I am the principal of a middle school and unexpected events have become a regular occurrence. However, all of my unexpected scenarios encountered so far did not prepare me for an unexpected visitor two weeks ago.
I love working early in the morning. My mind is fresh and distractions are limited. I was working at my desk when a parent of two of my middle schoolers breached the threshold and asked if I would be able to speak with him. It was 7:15 in the morning and meeting with him was not really my first desire, but I accommodated his request.
He opened our discussion by sharing that he has been out of jail for only a couple of hours and that I was his first appointment. His comment was cause for reflection. Previous meetings have not gone so well this gentleman. I suspected, on many occasions, that his addictions had taken over his life, but this visit was different.
He had been incarcerated for six weeks resulting in sobriety. That’s what made this meeting different. He stopped to see me to get a report about his son who has had many ups and downs, as you can imagine. We reviewed his son’s progress, but soon the conversation had spun back to my visitor. I guess I’ve lead a sheltered life. I tried to hide my shocked facial expressions as he described the local drug scene and showed his track marks from past highs. He shared with me his struggles with addiction and his concerns about his son following in the family tradition of drugs and alcohol. He left the office optimistic about his short time out on bail awaiting his trial and sober for the first time in a long time. His plans were to leave my office and seek a residential facility to further distance himself from his addictions.
Defining leadership has become trendy. As I mature as a school leader, it becomes more evident that leadership is ALL about the people you encounter and their emotions and less about curriculum, state tests, books, and technology. However, that contrasts the content learned in higher education. Despite my training and “to-do list” I was determined to seek out his son and discuss how exciting it must have been to have dad home. I was certain this was a new beginning for their family.
Today, our police liaison officer shared with me that my visitor was high and arrested within hours of our meeting and back in jail awaiting trial. What can I do, a principal? I know that homework, tests, and whether or not his son’s pants are high enough to accommodate the school rules are not my largest concerns for this young man. Someday, I’ll write a book about the development of a leader. Please don’t steal the title: Great Leaders Don’t Have Master’s Degrees.