family / myself

A letter to the Principal

Dear Principal,

Today, when I dropped off my step children at the school where you are the principal, you were very rude to me.

In case you don’t remember, here is what happened: I drove up to the school, as I did last year and the previous year (but now with a kindergartener to drop off too!). I pulled up to the circle in front of the school, in line with other parents and buses. The kids were getting unbuckled, saying goodbye, and getting ready to leave when you ran over to my car, frantically motioning for me to roll down my window. I do not have automatic windows, and perhaps you realized that because you opened the door and began to yell at me in front of my step-children. I was holding up all the traffic behind me, I should look at all the buses and parents I was holding up, I was not allowed to drop off here, if I had to drive my kids to school, I should follow directions. Then you huffed, slammed the door, and quickly changed her attitude to say a pleasant (but fake, I think?) good morning to the kids.

First I was furious at you, which almost immediately turned to tears of frustration and distress. I called my husband so he would be sure not to receive the same treatment from you when he dropped the children off.

Here are the issues I have:

  • There are no signs posted about where to pull up when dropping off (or picking up) kids. I was careful not to park in the “buses only” area, because those signs are clear.
  • Many papers have come home with the kids about picking up from school, with extensive information about where to park, which door to use, who may enter the building, etc. I have read the material carefully and I do not recall seeing any information about dropping kids off. I know I am not the only parent who drops off. I tend to follow the crowd in situations like this, knowing how important it is to keep things moving before school. If I screwed up and got a good yelling-at, are you yelling at all the parents in front of their kids?
  • There is always a nice way to give information. There was no need to yell, nor to humiliate me for my ignorance.

Here are my concerns:

  • If you yell at parents in front of their children, do you also yell at the children? And in front of other children? I can think of very few instances where this method of discipline would be very useful in student learning, unless your goal is to intimidate and create an atmosphere of fear.
  • How do you think my step-kids felt hearing you yell at me for something that wasn’t really a big deal? If I had run over someone, I hope you’d yell. If I had crashed into something, I hope you’d yell. If we weren’t wearing our seat belts, if one of the kids were driving, if I was drinking, etc, I hope you’d yell. But I unknowingly blocked traffic for maybe one minute. Children listen and see – how can they trust that you won’t yell at and humiliate them when they make a simple mistake.
  • We have a standard in our house of “No Yelling Unless You are in Serious Trouble.” There is rarely a need to yell. It doesn’t do any good and it does do harm. I don’t want my step children or any children to think it is ok to yell at someone because you have power. When I was in Elementary School, Mr. Thomas, our principal, made an effort to be our PAL, cheesy as it may be. He was strict with the kids who truly did wrong and open toward everyone. They go to school to learn, and I don’t want them learning that yelling is a way to get people to do what you want them to do.

I take full responsibility for the fact that I am generally a sensitive person, particularly to yelling, and that I am pregnant now, which is wreaking a delightful havoc on my emotions. However, my own sensitivities aside, I saw the look on my step-kids faces when you slammed my door. They stood there, watching and listening to the whole conversation. They looked shocked and confused by your behavior.

If I could reconstruct and re-do this scene, here is how it would go (knowing that I can only change my own behavior, not yours):

You storm to my car as the kids are getting out, open the door, and begin your tirade. When you finish, I smile, and say something like, “Thank you for the information. I was unaware of the proper drop off situation. Next time you have to give me, any parent, or any student non-critical information, I hope you will not yell at them. It is distressing and humiliating to me, and I can see it creating fear and concern in my step-kids. As the Principal of the school, I hope you will model excellent interpersonal behavior.” Then you would close the door, greet the kids, and I would drive off feeling empowered and like I knew where to park without blocking traffic.

Respectfully.

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4 thoughts on “A letter to the Principal

  1. This is excellent. You should definitely send it to her. Actions speak louder than words and she sent a very bad message to the kids, plus anyone around who heard her as well.
    Keep on smiling. It confuses the heck out of them.

  2. Yikes. That woman owes you an apology. She was obviously stressed in general, and took it out on you — something that’s all too common these days. Alan and I had a security guard at the Art Museum here yell at us — it spoiled the entire visit for me, and made me less likely to want to go back. I think you should send her the letter — you will no doubt see her again (and again) since your step-kids attend her school. I’m sure she’s a fine person, but that kind of behavior is not appropriate. If she truly is a good principal, she’ll appreciate your thoughtfully worded letter and own up to her inappropriate response to the “drop-off situation”.
    Go, Vick, go!

  3. Shame, shame, shame on that principal! The first week of school? Why didn’t she have personnel posted at key points on this FIRST week of school to keep traffic moving? No matter what, her treatment of you is unacceptable. It would not be unreasonable to email her and copy the superintendent to let them know how you felt and offer your suggestions on alternative ways the situation could have been handled. In the end, the squeaky wheels do indeed get the grease. And, your step-kids deserve to have a fluid school year!

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