posted May 18, 2009 at 1:25pm
The principal at Sophie’s school has a bunch of motivational sayings up all over his office — you know, about failure (not an option) and that kind of thing — but my favorite is on a small, square refrigerator magnet stuck to the door frame.
Take care of each other. — Robert Louis Stevenson
Take care of each other. Who in education — in education administration — says shit like that anymore, when it’s all about test scores and budgets and success. And, more important, who means it?
I don’t remember where he came from. He appeared at the beginning of last school year, and I was so relieved to have his predecessor gone that I could have hugged him. Turns out, it wasn’t just her absence that was a relief. Finally, I knew what it was like to have my kids at a school where the principal truly cares. The fact that this guy and Sophie fell hard for each other — that they share a birthday and he started wearing purple once a week just because it’s her favorite color — that was just icing on the cake I made for the party he came to when Sophie turned 10.
Now she’s officially a fifth grader. Today was the first day of school. I can only imagine how busy the principal was yesterday, and yet he sat down with me for almost two hours. Not to talk about fifth grade. (We’re all set there — he made sure we had the best teacher, kept our aide, saw to it that the resource teacher was looped in on everything.)
No, this meeting was about sixth grade. Today was Sophie’s last first day of school at this place, which ends after fifth grade. Next year — well, I still don’t have a clue what we’ll do next year. So this guy sat down with me to brainstorm, to shoot the bull, just to chat. As he ushered me back to his office, I had to admit to him that I felt like I was coming to see my shrink, not my principal.
“I wish I could give you my ‘not worrieds,’” he said, pretending to toss them my way. He’s not worried about how Sophie will do in sixth grade, not a bit. He gets it, though, he said, he understands why I’m concerned. And so we talked about strategies to keep Sophie safe and learning in a big, typical school if my hunt for a smaller, specialized option proves fruitless.
Finally I picked up my purse to go, guilty about how much time I’d taken. I promised to loan him “Pitch Perfect,” which he hasn’t seen, and he promised to follow up on some of the sixth grade options we’d discussed. Then he walked me all the way to the parking lot, and gave me a hug.
This morning Sophie marched to school like she owned the place, greeting and hugging friends, parents, teachers, so happy and confident and loved. What will we do next year, without this village that has literally — and figuratively — raised my kid?
If the principal has anything to do with it, we’ll do just fine.