Growing up, I was only sent to the principal’s office once. I don’t know the average, but it feels like a bragworthy fact.
I’ll admit, I spent a chunk of time in after school detention throughout high school. But only because I didn’t like the idea of waking up in the morning. And I didn’t see the importance of wearing matching socks the way my teachers did. And I didn’t care if my shorts were peeking out of my skirt because I craved to sit cross-legged in class despite the constraints of a uniform (#allgirlsCatholicschool).
But my trip to the principal’s office was in the fourth grade, so it counts about as much as an expunged underage drinking citation (which I would know nothing about because I’ve never been caught drinking under the age of 21, and I’ve never had to call my parents to pick me up from a party to be released from police custody, and I certainly did not have to go to a three-day course watching videos about the dangers of alcohol with my boyfriend-of-the-time and his best friend – but hypothetically if any of this were to have happened this may or may not make an interesting blog post topic in the future).
Give or take a few moments, I was a good kid.
I know I liked to challenge authority. Not in a delinquent way, but in a kid-who-always-asks-why kind of way. And if I had an opinion or a witty comment, I more times than not felt inclined to say it out loud (and still do). Especially if I could get a laugh. Moments of silence were moments of opportunity to me.
I remember one day my class took a field trip, and for some reason that is even less clear to me as an adult, we left our backpacks back in the classroom. When we returned about 30 minutes before the end of the school day, we were greeted by our Language Arts teacher who let us know she had taken the liberty of taking our composition notebooks out of our backpacks so she could grade our assignments that were due that day. Despite the school-planned field trip (pause for reflection).
Immediately, I turn to a classmate and whispered just loud enough for the whole class to appreciate my comment (without thinking about how that would also include the teacher), “doesn’t she need a search warrant?”
You would have thought I had whispered that she erotically fondles pears before falling asleep every night. Zero-to-sixty, “Elizabeth, could I speak with in the hallway NOW?”
I zoned out while she dished me a lecture (mild-to-moderately deserved), but I snapped back into focus when I hear this come out of her mouth:
“Your ideas are crapola.”
Here I thought I had made a relatively intelligent remark for a fourth grader (one I still predominantly stand by today). But she thought it was crapola. There was some pride in riling up a teacher enough to come at me with a pseudo-swear word. But that wasn’t even my intention. I truly wanted to know.
Should I have kept the comment to myself? Maybe.
More importantly, could I have kept the comment to myself? Less confidently, maybe.
Still this isn’t what led me to the principal’s office.
It was after recess, when adrenaline is high. One of my classmates, whose personality could best be described as like sweet-and-sour chicken, decided to stretch her leg out to trip a not-so-popular classmate claiming it was an accident. My fourth-grade self called bullsh*t.
I still don’t really know what my thought process was during these next few moments, but what I do know is I lifted my leg, swung back, and gave her a solid kick in the shin.
Before I knew it, sweet-and-sour and I were headed out the door, down the long hallway to the principal’s office. I was starting to get a little sweaty-nervous. Sweet-and-sour (not a first time offender) picked up on this, turned to me and said, “if you don’t say anything, and I don’t say anything, they can’t prove anything. Do you promise you won’t say anything?” I nodded.
Okay, I thought, I can play it cool.
The problem? I couldn’t play it cool.
As soon as my body crossed the threshold, from the hallway into the front office, I broke down sobbing, and erupted like a volcano of emotions, “I’M SO SORRY I KICKED HER BUT IT WAS ONLY BECAUSE SHE TRIPPED SOMEONE AND CLAIMED IT WAS AN ACCIDENT, BUT I KNEW IT WASN’T, IT WAS BULLYING, AND BEFORE I KNEW IT I HAD KICKED HER IN THE SHIN BUT I KNOW I SHOULDN’T HAVE. I JUST DIDN’T WANT HER TO GET AWAY WITH IT. I DON’T KNOW WHAT I WAS THINKING. AM I GOING TO GET IN TROUBLE? ARE YOU GOING TO CALL MY PARENTS? I’VE NEVER EVEN BEEN TO THE PRINCIPAL’S OFFICE BEFORE. I’LL NEVER KICK ANYONE AGAIN, I PROMISE.”
I looked over at sweet-and-sour and she was furious, with a capital F.
Looking back, I imagine her calling me a little B-word. But I grew up fairly sheltered, and I don’t think we were introduced to that kind of language yet. I vividly recall getting scolded by my bus driver for telling a classmate to “shut up” so I doubt little b*tch could’ve flown under the radar.
Once I finally closed my mouth, I looked up at the principal not knowing what would happen next. I tried to make eye contact with sweet-and-sour, but she wasn’t having it.
The principal sighed, opened the door leading back out into the hallway, and said I could head back to class. She didn’t have to tell me twice. I hustled right back down the hallway to my classroom. There was a part of me that felt that was easy, but there was a larger part of me that felt I don’t want to experience that again.
But that was the day I realized I wasn’t about that lifestyle. A few weeks later, I joined the Math Olympiad team (and came in first place that year, trophy and all).