Tuesday, January 12, 2010

I'm Proud of My Principal

Mr. Smith came back to Layton High just over a week ago. I am sure it was difficult. It’s always hard to come back even from summer break when everyone has been gone together. But to return when everyone else has stayed behind is painful; not knowing how one fits in, wondering what’s being thought and said.

I am aware of the comfort having Mr. Smith presence behind his desk has brought to most at our school. I have received a steady stream of visitors; colleagues, who have never been to my room, stopping by to celebrate the return of our boss. But there came more twisted reports in the newspapers, the release of the audit, and fruitless waiting for the promised support by those who have the public ear and know the truth.

Still, Mr. Smith brought our faculty together last Wednesday, as no one else could, spoke wisely and well, and left the room to a standing ovation of grateful supporters.

The weekend brought more articles in the paper: vague references to possible probes and investigations; unknown, unnamed malcontents sifting again and again through a tiny pile of trash; seeming to work hard to ignore the mountain of good that forty years of service has built. Perhaps, I thought, Mr. Smith is left again to wonder where he stands.

It took courage to be back at his desk yesterday morning, but he was there, and about the school, an example to all who face our own struggles. I don’t know what excellence of character brought Mr. Smith to be the principal at Layton High; but I am sure he has drawn on that reservoir as he has put the bitterness of the few into perspective by the long view of a life of service.

I don’t know what Michael did to become an arch-angel; I don’t know what excellence of character brought him to command the armies that stood against Satan, but the challenges of the last week have reminded me of Milton’s Paradise Lost. Book Six is a play by play of the war in heaven. In one of many battles; armed with God’s own sword; Michael cuts Satan in two:

“. . . but the sword
Of Michael, from the armoury of God,
Was given him temper’d so, that neither keen
Nor solid might resist that edge: it met
The sword of Satan with steep force to smite
Descending, and in half cut sheer; nor stay’d
But with swift wheel reverse, deep ent’ring shar’d
All the right side: then Satan first knew pain,
And writh’d him to and fro convolv’d; so sore
The griding sword with discontinuous wound
Pass’d through him; but th’ethereal substance clos’d
Not long divisible. . .”

Satan’s minions carry his broken body off the field. The next day, the devil is back, stronger than ever; armed with evil artillery:

“ . . . Immediate in a flame,
But soon obscur’d with smoke, all heaven appear’d,
From those deep-throated engines belch’d, whose roar
Embowel’d with outrageous noise the air,
And all her entrails tore, disgorging foul
Their devilish glut . . .”

And Michael goes forth again to face the beast with faith in his ultimate victory.

Long ago I discussed this story with a friend of mine who was serving a mission for his church. He wrote back the lesson he gained from it; explaining that “although evil can never be destroyed, it can always be defeated.”

I see the same example in Mr. Smith’s dedication and willingness to be and serve at Layton High. He continues the support and the example to all that teach and learn there.

Like the guns of the “fallen host”, the newspapers send out their noise and disgorged foulness. A friend of mine, Jeff Curtis, – speaking from the community view point – dealt with the blasts from the press.

The weakness of their presentation, he pointed out, proved they were trying to make something out of nothing. His pointed out that they are not asking the right questions. 1) Where did the money come from? 2) On what was the money spent? 3) Who knew about the funds? 4) Is Layton the only school at which such funds are garnered?

Surely, Jeff argued, being a high school principal must be one of the most difficult jobs in the world; facing the endless agendas of parents, students, teachers, and staff; dealing with the expectations and hungry needs of the district and the demands of the community; doing what is right in an environment rife with conflicting opinions and muddled goals.

This is the job Mr. Smith loves, the job he has done so well for thirty years, the job he did so scores of teachers could teach. And this is the challenge he returns to for the last month of his career, ready, once more to defeat the undestroyable foe. The promises made to Mr. Smith have been unfulfilled, modified, or broken; his determination to go on demonstrates his quality.

Not even Michael faced the Advisory alone. I visited with him for a minute in his office on Monday morning. I wondered if he knew how much support, what strong and determined allies, he has in this fight. I thought about it all day, and late last night, I decided the time had come to go looking for the “host of heaven”.

This morning, with my wife’s help, I made some blue ribbon twists, and headed for the high school. It was my plan to give them to the teachers and staff who supported Mr. Smith. I was nervous. I didn’t know who, or how many, would want to declare themselves in this fight. It didn’t help that the first friend I approached demonstrated some apprehension at wearing his convictions on his shirt. Soon, however, things began to look up. Again and again my question, “would you like to wear a ribbon that says, ‘I’m proud of my principal.’” was answered by an enthusiastic yes. I started out timidly, a few ribbons and pins in my pocket; soon I was giving away my own ribbon and heading back to stock up again and again. By the beginning of class I had run through all the ribbons we had put together. I called home and by lunch I had a fresh supply, many more than my first stash. By the end of the day, my pockets emptied, I had to give my own ribbon away four more times. I heard many positive and heartening things as I approached the great people I work with. I saw their genuine pleasure in supporting Mr. Smith, and listened to their wise and studied defense of his character and gratitude for his leadership and service. My spirits, beaten down by the forces arrayed against the truth, were soaring, buoyed by the sure knowledge that many recognized that truth.

At the end of the day, I stuck my head in Mr. Smith’s office. It was heartening to see our leader, not only at his desk, but with that desk piled with work and chores, service to Layton High.

I hope others will find ways to support Mr. Smith in the days to come. If you need some ribbons come and see me.


Amber said...

Well written. I am grateful that I have had the Agora to come to for information that I trust.

Lysis said...

Thank you Amber. Kind words like yours make any effort more than worth while.