Wednesday, January 20, 2010

P is for Principal

Function: noun

1 : a person who has controlling authority or is in a leading position: as a : a chief or head man or woman b : the chief or head of an educational institution

That's the official Merriam-Webster definition. But in our school we would define "principal" much differently.

We are very fortunate. We have heard more than once that our principal is the one everyone else in the district wants to work for. We don't need anyone to tell us that. We know it.

Yesterday we were told some news that most of us never expected. OUR principal, OUR Diane, will be retiring at the end of the school year.

When she told us, many of us didn't know how to react. There were tears for sure, as we all looked at each other not really knowing what to say or even if we heard her correctly.

Retiring? Really?

Now I realize this kind of thing happens all the time, but to understand the impact this is having on all of us is to understand exactly who Diane is.

Diane has been a part of our school for 30 years. First and foremost as a kindergarten teacher and for the past 4 years our much loved principal.

She is responsible for the education of hundreds of kindergarten students. Two of my own children were fortunate to land in her kindergarten classroom. It was there they got their real first school experience and I can't thank her enough for that. She loved them both as if they were her own.

She is responsible for the education of many student teachers, myself, and a good number of our current staff included.

Twenty-something years ago I was a student teacher in Diane's K/1 classroom. Coincidentally, in the very same classroom I now call my second home. There I learned exactly what a kindergarten teacher is.

Kind, caring, someone who is not afraid to get down on the floor and laugh with kids and laugh at herself at the same time. Someone who is an expert at her craft, passionate, dedicated, organized, creative, with an unbelievable attention to detail...I could go on and on.

It was intimidating to walk into her classroom as a college student, so unsure and scared. This was someone who meant business, who expected nothing less of me as a future teacher than she expected of herself.

She is what I did then and still aspire to, I'm not sure it's possible to ever become the kind of teacher she is, but I feel so fortunate to have had her as my mentor.

Four years ago when our then principal retired the search began for a new leader. Our school was buzzing. "Will she, or won't she?" We knew how fortunate we were when she did!

It was an easy transition knowing her the way we did. We had no doubts in her ability as our leader. This is no easy job, juggling all she's had to juggle. Staff, children, parents, administration, countless meetings, her own family, but she handled it all, with grace and more often than not, a smile on her face. If she did any crying (and I'm sure she shed a tear or two) it was with her office door shut because we never saw that side of her.

I heard her say today that her favorite times were the ones spent talking with kids in her office, even when she had the not so pleasant task of reprimanding them for some slip up or issue.

That's who Diane is, it's always been about the kids.

After she delivered the news, we all just sat there looking at each other. We knew we needed to talk about it but just didn't know what to say.

With our meeting over, some people lingered, but I had to leave. Not because I had anywhere special to be, I just needed to get out of there to somehow process what I had just heard. It was my last thought before I fell asleep and the first thought when I woke up in the morning.

When I walked into work this morning I knew in order for me to function I had to talk to Diane. I needed to tell her how important she is to me. I told her how sad I was but also that I was happy for her. She deserves this. Time to enjoy her family, her home, travel...SLEEP!

Her patent leather flats are going to be very difficult shoes to fill.

Our school will never be the same. It's not to say it won't still be a great place to work, that we all won't still love our jobs, but there will be something missing. None of us know Horace Mann without Diane.

So how exactly would we define the word?


Function: noun

1: friend.

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