The Principal’s Office
Mrs. Henderson! That was my first grade teacher’s name. I had to go deep into my psyche to dig that one up, because she so traumatized me. After leaving school and walking home that day, Mother and Daddy told me that while they understood why I was so upset, if I ever did it again that Daddy’s J.C. Penney #32 and my behind would collide. Furthermore, if I ever got sent to the Principal’s office, I would really be in trouble deep.
I was an obedient child, but not above mischief. When Mrs. Henderson wasn’t screaming at us, her teaching methods would bore us to tears. Honestly, watching paint dry would have been more interesting.
It was early afternoon and I was getting fidgety and restless. One child had already been sent to the hallway outside the door to stand. I began to reason this in my mind. The thought of being released from this prison to the hall sounded like a pretty good idea to me. I thought, “It would be even more fun if I took a few friends with me.” I started whispering to some of my friends. The tactic worked, because three more of us found ourselves in the hallway. A few minutes later, a couple more joined us. They had caught on to the trick. That idiot teacher! There were five or six of us first graders standing in the hallway. We were giggling and having the best old time. We overdid the fun and got sent back into the classroom .
At the dinner table that night I was so proud to announce, “I GOT to stand out in the hall today.” My parents looked at me and my brothers and sisters glared at my parents with eyes as big as saucers. They were holding their breath, knowing that Daddy would pull off his belt and give me a whipping. Mother often intervened with words of wisdom. “Pamela, what if the Principal had seen you out in that hall? You would have gotten into trouble.” Nonchalantly I replied, “Oh, he did see us. He came down there and asked us what we were doing, and we told him that the teacher was giving us trouble. He just told us to go back into class, and then he told Mrs. Henderson to come out into the hall. When she came back in, she was a whole lot nicer.”
My parents gave us all a little lecture about respecting our elders, behaving in school, and that they had better never have to go down there to that school and find us in the Principal’s office. Who knew that those words would come back to haunt them.
Sometime after the hall incident, there were doctors and nurses set up in the gym to give diphtheria inoculations. I recall standing in line with the other children waiting for my turn. I would see them get the shot and start crying. The whole school sounded like a nursery ward in the hospital. I was determined that I would not cry, no matter how bad it hurt.
It came my turn. I rolled up my sleeve, got my shot, and even though I could feel the tears welling up inside, they never made it down my cheeks. You might remember, from a previous post, that our school was so overcrowded that my classroom was in the boys locker room. There were about five steps leading out of the gym to our classroom. I perched myself on the steps and started laughing and heckling the kids who were crying. My teacher heard the commotion and came across that gym floor to find the source. She shook her finger at me and said, “Pamela, you are coming with me to Mr. Robertson’s office.” “No, I’m not, I retorted.”, and off I ran. I hid under her desk. When she finally drug me out from under it, she marched me to his office.
Mr. Robertson didn’t fuss at me very much. He told me that I should be kind to the children and not make fun. I was very remorseful and felt the sting of humiliation, much like I had inflicted on my peers when I laughed at them. I went back to the classroom with a note to my parents in tow. I asked my friends to forgive me.
I didn’t readily turn over the note to Mother, but when I did it was a while before I could sit comfortably again. I was never sent to the Principal’s office again. Once was more than enough for me.