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Start the Presses: Being principal for a day is hard work

March 24, 2012|By Dan Evans

The day began where it does for so many parents and students: staring at a tailpipe, stuck in traffic. I heard the tardy bell and groaned. That was me, late for my “Principal for a Day” assignment at Toll Middle School in Glendale.

Ashen faced, head down, I shuffled into the administration offices. My 11-year-old self had voiced its lame excuse — “it was-was-was the t-t-traffic” — within 10 seconds of meeting the school's actual principal, Bill Card.

Card is clearly loved by his students, constantly sought out for a word in the halls, a smile or a simple hello. He encourages the kids, teases them and tries to set them on the right path — all before 10 a.m.


He took it easy on me, letting me slide on the usual punishment: picking up trash at snack time.

Trash duty is particularly effective, said Card, because of the social stigma. If you don't want your friends making fun of you, don't be late to class.

Being Principal for a Day is, well, exhausting. Even though the day ended at about 11:30 a.m., making it shorter than the shortest minimum day, I was beat from all I'd seen and done in a bit more than four hours. May it never be said that teachers and administrators have an easy job.

I suspect highlighting this may very well be a main reason for this tradition. You tend to side with teachers after you walk a hallway in their shoes. Here are just a few of the things I did:

After a quick hello to the assistant principals and office staff, Card and I roamed the halls to check on substitute teachers. My pockets were stuffed with keys, a radio and all other regular accouterments of your modern-day administrator. I felt like I needed a utility belt.

Card makes a habit of talking to each sub, making sure everything is going well and that they have everything they need. He also likes to be in the hallways during the passing periods, making himself visible to the students. This was a new one for me, as my memories of my middle school principal, Dr. Dunbar, were of a shadowy office-dweller who showed up at assemblies and provided detention — or worse.

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