“What Did I Learn?” By Chad Robert Parker

I was only sent to the Principal’s office once or twice in my life. I remember a few different punishments through my school days but only once does standing in the actual Principal’s office come to mind. I’ll save the other main instances, a bathroom mess and a lunchroom food frenzy, for another time. The reason I was punished this time was for something significantly less extreme.

Ms. Bush was a rather mean English teacher. I suppose she just wanted to keep order in the classroom but it felt more like her making a power grab for indisputable control of her students. Sometimes I forgot to put in my contacts before running out the door to go to school. It wasn’t as obvious as forgetting your glasses, but I could not see the chalkboard to define the next word as we went around the room. Apparently this was cause for reporting me to the Principal’s office.

I saw the paddle dangling in the office and wondered if my parents had given the Principal permission to use it. He thought the whole thing was silly, perhaps like my dad must have felt when he had to punish his kids for mischief he hadn’t witnessed himself, while he was away at work. The Principal casually chatted with me the rest of that hour about life and my family. I’m sure he figured I learned my lesson. Ms. Bush made sure to still fail me on that assignment, even though I had thoroughly done the homework the previous night and had turned it in on her desk on time before I went to the Principal’s office. The main thing I learned that day was a lesson in life but maybe not exactly what she had in mind.

I learned that Ms. Bush’s punishments don’t match the crime. I feared her rather than revered her. It was hard to learn in that setting. I much preferred being inspired and knowledge expanded freely rather than being threatened and worrying about how well I could retain and recount understanding forced on me.