Monday, January 11, 2016

Who IS a Principal?

On the last Saturday of holiday break, my two sisters and their families came for to visit before they closed the door on two weeks of holiday shuffling, eating, sleeping, and exchanging kids from house to house.  They were going back to their regular lives.  Which aren't regular at all, by the way, but that's a different post for a different time.

My two sisters' children combine with my children to make ten kids under eleven years old.

My children make up only 20% of this equation.  They're outnumbered.

But it all tumbles together when all these cousins combine.  The pieces become a whole, then parts, then a whole again. It reminds me of a flock of swallows who fly wildly together, swooping and dipping and splitting apart into a whole bunch of indiscernible combinations.  It's fun to watch.

Because they are such a gaggle of play when they're together, though, the time I get to talk with each one is fleeting—just a moment, just a breath— as  as they race from trampoline to Shopkins to Minecraft to a pickup football game.

When I do get a moment alone with one of them, I ask them about school.  My nieces and nephews attend school 5,000 miles apart from each other, so their experiences are indescribably different.  Still, though, they usually cut right to the chase and tell me about their principal.  They all have an opinion.  A strong one.

My nephew sniffs and snorts when he talks about his school's principal.

Another nephew—brother to the sniffer and snorter—is quiet and dismissive when talking about the principal.

A niece isn't sure she has a principal.

Another niece tells me her principal is nice.  And pretty.

Another niece declares she is scared of her principal.  I ask why.  "Um..." she simultaneously raises her eyebrow and her lip, as if I have missed the point completely.  Which point, I'm not sure—but I've missed it.

"What?" I ask her.  "Why would you be scared?"

"She's the principal," she says.

It occurs to me with a start that every child—every single one— from schools all over the world—has a schema to classify the principal.  If we asked any kid, anywhere, "Tell me about your principal," they'd have an answer.  The specifics of each story would be different, but each student would have a definition of "principal" that sits there in his or her little mind, large and true.

Just something to think about.

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