Monday, August 10, 2009

My HS principal died last weekend. I never thought I could be so sad about a man I hadn't seen in 5 years and had had exactly one conversation with, ever. Our one conversation was under these circumstances:

It was the morning of my HS graduation. I had bought a dress, but had no shoes to go with it, and, due to the schedule of the morning (graduation rehearsal, baccalaureate Mass, graduation), did not expect to have time to do my hair or put on make-up. I was stressed, emotional, and overwhelmed. By the time I got to rehearsal, I was in tears. Waiting for rehearsal to start, the graduating class of several hundred was milling around the auditorium. In our high school, the academic top 10% sit at the front and graduate first, so I was near the front, where the rest of the smart kids were milling, but I was in tears. Mr. F. came over to me. We'd never spoken before. He said, "Is everything okay? You're still going to graduate, right? You didn't fail phys. ed. or anything?" (It sounds bald on paper, but he said it very sympathetically.) I guess he assumed, since my position marked me as one of the smart kids, that only gym class could jeopardize my graduation. I told him I was fine, I hadn't failed anything, I was still graduating. He walked away, headed directly over to where a group of teachers stood, most of whom were male, with 1 female guidance counselor. I saw him approach the counselor and point in my direction. He probably said something along the lines of "There's a girl crying over there, and I don't know what to do. You should take care of it." He was probably correct, as only a woman's presence would allow me to act the way I did when she approached me, which was to break down still further and wail "My hair looks bad and I have no shoooooes!"

It was the briefest interaction, and - seeing as how I cried my way through it - you wouldn't think I'd walk away from it with a positive impression. But I suppose there's a perception that administrators don't particularly concern themselves with the happiness or emotional well-being of individual students. That's for the people on the ground, the teachers and counselors. But when Mr. F. saw someone with a problem, his first reaction was to approach me himself to try to help. He was sympathetic. And when he realized he was in over his head (a crying teenage girl!) he found the right person to take care of it. It didn't occur to me until I heard about his untimely death last week that, while I'd made a point of going back to the school some days later and thanking the guidance counselor for being so kind and sympathetic, I'd never thanked Mr. F.
for caring so much.


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