As a first-year teacher, I was terrified of my principal. And also as a second, third, and fourth-year teacher. He had red hair and was a Vietnam Vet. His office was completely decorated with war pictures and military memorabilia; I can remember one picture so vividly. Once when I went in to speak with him, he was actually listening to war anthems, and I am not making that up. His face could turn the color of his hair, and he could go from zero to red in 2 seconds flat (thankfully I was never on the receiving end of that). I could hardly speak in his presence, and if I saw him today I would still probably act like a bumbling idiot. I think I cried in his office two times during my first year when I went to ask to be relieved of my cheerleading sponsor duties.
One afternoon I was at the drink machine in the teacher’s lounge, and he walked by and came back to ask, “Ms. Eaddy, what are you doing this summer?”
“I don’t have any plans.”
“Do you think you can chaperone the trip to England?”
“Sure.” I went and took out a dang loan to go to England because I was too afraid to tell him no. I am not lying.
He observed in my class once during my tenure at that school, and I think he and my students looked on me with pity the entire time. I stammered. I spoke with a quiver in my voice, and I shook like a leaf. When Mr. Principal walked out the door, one of my students asked, “You were nervous, weren’t you?” I nodded the affirmative.
But here’s the thing. He was a really nice guy and a great principal. When I cried in his office, he gave me tissue and allowed me to use his private restroom to mop my face. When the district planned to transfer me to a middle school for my second year (due to enrollment decrease or some other number game), he brought me in and told me he would do everything he could to keep me there, and he did. He graciously took away the cheerleaders after my first year and he found a way to help pay for my plane ticket to England. And after the debacle he witnessed in my classroom, he sent me a gift certificate to Chili’s to treat myself. He was a great guy.
I was the issue. I was insecure as a new teacher. I perhaps placed too much focus on his stern side and not enough attention on his kindness. I created this skewed perception of him even though I had personal experience to the contrary. So, here’s the question. Is perception reality? Perhaps, it was reality to me that he was terrifying. But perception is not necessarily truth. He was truly a generous and thoughtful leader.
My perception is not truth. It is tainted by my own opinions and biases and preferences and emotional state and lack of sleep and too much caffeine and bad hair day, etc… Whether I’m thinking about my perception of you or other people or a restaurant or God or whatever, it’s important for me to realize that the filter through which I see the world may, in fact, hinder me from seeing truth.
Something to chew on…