Tuesday, September 1, 2009

School Rules!

Most people assume that in my job as High School Vice Principal I spend my days contending with unruly students, garnering confessions and meting out punishments.

The truth is, at our smallish school with students and staff members who generally genuinely respect and care for one another (and there are rainbows! And unicorns!), we have it pretty easy in the discipline department. I get to spend most of my days out on the quad cultivating positive relationships with students, and they get to have fun at my expense and notice each and every change in my appearance.

Over three years since leaving the classroom, I have gradually come to terms with my new role. I even have fun.

Which is not to say that some aspects of being The Enforcer don't suck. I'm not fond of searching students; I don't like being lied to; I wish I didn't have to invade students' space--while they invade one another's space--on the dance floor; I am not a fan of discovering that students have made poor choices.

And every fall, I dread the Back-to-School assembly where I explain The Rules to the student body. The privilege of presiding over this presentation has been passed down over the years, vice principal to vice principal. It is I, a microphone, a PowerPoint of slides on What Not To Do, and a captive audience of restless teenagers hoping to be entertained.

I'm pretty sure that scenario is an archetypal Worst Nightmare, except that I am wearing clothes.

My first year, I gave the same dry warning speech six times, once per period, to students in the English classes. Never again, I swore, after boring even myself to tears. Thereafter we began dividing the student body into two groups, upper- and underclassmen, to deliver the Message of Doom.

This is what educators call "Frontloading" at its best:

Don't smoke or drink or possess intoxicants or even lighters or matches. Don't give away your--or your parents'--prescription drugs. Horseplay could get you suspended. Gum is the Devil. No spaghetti straps. Watch out for plagiarism. Here's what will get you a Referral to the Office. Turn your cell phones OFF. What you post on Facebook and MySpace could come back to bite you. Stop stealing each others' stuff.

Or ELSE. And don't say we didn't warn you.

This year, in an attempt to soften our statement, I enlisted the support of a talented student filmmaker, who graciously offered to record footage over two schooldays' time, because that's what he had, and stay up all night editing a Rules Video for the assembly.

I tend to claim that the students ARE my job, and that my job doesn't exist without them, and it's true. Without them I wouldn't have work, and without them my work wouldn't work.

PROOF of this, and of the brilliance of teenagers:

He'll be famous someday. Watch.


Heather P. C. said...

This video was da bomb! Ya, mon!

Jared and Kate said...

That was awesome. Our list of don't was slightly shorter--we were missing the prescription drugs and social networking warnings back then...:-)

me said...

The Cell Phone Fairy is BRILLIANT!!!!