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OGRES & ANGELS

Punishing principal


When I got hired at a prestigious rural school, Tracy appeared warm and welcoming. She even made it a habit of asking me how I felt. No administrator ever sat down and asked me so intently before. Being fresh out of teacher's college, I was flattered by this attention.

As the first month of school progressed, Tracy's warm veneer gradually started to fade. Gentle criticism evolved into sarcastic comments, and she wasn't above the occasional threat. Tracy was well aware of my rookie status, and wholeheartedly took part in the intense supervision required for my right of passage into the profession. Her tactics included frequent but subtle reminders regarding the vulnerability of my position.

I recall one not-so-subtle incident when she went as far as to inform me that she would notify the director of the board because I did not have a class schedule posted on the wall as quickly as she would have liked. Needless to say, the creation of that schedule took several hours due to my frequent fumbling, wondering if Tracy would actually follow through with this threat.

She was now fuelled to find more faults with me, both real and imagined. One case in point occurred when one of my colleagues forgot to close the blinds in the classroom we both shared before going home. The next morning, Tracy greeted me with a terse reminder to close the blinds before I left. Instead of explaining who really left them open, I simply promised I wouldn't let that happen again. I rationalized to myself that honesty and assertiveness wasn't worth enduring another serrated shrill.

Another screaming session ensued after one of my more challenging third graders decided to become highly disruptive. I responded with the classic knee-jerk reaction of telling him to go to the office, momentarily forgetting that Tracy was the office. Minutes later he calmly returned with Tracy in tow. She spent several minutes lingering, observing.

At the day's end I decided to be more proactive. I suggested that if he becomes disruptive again he could spend time out in another classroom. The idea was immediately dismissed without any form of an alternate plan. Instead she tore into me because she spotted another child not sitting properly in his chair, ignoring the fact that the rest of the class was quiet and focusing intently on the lesson.

It wasn't until that January that I decided to annul this poisonous marriage. How laughable it was when the representative from the Elementary Teachers Federation asked her if she had any words of reference in my favour.

I've since moved on with my life. I am still a teacher, and a much appreciated one at that. However, I will still need time to erase Tracy's gruff voice and sharp reprimands from within me.


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