On Principal by
10
(20 Stories)

Prompted By Favorite Teacher

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Who remembers principals and heads of school? Who indeed. Well, I wish to remember one here. Mr. Buckley was the principal of my elementary school.

I imagined his job consisted mainly of dealing with The Bucking Bronco Boys

Robert L. Buckley was a gentle gentleman. He was tall, spare, bespectacled, dressed smartly every day in a dark suit. I learned later that he had three children of his own.

As students we didn’t see our principal much. To us he was a distant star. We thought he sat at his desk all day — unless he was visiting our class, of course. As an 8-year-old I imagined his job consisted mainly of dealing with The Bucking Bronco Boys and making stern phone calls home to their mothers. Unfortunately, Mr. Buckley was not around when a BBB kissed me in the hallway one day after I’d been ejected from class for talking too much. Quel outrage. But I digress.

In her job at a private school in town my mother was in regular contact with Mr. Buckley. On occasion he might remark, “Susie looks pretty in her pink dress today,” or something of the sort. How intuitive of him to assure my mother, parent to parent, that he was watching over us every day, that he was “on the job.” Principals and teachers knew more about us children and our families than most of us realized.

One incident stands out. I was in third grade. My orange cat’s habit was to follow me to the school bus stop each morning. On this particular morning the school bus…ended all that. It was awful. I started to cry and then to wail. My friends did their best to console me. When we arrived at school someone delivered me to Mr. Buckley. He took me into his office which, not being one of The Bucking Bronco Boys, I had never seen.

In my memory I am in there a long time. Mr. Buckley sits with me like a dad, speaking softly and waiting for me to calm. He does not offload me onto his secretary. He does not rush me. I stay there with him for as long as I need to stay.

At the end of fourth grade I left to attend the private school. I didn’t see Mr. Buckley again until I attended his retirement party twenty years later. He was stepping down as principal after thirty years.

I was 29, “Susan” now, and standing in the reception line rehearsing how I would introduce my adult self. Instead, as I inched closer to him Mr. Buckley turned and smiled and said, as easily as if he had seen me the day before, “Hello, Susie.” And in that moment I was once again the little girl in a pink dress, so proud her principal remembered.

Profile photo of Susan Bennet Susan Bennet
I'm so happy to have joined the gracious Retro family. The basics:
I have a background in marketing and museums.
I come alive when the leaves turn red.
I regret every tech mistake I have made or will ever make on this site.
I want a dog.



Characterizations: moving, well written

Comments

  1. Thanx Susie (if I may!) for another of your always wonderfully written stories, with a few strokes you’ve brought Mr Buckley to life!

    And get a dog (or maybe another orange cat.)

  2. Marian says:

    Aw, what a nice tribute to Mr. Buckley, a committed and caring principal. I doubt his tenderness would be present in today’s schools. I don’t remember any of my principals, although I do remember one particularly nasty assistant principal (read disciplinarian) at my high school. I dodged a bullet with him, but that’s a long story.

  3. Susan Bennet says:

    Intriguing, Marian.. I think the job of all Assistant Princes was to be the enforcer. My AP in junior high blew a whistle during cafeteria lunch when he was annoyed. Sorry legacy!

  4. Betsy Pfau says:

    This is a lovely tribute, Susan. He sounds like a kind and caring man. I fear they are in short supply these days. Administrators are asked to do way too much.

    I do remember my elementary school principal – Miss Mitzlefeld. She was a gray-haired lady who would stand at the corner of the L intersection of our school when we changed classes, with her hands (Winston Churchill-like) in a V-formation, saying “Two by two in the hallways” in her rather high-pitched voice. I can’t imagine her soothing anyone the way your Mr. Buckley did!

    • Susan Bennet says:

      I love the V-for-Victory image of your Miss Mitzlefeld, Betsy. She probably did the best she could. The headmistress of my day school was painfully stiff, poor lady. She had to rely on others to humanize her office. It’s tough to be Queen!

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