My First Principal

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Do you remember your first real job? Did you cry? I did.

I cried, often. As a first-year teacher in an elementary school in 1966, I was sure my first principal, Hurricane Grace, was going to fire me.

Trending in the world at that time was the mystery of the Bermuda Triangle, an area in the Atlantic where planes, ships and people mysteriously disappeared. Hurricane Grace was her own Bermuda Triangle, gobbling up designated probationary teachers. Tales abounded of first year teachers called to her office at 9am, being sent somewhere (We all figured Central Office.) and then disappearing, forever.

All of us quaked in Hurricane Grace’s path, and I knew my day was coming when she came into my classroom and raged about my lousy bulletin boards.  She said something like, “Your room looks like you teach in a poor school!  Where is everything? Your room is naked!” (I remember the word naked clearly.) I spent the rest of that day trying not to sob in front of my first graders.

Thank God, my dear friend Sandy, a year older and wiser stayed with me until six o’clock that night and helped me to fix up my classroom. We put out books that had been hidden in cabinets, freshened up my ugly bulletin boards, put out new erasers, chalk, charts, and manipulative materials that I had never thought to display. Sandy threw in some plants from her own classroom, and she told me that the next day I needed to get Hurricane, bring her to my classroom and show her how I was an obedient little probationary teacher.

“You’re kidding,” I said to Sandy.

“Do it,” she ordered.

The next morning, I knocked on Hurricane Grace’s closed door. “Mrs. Bartter?” I squeaked like a little girl. “I fixed up my classroom. Sandy helped me. Would you like to come in and see it? I hope it meets your approval.”

Sandy was right. Hurricane eased up after that, and I didn’t get fired.  To this day, however, if Hurricane Grace came back from the dead I would tremble in her presence.

Also, to this day, when I see a blank bulletin board in a school hallway or classroom, I feel great empathy for the sorry soul who is responsible for filling it. I’m not even going to talk about all that Common Core Standards stuff teachers today must display; that post will come later.

7 thoughts on “My First Principal

  1. Sweet dear Grace who loved me like a daughter?? I’ll never forget her!! She once made me change something on a report of some kind, maybe a report card, because I used the word ‘internalize.’ I guess she thought it had a sexual connotation…Now that I think back, I had to stay late once to chance my cubby labels. I had forgotten that one! Maybe she wasn’t so sweet after all.
    Great article.


  2. My first principal was named Lou and he was terrific. He was street smart and he was tough, I both liked and respected him. My first classroom observation was with a very difficult class of 11th graders and I asked him to to please, please, please help me manage these kids. As luck would have it, no one cursed me out, there were no fist fights and every kid participated. LOL! I will always remember that Lou supported this fledgling teacher.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. That’s the reason I taught high school! I could put up a bulletin board and leave it for a few years and no one said a thing. Elementary teaching is too much work. And, you’re stuck with the same kids all day long. With high school, you get a new batch of students every hour.

    Liked by 1 person

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