Principal Jackson stood in her office before her dry erase board, marker in hand. It was late afternoon, about half hour after dismissal and as her last act of the day she was changing the quote on the board; the current one, something by Tori Morrisman, had been up for over a week and, as profound as it was, finally called for replacement.
She stood writing, glancing occasionally at the paper in her left hand as she copied its words on the board. After a minute she stood back, admiring the results:
‘Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself. Education, therefore, is a process of living and not a preparation for future living. Such happiness as life is capable of comes from the full participation of all our powers in the endeavor to wrest from each changing situations of experience its own full and unique meaning.’ John Dewey
Principal Jackson was still standing with her back to the door taking in the quote when she heard a knock at the door. She turned and saw Deirdre Early, the school’s Behavioral Improvement Counselor smiling expectantly through the window. She returned the smile and motioned for her to enter. “I’m glad I caught you still in,” Counselor Early, a short White woman, in her early-30s with spiky dark hair and a pear-shaped body, announced. “Do you have time?”
“For you, of course,” Principal Jackson answered.
“Nice quote,” Counselor Early remarked with a chipper enthusiasm as Principal Jackson stepped away from the board.
“Why thank you,” Principal Jackson replied as she walked back behind her desk and sank into her chair. “It’s a credit to the source,” she added, smiling; Counselor Early had given it to her the week before while reading a review in the American Journal of Pedagogical Sciences.
Principal Jackson knew Counselor Early from before her assignment at Chavez-Cleaver, the two working together at Rosa Parks High School, Tiffany Jackson-Rodriguez as an Assistant Principal and Deirdre Early as a Behavior Improvement Specialist. Although Deirdre Early held a teaching certificate, that wasn’t her background; Counselor Early was a certified Social Worker, holding an advanced degree in the profession and sought out a position as a Guidance Counselor as an extension of her discipline.
Aside from their previous acquaintance though, Principal Jackson saw a kindred spirit in Counselor Early. The two shared a certain outlook regarding the possibilities in education, the opportunity for authentic life path growth and human potential development. Considering their rapport, it was only natural that Counselor Early should become Principal Jackson’s greatest confidant among the staff; Principal Jackson trusted Counselor Early to keep her informed regarding the gossip and backbiting which was all too prevalent among teachers as well as keeping her up to date on the latest trends in the profession, Counselor Early being a voracious reader of both pedagogical and sociological literature.
“So what opportunity has come to us now?” she asked, pressing her fingers spider-pushup style in front of her.
“It’s Hector Boylan,” Counselor Early replied, “One of our Tier One cases. His Composition Class was doing a short essay – realistic fiction, first person narrative – when Mrs. Reilly found him writing this.” At that she took a folded sheet of lined paper from her pocket and handed it to Principal Jackson.
Principal Jackson unfolded the note. She peered at it with a contemplative expression, carefully deciphering loopy, unevenly spaced and sized letters which were scrawled across the page. After reading three times to be certain of identifying the letters properly – the ‘r’s, ‘c’s, ‘o’s and ‘a’s all tended to take the same appearance – she was able to discern its meaning:
ina my storee ima masheen but ima masheen taht dont werk rite an i hat teh uder masheens
i wanna go to teh factree wahr teh uder masheens r mad an i wanna roon tehm jus lik ima rooned
i wanna kil teh dood masheens an kut of tehre diks and I wanna fuk teh gurl masheens intil tehy blid an tehn i wol dron tehm ina tehre blud
eftur i kil all teh masheens i wol be teh best masheen en teh factree an no won wol say enytihng to me no mor
“A powerful and authentic cry for help,” she murmured, setting down the letter. “Never ceases to amaze me, the lengths they’ll go to share their pain,” she added, looking up at Counselor Early. “So what is the background on this boy?” she asked, resuming her spider-pushup posture.