There are many reasons kids get sent to the principal’s office. Pulling the fire alarm, bullying, lying, cheating, disrespecting a teacher. But because a kid is acting like all the other kids? And in a good school where kids showed up to class on time, did their studies as directed, generally an upbeat school environment with very little lunch room or recess drama? No. Not typical. But nothing about my upbringing was typical.
So yes, I have the distinction of being sent to the principle’s office for disciplinary purposes once during my years spent in the K-12 public school system, for acting like all the other kids. Walking down the hall to the office, not exactly understanding why I was being sent and uncertain what awaited me, I was very nervous, even scared because if I got into trouble at school the trouble to follow at home was sure to be even greater. The class had been in a disruptive mood and I had been participating in the silly fun and the joke of the moment we were amusing ourselves with. But being singled out puzzled me and nothing really unusual or bad had transpired in the classroom.
Let me back up a moment to set the stage. This was a very small and remote town in Alaska where my father was a preacher and my mother a teacher in a classroom not far from mine. Eyes followed me everywhere, a running report sent back to my parents when deemed necessary.
Arriving at the office, ushered into the innermost room I felt awkward at the attention being directed towards me. Sitting down in the chair next to his desk I braced myself for whatever the accusation and punishment might be. That is when the shaming began: the school was disappointed in me because I was acting like all the other students. “We expect more from you than to join in on the disruptive behavior of the classroom, you are above that. You are not like these other kids and you need to hold yourself to a higher standard.”
Twisted words for a young kid who just wanted to be normal and accepted among her peers to process. I didn’t want to be held to a different standard than everyone else, just because I was a preacher’s daughter. The daugher of a teacher in the school. (And white. It’s not a stretch to fit that in, I was a minority in reserve and this was the late 60’s. White teachers, white principal, white kid has to be better.) But wait, I get to laugh too, shouldn’t I get to be in the circle? Nothing even remotely bad had happened in the classroom, except to momentarily test the patience of our teacher. Why am I different? I don’t want to be different. I want to be the same, because the same is really good. These kids are smart and funny and good kids. Why are you putting them down? Why do you think you have the right to shame me for being like them?
These questions never have adequately been answered.