Principals with principles somehow decided to become ‘pals’


I don’t know what has happened with secondary school principals. So many of them seem to be rather nice guys – and girls; the lovely lady down the street is a secondary principal.

In being ‘nice’ I think they’re letting down the side. My principal when I was in high school was a right prick, not to put too fine a point on the matter. He was cold, aloof, had absolutely no understanding of the minds of the adolescent. He wasn’t cruel or sadistic, just an unfriendly zero. And we, as students, truly disliked the man. Sad for him. And sad for us. Our high school ‘adventure’ would have been much more agreeable without him at the helm.Gale_Gordon_Eve_Arden_Our_Miss_Brooks_1952

But, he was etched in the model of such principals as Mr. Weatherbee in the Archie comics. Another guy who didn’t get the shenanigans of young people and showed no sense that they were ever adolescent. The spoofed Weatherbee in the Mad Magazine spoof of Archie was always a favorite of mine and that’s why I gratuitously pictured it here, and for no other reason really. Just a big of blogger freedom.

But truly the ‘Riverdale High’ principal was archetypical of the understood realm of the head honcho who roamed high school corridors in the day. His equivalent on television was Mr. Conklin from Our Miss Brooks. Mr. Conklin was played brilliantly by the perpetually cranky Gale Gordon and he handled the task with elan. starchie

Now fortunately when I was teaching high school I had a great principal. Hank Schellinck was a marvel and the perfect choice to be Vanier’s charter principal. Rivetingly bright and remarkably fair, always, and I good guy to boot I found him to be a huge departure from the man I’d experienced in high school. My only problem with Hank was that he was such a ‘science guy’. His specialities were math and physics and at those he excelled, but he didn’t seem to much ‘get’ the humanities. He once opined to me that “anyone can teach English.” Well, since I was English department chair at the time, I was relatively uncharmed by his declaration. But, I got over it because the other elements were good.

Personally, I never had aspirations to be a principal. I preferred staying a classroom teacher. And I strove to be a good one. And of course when you get the Peter Principle in action the only place for an able classroom teacher to go is into administration, even though the two callings don’t necessarily equate. So, I never wanted to go there and that was just one – aside from the 3,700 other ones – reason I left teaching when I did.

So, as years have gone by I have found principals to be increasingly human and I suspect that is a good thing. Nice people at the helm of a school. What a concept.


8 responses to “Principals with principles somehow decided to become ‘pals’

  1. When I was young no one feared the principal but the vice-principal was another thing. The vice was in charge of punishments and the kids who got in trouble or were late or skipped classes. In high school our vice-principal was a retired wrestler, big strong muscles and a deep voice. He had a paddle with holes drilled in it said to make the spankings hurt more. I would not know if it was fact or fiction. I know they were allowed to spank back then! I was a student worker in the office and had to announce once to the vice that a boy was here to see him, sent by a teacher for misbehavior in the classroom. The vice picked up the paddle and told me to send the student in as he tapped the paddle. The boy was white as a ghost and he walked very slowly. I thought he would faint! Never knew what happened after the door closed, but the fear alone usually cured most!

  2. I honestly don’t remember any of the Principals in any school I went to.

  3. I had headmistresses….kindly ladies, ambitious for their pupils – but holy terrors if crossed.

  4. I once-upon-a-time considered taking the path to becoming a principal, but then I realized that it was a middle-management position, between the school board (the government, basically) and the parents of the students. Middle management types have no real power but lots of responsibility. So I never did it, as I decided that I much preferred the teaching profession with its much smaller bits of power and responsibility – and also someone to pass the buck to. And I’ve always been very happy with my choice (smaller salary notwithstanding, of course!).

    • You and I are on the same page in this matter. Must be an attitude that runs in the family. Ironically, my dad was an administrator but told me later he wished he had just remained a teacher.

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