I am the very proud principal of the Hartford Area Career and Technology Center (HACTC). And I have a confession to make.
Sometimes it is so very hard not to sniggle.
You know, at my job.
As a school leader.
The 'serious one.'
Well, that is what I sometimes feel I should be.
As a principal.
But I am not.
I am just not.
But yes, I hope I am serious when I need to be.
(Lately, I have been more serious than necessary...but life does that to a person, eh?)
But the truth is that I simply spend most of my day sniggling.
With my teammates.
And their quick wit.
And yes, with the students.
And sometimes at the students.
With their behavior.
And yes, their anger at me.
And their parents’ anger, too.
Because sometimes both are just funny.
And I have to sniggle.
Because it is not necessarily an appropriate time to do so.
Given the circumstance.
Or the environment.
Or the perceived seriousness of the circumstance.
Or the perceived seriousness of the environment.
Like when I was eleven.
And Martha, my sister, was fifteen.
And it was Christmas Eve.
And the hardwood pews of the St. Anthony’s Church ached not only our backs but also our souls.
(The latter ache not known until later in our lives).
But then...that night... that Christmas Eve... the priest was serious.
So very serious.
With his sermon.
So very, very serious.
Finger pointing out demonstratively with every important verb.
His eye contact direct and his tonal fluctuation raised with every important adjective.
(Executing, I think, what was taught at Seminary School for ‘serious’ sermons).
The priest connected Judas’s betrayal of Jesus with something or other...
I cannot remember the exact connection.
But again, it was serious.
So very serious.
But when he referenced the “passing wind” of that night of the betrayal, I lost it.
My eight year old brain could not take the literalness of the phrase.
And went immediately to the synonym.
The past participle for ‘breaking wind.’
(Mrs. Barton taught me ‘past participle’ that week in English class.)
That is what I heard in that hardwood uncomfortableness.
Judas simply let one go just before he was questioned.
As he was questioned.
A nervousness overtaking him and bodily control falling away like his commitment.
So it escaped.
(Did the Sanhedrin notice?)
Just like my sniggle escaped me as the above scene raced through my eight-year old brain.
During that sniggly Mass on Christmas Eve.
And once that sniggle (snort and giggle) came out my mouthnose, it was over.
And for Martha.
The sniggles could not be stopped.
Despite my mother’s own connected eyebrows and demonstrative finger pointing.
Martha buried her face, initially, in her elbow.
But she still sniggled.
And that sent me further into sniggleblivion (sniggle and oblivion).
But then she buried her face into the rumpled coat next to her on the hardwood.
A more serious sniggle snuffler.
But nothing stopped it.
The sniggles over took that pew.
(But not the pew ahead or behind us, those gritted teeth and stern looks told me so).
But I am better at it now, though.
Snuffling the sniggles.
Until a more appropriate time.
But it is hard.
So very hard to do.
Just like my eight year-old Christmas Eve self.
Especially when a parent is in my office processing her son’s negative behavior:
Parent: Damn it, H, you’re acting like a ‘goat fu**er.
Me: Ummmm…”I don’t have any goats.”
Implying that if I did have goats…
Or when a student in my office is processing their words to another student:
Student: (Yelling) I didn’t do a Fu**ing thing, H.
Me: Many others said you called him a really derogatory name.
Student: (Defiant) What do you know, H? You're just a meatball with legs!
Or when I look out my office window at a car in the parking lot that has a deer in the passenger seat:
Me: Tony, there is a deer in the front seat of your car.
Tony: Yup. Sure is.
Tony: I hit it this morning on the way to school and just couldn’t leave it there.
Me: So you put it in your passenger seat?
Tony: Yup. Buckled it in, too. Safety first. I had to put it in the front. The backseat had my hockey bag and a few cases of beer under the blanket.
Or when I have a student in my office who I suspect is very high:
Me: Sarah, did you smoke today before getting on the bus to come to the HACTC?
Sarah: Nooooope. Not at all. No way. Not at all. No sir. Not all. Nope.
Me: Sarah, you’re presenting like you did.
Sarah: I don’t know what you mean, H. Hey, ahhhhh...ummmm...you got any Doritos or anything like that around here?”
(And no, student substance use is not generally sniggle worthy but sometimes….).
Or when I am trying to connect with a student about safety:
Student: H, why are you such a dick about safety?
Me: Because I love you and do not want you or anyone else to get hurt.
Student: Oh. Okay. That makes sense. Sorry for being unsafe in the shop. I'll change my behavior.
Me: Can you please rephrase your original question, though?
Student: Ummmmm....right. Sure. H, thank you for caring so much about my personal safety. Are you sure you couldn't express your concern in a different way to the class without sounding like such a dick?
Me: Good grief.....(Long Pause)....Yes...... I'll think about a better way to speak to you all about my concerns..... Go back to class.
Student: Thanks for loving me. (Turns and leaves my office).
Me: (Not knowing what to do).
Or when a student tells me, “You know, H, if you were one of the Seven Dwarves, you would definitely be Grumpy. Get your stuff together, man.”
Or when I ask a student after a school-wide assembly how my speech went and he simply replies, “Pretty good, H, except your fly was down the whole time and I love ya but that was pretty distracting and awfully funny. Even more so now that you are asking me about it.”
Sometimes I feel bad about my sniggling.
Feeling the pressure to be more serious.
The Christmas Eve priest of school leadership.
But it is what it is.
And I am who I am.
And funny is funny.
Despite the seriousness of the environment.
Despite the seriousness of the situation.
Or the hardness of the pews.
Being a principal is challenging some times.
Well, it is challenging all the time.
At least for me.
So when humor presents itself, I will take it.
With my teammates.
With the students.
With their parents.
In the name of sanity.
My own sanity.
So I can continue on.
And be a good leader.
Yes, I will try and laugh my way to good leadership.
And will apologize to the connected eyebrows and pointed fingers when it is not the right response.
But the apology might still be snuffled a bit.
*This will be my last post on HereCast as they are going dark on 12/31. Thank you HereCast for allowing me to use your platform. For those that want to follow my non-HereCast blog, please go to www.circleswithmyfeet.com.