When you are a State Trooper, or any law enforcement officer for that matter, you become a known entity within the community that you live and work in. The trappings of law enforcement, the uniform and the authority vested in that uniform surrounds you as you move about doing the things that are the substance of television and movies. When you retire, suddenly your impact is diminished dramatically, and you begin that slow fade into the role of normalcy where you acknowledge your inability to directly influence the happenings of the day as they unfold. Your family was always introduced as the wife of, son of, or daughter of (the law enforcement officer). It is disconcerting, for awhile, and the reality, for me, sank in when I went from being Captain Johnson to being Mrs. Johnson’s (the elementary principal) husband. As a new school year unfolds, I thought it appropriate to offer a glimpse into that role. Although Sharon has joined me in retirement, leaving the classroom and corner office behind, her influence will be felt for years to come.
Public Education has been crushed under the weight of beauracracy, funding cuts and the well intentioned criticisms of the folks who have not one clue what life as an educator is like these days. The push for one size fits all, the clamoring for a trophy for every child and the utter nonsense of no child left behind has taken the breath out of the educators who recognize the impossibilities associated with squeezing every child into one mold. From my perspective, I can guarantee that a large portion of Sharon’s salary was in response to the demands and inordinate patience it took to deal with parents. I was appalled at the numbers of parents who viewed education as a social platform, demanding parties for everything from Halloween to the birthday of a student’s pet hamster. Parents often failed to recognize that when classroom gifts were involved, a less fortunate parent could ill afford to send their child to school with the beautiful designer candy box that other, affluent parents could easily afford. I need not comment on the hurt feelings of those who received a handful of candy hearts while sitting next to a child opening a box of designer chocolates. Never mind the hours of precious instructional time lost to such nefarious activities on a seemingly regular basis.
Mrs. Johnson’s husband made occasional appearances at school to share in Mrs. Johnson’s experiences in an effort to understand the exasperation of Mrs. Johnson when she had no appetite for supper after a vexing day. I so enjoyed watching the children devour a balanced meal at breakfast and/or lunch, knowing full well this might be the only meal these children would enjoy this day. I shared in her sadness in knowing that, in many instances, the buddy packs of food sent home with less fortunate children would be locked up at home or traded for cigarettes or other items when they got home. I watched in horror as various children would model behaviors that were seen in the home, such as rolling, presumably marijuana, cigarettes or sexual conduct. Parents who provide these types of environments were often the first ones to suggest that one of Sharon’s educators was incompetent to teach their child.
In this age of narcisstic indulgence, I felt great pride in Sharon’s assertive discipline approach to education. Narcissism, as we know it, has it’s origins in early childhood, resulting in the necessity of “safe areas” for our college youth who gather at the flagpole because they have been offended in some fashion, where they can wring their unsullied hands in unified agony. In this hyper competitive age, the fact that you were awarded a pink ribbon for finishing 38th in a class of 38 will carry little weight in a job interview. Sharon’s children understood that when a direction was given, there would be no follow-up begging or threatened consequences, beyond the first explanation as to what was expected. That, my dear readers, is what employers will expect of their employees.
An important tool for folks in any learning environment is discipline. In this case, I am not referring to corporal punishment, a consideration that my generation understood clearly, rather the establishment of rigorous academic expectations and the demand to accomplish the goals inherent to those standards. We have strayed from the real world acknowledgement that some will excell, some will squeak across the line and some will fail, in spite of the efforts of our finest educators. There exists today, an adversion to holding a child back when that action is exactly what the child needs. In many instances, failure is a strong incentive to be successful the next time around.
Sharon can be a handful. Her metamorphosis from the classroom to the corner office was not easy. She recognized early on that her concerns had expanded exponentially from a handful of troubling parents and demands to the issues of every one of her staff members. She worked hard to incorporate today’s expectations into the monumental demand that she provide the guidance and interpretation of new programs and methods into the common sense reality of public education today. She made it a priority to recognize excellence in the classroom, however could be cat quick when her expectations were not met. Perhaps this is why I refer to her as my bobcat, quiet most of the time but…….well, we all know what a bobcat is all about.
I am closing this writing with a strong vote of confidence to those who are up to the task of stepping back into the classroom for another tour. We are behind you. In this household, you will ALWAYS get the benefit of the doubt!
It was kind of fun, being Mrs. Johnson’s husband………the guy who fried the fish at the staff fish fry.