He was my assistant principal
This is National Assistant Principal Week and a time to pay tribute to our colleagues who care for our students and teaches and who make our schools work on a daily basis.
A group of my fellow principals had just completed a dinner meeting. As we were walking out, one of my colleagues came up to me and told me that she had been approached by one of the patrons who asked her, “Is that Mel Riddile?” The individual gave her his business card, he was an orthodontist, and told her to tell me hello. “He was my principal at Lee High School, said the man.”
When my friend told me the story, I said in amazement, “I left that school in the 1970s! Besides, I was not the principal. I was the assistant principal.”
The next week, I was in a local supermarket and a woman approached me and asked, “Did you ever work for the school system?” I admitted that I had. She went on to say, “Weren’t you my principal at Lee High School?” Again, that was in the 1970s. “I never got in trouble, so you probably don’t remember who I am,” she continued.
I can’t believe the number of times I am approached by adults who introduce themselves saying, “I never got into trouble” or “I don’t get into trouble anymore.”
These meetings with former students reminded me of another time at another school where I was also an assistant principal. This large high school was divided into small learning communities each with its own office and staff. Each “subschool” as we called them, acted as a mini-school. The assistant principal, two counselors, and one secretary took care of everything students from attendance to record keeping for 700-plus. The school had over 3,000 students and the principal, who was very focused on the need to personalize the school environment, intentionally stood in the same spot at the top of the main stairwell every morning so that the students would get to know who he was.
On one of the last days of school, a student office assistant in one of the “subschools” who was completing a mock final exam that all the secretaries gave to their assistants, walked up to me and asked, “Are you the principal?” I replied, “That man who stands at the top of the stairs every day is the principal. You are a senior. Didn’t you know that?” He calmly replied, “I always thought that you were the principal.
Food For Thought
I learned a long time ago that titles don’t matter to students. The most important thing to students is that they have someone they can count on, someone who is always there to lend a caring and helping hand. Thank you for being that someone.