Confessions of an Urban Principal/Mothers
by Frank Murphy
Installment 7 of 9
I was but a few steps into the building when the door monitor caught my attention. In a confidential voice she told me that there would soon be a fight in the cafeteria. Various members of the staff stopped me as I passed through the hallway. They too alerted me to an impending brawl. Upon my arrival in the main office, Mrs. Martin quickly briefed me on the details of this opening challenge.
The mother of the kindergarten boy who was thrown to the ground so many months ago was looking for revenge. According to her the two boys have been feuding with each other ever since October. This mother has been telling anyone who will listen that she will settle this matter today. She is going to fight the mother of the boy who is bullying her son.
I grabbed my walkie-talkie from its charger. As I left the office, I asked Ms Sample to come with me to the lunchroom. I told her, “I need a witness. Just hang in the background. I will deal with the moms.”
The aggrieved woman entered the cafeteria from the schoolyard entrance, just as we arrived. She walked over to the food service counter. It looked as though she was scouting out the room. I greeted her. She didn’t reply. We stood silently beside each other for several minutes. Another woman joined the sullen mother at my side. This new arrival looked as though she was closer to my age. I listen to their conversation. I quickly discerned that they are mother and daughter. I heard the younger of the two say, “He is the principal.” The older woman then turned her attention to me.
She introduced herself as the grandmother of the Kindergarten child. She said,” I was up here yesterday to see you. You weren’t here. I don’t understand why my grandson keeps getting hit by that boy… and his mother is calling my daughter a crack head.”
Politely, I asked the grand mom to come up to my office so that we could discuss this matter in private. She agreed and we went upstairs. Her daughter trailed behind us. Once in my office, we talked. Grand mom wanted her grandson to be safe in our school. I assured her that he would be protected.
I in turn asked her to talk to her daughter about her behavior. I explained how the younger woman had been threatening to beat the other parent up in the lunchroom. I said that I didn’t want adults fighting in our school.
This was a strange conversation. Usually the parents I meet with have a child enrolled in the school. Conferring with the parent of one of my parents is odd. Especially since I was requesting that she help me to modify her adult child’s behavior.
She agreed to speak to her daughter. Then together we developed a plan to deal with the kindergarten child’s problem. I agreed to move the boy who has been bullying her grandson to another classroom. She would come back and see me next week after she finished work. We would determine then whether this problem was finally resolved. This agreement satisfied the grandmother.
A few minutes after I met with her, I saw the mother of the other boy. She expressed her frustration concerning her son’s behavior. “I can’t get him to stop hitting people.”
This parent is seeking help in dealing with her child’s behavior. I sent for the school counselor. She recommended that the mother and child participate in a family-counseling program that is operated by an outside agency at our school. The counselor took this parent to her office in order to fill out the referral forms. In a short period of time an adult boxing match was averted and two children received the help that they needed.
Just as this crisis was resolved another arose. I was informed that intruders were in the building. They were running through the third floor hallway. Again, I made a hasty exit from the office. But before I was able to make it upstairs, the trespassers made their exit. During the remainder of the day I worked on figuring out who these invaders were and what they wanted. This investigation distracted me from the activities that I had planned for the day.