the boy.
After this interruption I wasn’t in the mood to continue my budget work. I set it aside. I decided to take a walk so that I could clear my head. I ended up visiting the fifth grade classrooms. This was a healthy diversion.
The day before, I had visited all of the sixth, seventh and eighth grade classrooms. During these classroom visits, I thanked the students for how well they take care of and respect our schoolhouse. Our hallways are filled with displays of student work. There are numerous oil paintings and clay murals throughout our public spaces. Our hallways are furnished with fish aquariums, benches, rocking chairs, children’s books, plants and large teddy bears. When I first started to place these items in our common spaces, there were adults who thought that the children would destroy them. They didn’t. In fact they took responsibility for maintaining the hallways I encouraged them to continue their efforts to make our school look nice. I also apologized for not thanking them more frequently for their hard work and cooperation.
Many of the children sent me notes after my visit. They wrote that they would continue to help me to keep the school clean and in order. I appreciate their interest and concern.
I had to rush through my last classroom visit. Just as I entered this room, I received a call from the main office. A child had been injured. She had broken a windowpane with her fist. Her wounds needed to be tended to and the nurse was not in school today. After I made a quick hello to the students I went to the office.