55. RENEE’S PADDLE INSPECTIONS & RENEE vs. “THE OL’ BALL COACH”

Dear Readers: The post that has been eagerly awaited ever since the announcement of my (Renee) promotion to intern assistant principal earlier this summer IS HERE! After years of carpooling with Jenny, Wendy, and Michelle to evening graduate classes during summer breaks along with my own $$$ -It has finally paid off. Also putting up with Jenny’s or Wendy’s or Michelle’s taste in car stereo music which is different from mine -Rule 1: Whoever drives gets to pick the music! Of course since I have a couple of courses to go, the two hour round trips will continue for the next two summers as well. That is a GOOD reason for me not to get TOO bossy with the other contributors of this blog. HA HA!

As to my first week as an assistant principal, it is recounted below under the “Inspection” heading. (Folks, I must have done 100’s of different things that first week but I did manage to find time to check the paddles.) So, here is what y’all been waiting for.

RENEE”S PADDLE INSPECTIONS

FRIDAY A.M.:Actually, we need to “hop” back to the previous week’s inservice in which I was introduced to the faculty and staff as the NUMBER 2 person under Mr. Jones, the Head Principal. I was received warmly but my eagle eyes caught the smirks and rolling eyes of about a half dozen of the male teacher-coaches sitting in the back of the conference room. There are at least 40 teachers total for the middle school which has about 800+/- students grades 6 to 8. I have already been told about those “problem” teacher-coaches so I was not too surprised by their initial reaction. Hey, more than half the faculty is at least ten years my senior soI have some asserting to do.

In the inservice, I laid out my discipline program (See previous post) which already had the blessings of Mr. Jones, our princioal. I emphasized that school discipline would be implemented FAIRLY and CONSISTENTLY with NO special treatment for anyone. Right away I got an “objection” from Coach B, a 30+ year teaching and coaching legend. (At least in his own mind)

“Mrs. …., the arrangement we had last year worked just fine and when one of ‘my boys’ got in trouble; either one of my assistants or I gave three quick swats and that was that!” complained Coach B who continued,” It isn’t fair for a kid on the varsity (football team) to miss practice or a game because of I.S.S. or Detention Hall due to some stupid dress code violation!”

I had been forewarned and was ready to deal with the area’s dean of middle school football coaches and firmly replied,”Last year, 45 of the 67 players were paddled during the first three months of the school year -So whatever you were doing wasn’t working very well…And I don’t want to hear about the district championship…”

“But the team needs to practice without missing…,” responded Coach B.

“Then I suggest you tell the ‘team’ what I’m telling you now: Same rules for everyone!…And by the way, I am a daughter of a high school coach myself,” I replied while giving my smile that my daddy says could melt the coldest heart. I then made plans to speak to the team before that afternoon’s practice.

FRIDAY P.M.: At the practice field before the football team started their routine, yours truly had a little “chat” with the team. Here is a paraphrasing of what I said as the coaches stood off to one side waiting.

Boys, I know that you are anxious to start practice so I will make this short. First, as the assistant principal, I am in charge of all student discipline and conduct in the school. Both the coaches and I want you to have a successful year -Both on and off the field. That can only happen if you follow ALL the rules and set a positive example for your peers. Some of you I recognize from my class a few years ago (Some laughter and a couple of whistles) so my reputation as a fair but firm disciplinarian should spread around. That is what I want because of my second point. I hope for the best but each of you must understand: I WILL deal with members of this football team as firmly as I would with any other student. And if any of you miss a game because you are in I.S.S., thats just tough -DO NOT go running to the coach if you get in trouble because THIS year will NOT be like last. District championship or not. Finally, there is a tradition that will need to go: Long hair from early August practice through the season’s end. Hair is to be no longer than collar length as per school policy so I expect everyone here to make time this weekend to see the barber. (A LOT of groans and “No fair!”) Remember, some other students look up to you so try and be a positive example this new school year. Now get on out there and show the coaches how ready you are for the season opener week!

As I turned things over to the coaches and walked off the field, I could hear one of the coaches remark,”This is going to be a hard year…She’s killed one team tradition already!”

(My daddy was a football coach too -But his “standards” were the opposite of those coaches. His were higher!)

MONDAY: The first day of school. Coming in, I spotted three young boys dipping tobacco NEXT TO THE SCHOOL ENTRANCE! Had them spit it out into a waste can. Confiscated the tincan of Skoal and threw it away after dumping the contents in the garbage. Let the three off with a warning. (Hey, school hadn’t even started yet and I’m not THAT mean!) Day went as can be expected with more chaos than normal with students learning their new schedules. A few detentions with some shoving in the hallways but nothing major. (Warnings given: Next time -I.S.S.) At a.m. assembly, I was introduced as the new assistant principal with some applause! (Some former students of mine?) Wonder what they will think a month from now.

TUESDAY: Less chaos but some still cannot seem to get to class on time. Not because they are lost but rather talking with friends. Stepped into one class to call the office and was connected to P.A. system and declared “At tardy bell, teachers are to close all doors and students not inside are to be counted as late with one detention unless they have a hall pass. This was after third period. Vacation time is over -Its time for these kids to be ON TIME! A few food fights today and a few more detentions. Our first day of afterschool detention will be 40+ students so two classrooms will be used. Prepared for that but still -the first day? Brother. (Started “paddle inspections today -See next segment)

WEDNESDAY: Things settling down A LITTLE. A mom called me to gripe about the detention her girl got for wearing a ragged old t-shirt. My parents wouldn’t have let me out of the house had I wore a shirt like that. I know that kid -She is NOT poor! Detention stays. Shoving incident in boy’s locker room after gym class. No one hurt. First two I.S.S. enrollees for the year. Will not be the last, I’m sure.

THURSDAY: “Stink” bomb unleashed in hallway after 1st period. Culprit caught. No damage to hallway OR REAR END . I am aware of “practical joke” tradition and do have a sense of humor myself. But rules are rules and young man can re-think his ‘JOKE’ with 2 days I.S.S. Pre-game pep rally went well. Middle school marching band nearly blew roof off gym. Thank goodness for extra strength Tylenol.

Long day ended with my supervising game security with sheriff deputies. Our school won 1st game. Closed school building down. Home late at 11:30 p.m.

FRIDAY: Even two cups of coffee only helps so much. Wish some of the students were as worn down as I am. Harassment of cheerleader by a “frisky” student almost lead to fight with another student. I was NOT amused. Both boys got 2 days I.S.S. Another incident in cafeteria with a vending machine! “Hey, if machine doesn’t give you your money back…Thats no reason to try to break into it!” Another I.S.S. inductee for a day. High school has a pre-season scrimmage tonight but I will not be needed. R & R this weekend for sure.

PADDLE INSPECTIONS

WHAT: Because of my beliefs outlined in IMPLEMENTS AND TECHNIQUES, I decided that one of my first tasks as assistant principal would be to eliminate “inappropriate paddles.” My paddle (that came with the office) is 20″ x 4″ x 1/2″ -A little thicker and heavier than I prefer. Our Head Principal, Mr. Jones’ paddle is same size but I will not butt heads with him over that. Rumors are that there are much worse paddles.

WHEN: All week long, I dropped by the classrooms of the teachers who have their own paddles. At random intervals between classes, I will ask to see and approve their paddles.

WHY: To confiscate them of course! Since ALL paddlings are now to be given in the front office conference room, there is NO reason to have a paddle in a classroom.

HOW: I used an outline of my old 16″ x 3 1/2″ x 1/4″ paddle traced on the inside lid of a large cardboard box which I placed ALL the “non-qualifying” paddles in -To the chargrin of nearly every teacher-coach who HAD a paddle. They were NOT happy to see me!

WHO: All the teachers who had their own paddles were coaches but not every one objected. Coach Cheryl, the girl’s volleyball/softball coach and Coach Kaye, the girl’s basketball coach were actually pleased to hand over their paddle. Coach Cheryl, a very tall, blondish and strong looking but mild-tempered teacher coach told me,”I’m just glad that you are here to take that responsibility off my shoulders…Now I won’t have my afterschool practices interrupted by a call to ‘Come to the office’ to paddle some girl that crossed the line one too many times.” Her and Kaye “share” the same paddle and it is 24″ x 4″ x 1/4″ to 1/2″. A little longer than I might choose but it is not too thick. This is the paddle that I will use exclusively.

INAPPROPRIATE PADDLES: Number of paddles in “( )”

24″ X 4 1/2″ X 1/2″ W/ 3 holes & 2-hand grip (1)

18″ x 3 1/2″ x 3/4″ W/ 6 holes & single grip (2)

28″ x 4″ x 1/2″ No holes & 2-hand grip (2)

20″ x 4″ x 1/2″ No holes & single grip (1) This last one was a “frat” type paddle with the greek letters of a national fraternity that I have a high respect for as a sorority greek myself. I was a little incensed about seeing that paddle and TOLD the coach to pick up his college toy at the end of the day and TAKE IT HOME!

The very idea…college fraternities/sororities have been striving to get away from the “paddling-hazing” image for years…and this?

I’ll bet y’all are wondering about Coach B. My confrontation with the ol’ ball coach merits a feature all it’s own.

 

RENEE vs. “THE OL’ BALL COACH”

First, dear readers; please understand: I am NOT anti-coach by any means. My dear daddy is a 30+ year teaching/coaching veteran in another district and is well respected by teachers and students alike. And the way he approached school discipline? Simply put, his rules for the students on his athletic teams were stricter. No kid under him was able to play under lower standards of behavior than students at large.

But Coach B was the opposite and felt that during “the season,” his players answered first to him as to their conduct. Worst of all, he had a “boys will be boys” attitude and considered off-the-field behavior a “minor problem” to be “managed” by his paddle separate and apart from normal school policy. As a consequence, two-thirds of the football team were paddled in the previous year.

Problem was: It didn’t work -At least by the numbers. Also, when the previous football season ended, the players “reverted” to the status of regular students. And their I.S.S. “rate”? Similar to students at large during the “off season.”

I do NOT believe a student’s disciplinary status should depend or vary on if it is “football season” (or Basketball or Baseball or Wrestling or…) but rather -Rules and discipline should be the same regardless.

As I figured, my way and Coach B’s way was headed for a collision. During my first week in which I started the paddle inspections, I erred. Rather than see Coach B first, I saw and collected the paddle of one of Coach B’s assistants. Well, that let the “cat out of the bag” and I spent several days trying to catch Coach B after his one early a.m. health class or his late p.m. health class. But he had gotten word and was cutting out minutes before his classes ended and dashing for the boy’s gym locker room where he “hid” until the start of last class period. For a 300+ guy-He was certainly swift in dodging little me. And since his Classroom was at the far end of the building and I did not have the time to “hang around” outside his classroom or the boy’s lockers; I had a dilemma. I could interrupt his class (As a teacher, I HATED it when my principal did that) or march into the boy’s locker room to confront Coach B on his own “turf.”

Since I seem to be busiest during the first and last part of the school day AND that, as an administrator, I DO have 100% access to ALL parts of the building when in a capacity as assistant principal…You KNOW where this is headed!

Right!…The boy’s gym locker room (aka Coach B’s Hiding Place from Renee).

I know…It takes a lot of nerve for a rookie assistant principal to do what I did but Coach B left me NO other option. Even the P.A. system doesn’t reach there. (I wonder why?)

Well, without much second thought, I just trooped in as the football team was getting dressed for practice to some “Hey, you can’t”,”What are you doing…'”, and the best:”I’m dressing…” Stifling a giggle, I replied,”Hey, I am a married mother of one…So there is nothing in here I haven’t seen before!” Kicking some jock straps and loose clothes to one side, I walked non-stop straight to the coaches’ office which had large windows in which the coaches could see out. But the coaches, all five, seemed oblivious to the uproar outside their office because they were yucking it up over some magazine (Girly, I’m sure). I just opened the door and stepped in as they looked and acted like the kids they teach as they shoved the magazine in a desk drawer.

“Hey, who do you think…,” Coach B bellowed.

[ calmly replied,”I’m the assistant principal…In case you forgot!…And don’t worry about the stupid magazine…You know why I am here and I do not like having to track you down like this…I’ve more important things to do!”

I then saw what I came for -The Ol’ Ball Coach’s paddle propped up in a corner. At first glance, I knew it was as inappropriate. It was a regulation baseball bat flattened to be a very long, narrow, and thick paddle and had 5 large holes as well. The handle even had well-worn duct tape.

“I do not need to measure this…It is very inappropriate and goes in here,” I stated as I placed the paddle in my box; which it barely fit.

Coach B and his assistants were flustered by my bravado and as I left, they started to gripe.

“Tell it to the school board!” I shot back as I headed back to my office. I knew that Mr. Jones, the Head Principal had never checked those paddles -He told me so- because he is a “Let’s not ‘rock’ the boat” type of administrator. Well, just call me “Hurricane Renee” because when something needs to be done or said…Look out!!

As to all of the “Inappropriate Paddles,” their fate will be as firewood for my chimney fireplace this winter _After a quick trip to the high school vocational shop for cutting up next week. Of course, the paddle from Coaches Cheryl and Kaye will stay with me for future usage -If and when the need arises.

 

Note: Due to the length of this post, the Renee Chronicles will debut next week.But here is a glance:

R.C. pt.I: Beginnings…Bruce Springsteen…Vietnam War vet Daddy and bookish Mom meet in college…Life as the “baby” of the family.

 

COMING NEXT: PRINCIPAL’S OFFICE, R.C. pt.I & YOUR FAQ’S

 

 

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