Under thumb

Under the thumb of remedial thinking. I guess we all have to learn what that’s like. That’s life, but does it have to be? It’s corporate and servile. It’s life of diminished expectation.
I met an elementary school principal today who was quite proud of having placed her thumbprint, in just a couple weeks, on the tone of a new school.

She stood before the parents at back-to-school-night, most of whom were unaware of the recent changes. If they had noticed the kids art gone from the walls, or heard from their children about the orderly quiet that has overcome lunch hour, or about the segregated recesses, or about the now cancelled weekly school rallies, or about the new austerity in the hallways, they’d come to see who was behind it.

The new principal wanted to explain some of her measures. “Safe Hands” for example, is a rule for groups of children walking through the halls. Students must now keep their hands clasped behind their backs. “Have you ever seen ten year olds walking down a hallway?” She meant to imply bedlam like it was last season’s lapel. The point she made to me was more telling: she is such a person as cannot handle youthful chaos. Mmm okay.

It would appear for this school year at least the kids are stuck with an overly assertive unimaginative authority figure. What had been a successful little school with a fun social environment is going to be something else.

The principal explained that her summer reading had consisted of the previous year’s comments from parents who wanted to see a different direction from their new administrator. Thus the squeaky wheel got the grease and the vast majority of parents who have been happy, even thrilled, with their little school, were hit and run underfoot.

The lesson here is the usual reminder for eternal vigilance. Don’t take for granted that newcomers can be brought up to speed. If their previous performance does not resemble what you’re after, don’t hire them. Do you want to be magnanimous and give wing to someone’s unproven ambition at your children’s expense?

I asked the principal later if the Safe Hands technique has precedence elsewhere. How orderly must school halls be? For example, is someone elsewhere experimenting with averted eyes, bowed heads, shuffling, maybe ankle restraints? She answered me with a steeled smile and unblinking eyes. Youthful exuberance should be held to limits. Her demeanor reminded me of a junior banker, by the time you see the facade close-up you realize there’s nothing but facade and hairspray.

Oh what a drag for the children. I had teachers like that, I resent them still.

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Eric Verlo

About Eric Verlo

On sabbatical
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1 Response to Under thumb

  1. Avatar Antonela says:

    This sort of thing goes along with reducing recesses down to only 15 minutes per day (if that) and to encircling schools with fences. Yes, I have even seen some nonColorado schools circled with barbed wire! Que Barbaro!

    “Safe Hands”? Maybe this principal has had experience in Catholic Schools? Watch them dirty little hands, Kids! Your Pope wants them clean. Who knows?

    You might try presenting the principal with a letter from your lawyer asking for medical bills and damages due to injury to your children from holding arms in an unnatural position. I would initially ask for about $50,000. Be sure to give a copy to the District School Board, too. These are very serious people and they will then take this seriously at this point.

    Good luck!

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