13+ Things Your Kid’s Principal Won’t Tell You

Straight from the principal's office: Use these tips for a better school year.

By Michelle Crouch from Reader's Digest | September 2012
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    1. If you want to talk to me about a problem, schedule a morning appointment, when I'm fresh.

    By the afternoon, I can get pretty frazzled.

    2. You're right, that teacher does stink.

    I'm actually in the process of firing her. Legally, I can't tell you that, though, so that's why I'm sitting here quietly while you complain.

    3. Of course I'm going to disapprove of a child missing class for vacation.

    What I won't tell you is that I encouraged my own daughter to pull her kids out of school to visit me during my break.

    4. We had a young man struggling to focus during year-end tests.

    "My underwear is on backward," he said. That's the problem with all this testing: We're being judged by assessments taken by kids who may have their underwear on backward.

    5. You think that what happens at home stays at home?

    We hear about your financial problems, your nasty fights, your drinking problem. We end up knowing way too much about everybody.

    6. The child you see at home?

    That's almost never the one we see at school.

    7. Don't tell me your child would never lie to you.

    All kids make mistakes, and great students are often the ones most afraid to tell their parents when they screw up.

    8. When we have a child who throws things or tries to hit when she's angry...

    ...her parents inevitably say, "I don't have a problem with her at home, because I spank her."

    9. My biggest pet peeve?

    Parents who complain to me before talking to the teacher.

    10. Don't ask me to make a teacher forgive a homework assignment or not to teach a specific subject.

    We don't dictate to teachers; we work with them.

    11. I've had a few students who were bullies.

    We suspend them again and again, but it's very tough to expel a student. The truth is, they have a right to an education.

    12. Kids are easy.

    It's the parents who are tough. They're constantly trying to solve their kids' problems for them.

    13. What do I love about this job?

    I can influence and inspire kids and adults, help work through problems, and find solutions. And every day I can pop into a classroom where something interesting is going on. What other job gives you all of that?


    14. C’mon parents, this is your child’s homework, not yours.

    We know what a seventh-grader can do, and we know what an adult with an engineering degree can do, so please don’t do your child’s work for him. Kids need to make mistakes and struggle through things; it’s how they learn.

    15. Principals never know what the day will hold.

    One minute you’re mopping up vomit, the next you’re in a special ed meeting, and the next you’re dealing with two kids who got in a fight. Then you shovel snow off the sidewalk in front of school, you meet with teachers to decide whether to change the language arts curriculum, and you play basketball with a group of kids. And that’s just in the first two hours.

    16.The last thing I want to do on the sidelines of a basketball game or during intermission at the school play is have a conference with you about your child.

    If you have something to talk to me about, come by my office during the day or even better, make an appointment.

    17. If you and your child don’t like his teacher, tough luck.

    Think of it as a lesson: In school, as in life, sometimes you have to learn to deal with things you don’t like.

    18. When an unruly student gets sent to my office, my favorite strategy is not to engage right away.

    I just let them sit there in agony while I keep working. It gives them a chance to calm down and de-escalate. Try it at home; it works.

    19. For years, folks have said that if you can’t do anything else, you can always go into education.

    The truth is, we’re not the leftovers, and this is what most of us wanted to do. I had been accepted to law school, but I chose this.

    20. Our favorite kids aren’t necessarily the ones with the highest IQs.

    What we really value is hard work.

    21. Since the economy has gotten bad, it seems that more parents are taking any job they can get, working crazy hours and neglecting their children.

    Then a lot of them try to make up for that by coming to their child’s rescue when there’s an issue with a teacher, coming in here and hollering at us.

    22. As a principal, you’re expected to know about bus routes, curriculum, communication, school lunches, adolescent development, conflict management, learning disabilities, and more.

    You have to be an expert on everything, sometimes in the same 20 minutes.

    Sources: Principals in Georgia, Utah, Florida, and New York and former principals in New Hampshire and Vermont

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    Your Comments

    • Anonymous

      Uh…no, if I don’t like the teacher and think she’s not bright enough to make up for the weak curriculum, it’s not “too bad”. It means I pull my kid and homeschool her, and your district loses the money. I lose money, too, but I’m willing to do that so that the kid leaves school knowing how to read and do math. 

      Also, law school…a few of you, maybe. Unfortunately, those of us near universities know which kids default to the ed tracks. They’re not generally the best & brightest, which is also why “for education majors” is a synonym for “watered-down”. The terrible economy does have a lot of able, bright people going back for teacher certs, but on the whole? The well-educated parents’ eyes pop out when we hear some of the (deeply wrong) things you’re teaching our kids. The kids do so well on the tests because we spend hours and hours each week correcting your errors, making the kids do more complex and difficult work, etc. 

      You guys do yeoman work, and God knows I’d be in the nuthouse after four hours of your workday. The mere idea of spending all day, every day, with hundreds of kids…forget it. But please, let’s not exaggerate the quality of the teaching. We suck internationally, our STEM graduate programs are full of foreign nationals because we can’t find enough American kids who can compete, and it’s not solely because we’ve got a large chunk of the population disengaged from their kids’ educations. A hefty portion of blame goes to the fact that we don’t expect nearly enough, intellectually, of either our kids or our teachers. 

    • really?

      17 – so I am supposed to like having a year of my child’s education wasted because I think the teacher is not doing their job???

      • lyrralt

        Wow, there is no reading comprehension in this comments section.

    • Drtammy1511

      #11 is so totally incorrect.  There is a new Federal Law that outlaws bullying!  All State Education Departments are REQUIRED to mandate local school districts to have policies to deal with bullies.  For example, my district requires that a reported bullying incident, whether reported to a teacher, principal, etc., be written up within 24 hours.  This report must then be investigated at the school level within 48 hours with a written report sent to the victim’s parents, the victim, the bully’s parents, and then forwarded to the district’s Board of Education where it must be further investigated within 5 business days and then forwarded to the State Board of Education.  Bullying in the schools is no longer tolerated!

      • E’smom

        Agreed! And even if that bully has a right to an education, principals need to understand that it doesn’t mean that they have the right to have access to their target. There are home study programs, restricted learning environments (more supervision), and independent study programs available as alternative solutions to mixing violent kids with the general population of other students. Principals need to escalate to the district and move a problemed kid where they can get the appropriate education and stop disrupting others.

    • judy

      At the end of this article there was a math book mentioned that could help parents help kids. What was the name of that book?

    • Sylvia.

      # 17. 
      I don’t like my son’s teacher. 
      She humiliates kids in front of the whole classroom, she tells how bad  he/she did the work and ….shows it to the rest!!  exposing is humiliating. Wrong. Very wrong done to kids as ..to adults. She has been doing this for years and the principal can do nothing cause of …seniority. Kids, who were her students are still struggling with the healing. THERE ARE BAD TEACHERS, that parents we don’t like and we deserve a change. Or as I did, I changed my kid to another school thru school choice, and our life, and FAMILY dynamics improved, just because our kids, as many others who left the school for this bad teacher, got better. No– we don’t have to deal with bad teachers nor its bad luck. And I didn’t like the teacher, because I didn’t like her AS A PERSON. wrong # 17. 

    • Mlyons6642

      Most are very close.

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    • Sena Duru

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    • Bob

      #8 is BS. It implies that corporal punishment leads to violence, which it doesn’t. But if that is the response, then spank them in school and watch the violence disapear.

    • Shannon

      “20. Our favorite kids aren’t necessarily the ones with the highest IQs.
      What we really value is hard work.”

      This is one of the real problems in America. Our education system is more interested in bringing up under-performing students to the level of “higher IQ” students, and we never challenge the smarter students. And we ask why US educations are outperformed by so many other countries?