Originally written May 5, 2010
I’m a little surprised at how much I’m thinking about my high school principal, who died suddenly over the weekend. I’m actually choking up. You can read the NYT article I posted, shared from a long-ago, now renewed friend from high school – it’s how I found out about the news, just today. It does a lovely job of encapsulating his spirit.
He taught me so many things, but my favorite, favorite lesson came as I was about to become a teacher myself. I was visiting the school – some old teachers, and my mom, who had come to teach there when I was a senior.
I told Saulie B. (Mr. Bruckner, to the uninitiated) about a time when I was a senior, and was breaking the “NO FOOD ABOVE THE FIRST FLOOR!!!” rule. A rule that even Saulie B. didn’t get mad about kids breaking. (He simply pointed to kids who were eating and beckoned them towards him. The guilty party knew then that he had to put away his food, and join Mr. B. in patrolling the halls and picking up trash.)
Anyhow, one of my teachers saw me eating on the 3rd floor, became furious, and demanded I tell him my parents’ phone number so he could call them. I said, “Well, I could tell you the number, but my mom teaches down the hall in 310D – I think she’s got an OPTA (free period) now…” He hauled me down to her room, and told her of my crime, and she thanked him and promised to deal with me appropriately as I looked contrite. He stormed out, and my mom and I cracked up, and that was the end of it.
Telling this story to Saulie B., years later, we both laughed about it, but he never, EVER took off his educator’s hat.
Saulie B.: Now, Aliza, as you are about to embark upon your teaching career, what can you learn from that story?
Me: (sheepish, not having expected to be quizzed…) Um…I don’t know – maybe not to take myself too seriously when I’m a teacher?
Saulie B.: Yes, that’s a good one… anything else?
Me: Um…to pay more attention to the intent of the law rather than the letter?
Saulie B.: Yes, that’s important, too. What else?
Saulie B.: Why did you tell me that story?
Me: I don’t know – it’s funny? I still laugh about it…
Saulie B.: You’ve had thousands of interactions with teachers in this school. You chose THAT one to relay to me, years later. As you, yourself, become a teacher, what does that tell you?
Me: (stumped…and embarrassed…)
Saulie B.: Kids remember how you treat them. Always keep that in the front of your mind. They REMEMBER.
RIP, Saulie B.