The Big 10 with Jeff D'Alessio, April 20, 2014
We asked local principals to fess up and tell us about the time they themselves got sent to the principal's office.
Their stories — all 22 of them — follow.
Lincoln Trail Elementary, Mahomet
"Sadorus Grade School. The mid '70s. I was in sixth grade, that time when boys and girls start thinking about becoming boyfriend and girlfriend. I'd never had a girlfriend and was thinking I'd better get one for the summer.
"Back then, this was all done in hand-written notes. I started mine during class: 'You're the sweetest, cutest, funniest, prettiest, happiest, smartest girl I've ever met in my life. Will you go with me?'
"I wasn't paying any attention when my teacher grabbed the note right out of my hand. 'Maybe I'll share this with the rest of the class,' she said. It happened in the morning, so all day I was beet-red, sweating like a dog, thinking I'm about to be embarrassed in front of everyone.
"Fortunately, Mrs. Mueller showed me compassion. She said, 'That's not what you should be doing while I'm teaching math.' She made her point. And I never ended up asking the girl."
Barkstall Elementary, Champaign
"In sixth grade, some friends and I decided to cut a math class that was very loosely managed and walk the halls of the school thinking we wouldn't be missed. We 'borrowed' some passes from the teacher, and since 'imitation' is the highest form of flattery, we decided to 'imitate' the teacher's signature on those 'borrowed' passes. Somehow, the teacher got wind of it, and we were sent to the principal's office.
"I remember calling my dad, absolutely bawling. I was terrified. Fortunately for me, my youngest sister had just been born. This is the reason I probably didn't get the consequence I expected — thick leather, found around my dad's waist, keeping his pants up. Instead, in his state of parental elation, I was only briefly grounded with no TV. So to this day, I owe my little sister big-time — she literally saved my hide."
Lincoln Elementary, Monticello
"When I was in seventh grade, my science teacher claimed that I was a social butterfly who always talked and walked around the classroom. One day, he drew a circle on the chalkboard and had me stand with my nose in it for the entire class period. Another time, I had to write 100 times, 'I will not talk in class.'
"Thankfully, I had a principal who listened when I went to him to help me talk to the teacher."
J.W. Eater Junior High, Rantoul
"While on the playground, minding my own business the best I could as a fifth-grader, a snowball fight erupted between my class and the sixth-graders. Although no serious injuries were suffered during the melee, my rear end was sore for quite some time — first from the whacks received at the hands of our principal and then when I got home.
"You would think that would end my playground antics but fifth-graders have short memories and an appetite for adventure, so I was in for additional problems."
"My elementary school principal, Mr. Taylor, was also my next-door neighbor. My mother taught there as well, so I couldn't get away with much. He was a Marine Corps fighter plane pilot from World War II and I had a lot of respect for him.
"One day, several of us took a shortcut to the playground through the middle of freshly planted grass and shrubbery, stomping many delicate plants in our wake. Needless to say, Mr. Taylor was watching this from his office window. We were spared the paddle but spent two weeks without recess. To a fifth-grade boy, a paddling would have been a better alternative in the spring of year.
"Mind you, this was 1957. Times were obviously different."
"I received two detentions in my tenure — both for throwing things. Of course, it wasn't ever my fault. I just joined in the other kids' fun.
"During fifth-grade study hall, while the teacher stepped out, the box of cut-up crayons was just too tempting not to begin flinging across the room. The teacher wasn't too happy about the crayon marks all over the floor, though, and I had to write 50 sentences — in crayon — stating that I would not throw them anymore.
"In seventh grade, it was the infamous food fight. I, still to this day, swear I only threw two kernels of corn. Needless to say, I learned from my mistakes. High school was smooth sailing."
"I remember getting in trouble in junior high because I got in a 'fight' in PE class. I was bending over to pick up a ball and another kid purposefully kicked it and jammed my finger. I tackled the other student and a wrestling match ensued.
"I won, of course.
"I do not remember what my discipline at school was, but I remember crying thinking about my mom and my dad, who was an Iowa state patrolman, finding out. I was never worried about discipline at school, but was terrified about disappointing my parents."
Edison Middle School, Champaign
"I was in seventh grade and there was a Quincy High School basketball game that everyone attends. After the game, a few of my friends and I were running through the halls to exit the building and 'someone' pulled down a couple pieces of artwork that were hanging from the ceiling.
"Since my dad was a teacher in the district and I was such and outstanding student, the teachers who witnessed it knew who I was. I was called in to the dean's office the next morning. I had to be the world's worst liar. The dean asked me if I knew anything about it and I said I had no idea. She said, 'Nothing?' I responded, 'Well, I heard a couple of kids pulled down the fish.' She asked, 'Do you know who?' I responded, 'It was me. I think I may have pulled down a couple.' In-school suspension followed."
"Moral of the story: If you aren't a good liar, don't lie. I learned."
"As a senior on the cross-country team, I threw a rock toward our bus at an away meet, breaking a window. I had to sit next to the broken window for the two-hour ride home from the meet, then clean all of the school's buses after school for the next week."
Bismarck-Henning Junior High
"I'll never forget the day of my eighth grade graduation from Catlin Grade School. We were outside playing a very competitive game of kickball. I caught the throw from the outfield and let out an expletive toward the runner rounding third base. Mr. Johnson heard what I said and asked, 'What did you say?' I answered him, he directed me to the coach's office and I got three swats to my backside. Principals and teachers could do that back then.
"I remember getting it much worse when I got home that night, too."
Eastlawn Primary, Rantoul
"I can clearly remember placing multiple thumbtacks on a substitute's chair in sixth grade at Yankee Ridge Elementary in Urbana. Fortunately for her — and me — she looked down before she sat on them.
"My guilt began to set in as she asked the students which one of us had done such a mean and hazardous act. I quietly raised my hand, expecting the worst punishment. To my surprise, she merely told me to knock it off and not do it again.
"Apparently, she somehow knew my honesty would cause me to rat myself out to my parents, family, friends, colleagues and even students later in life in The News-Gazette."
Martin Luther King Elementary, Urbana
"The conduct box labeled 'talks at inappropriate times' may very well have been created especially for me; it was checked on report cards from kindergarten through middle school. I recall writing, 'I will not talk at inappropriate times' 100 times for several teachers.
"I'm certain I received payback for all of my chatter in grades K-8 during my first year of teaching. I can still hear my grandfather laughing when I called him and my grandmother to tell them how my exhausting my first day was because the kids wouldn't be quiet and listen."
Westview Elementary, Champaign
"I remember walking through the main hallway of my high school in Montana and feeling a presence behind me. Soon, I realized it was happening again; someone was intentionally stepping on the back of my heels each time I took a step forward. I took a deep breath and continued to walk, but the heel crusher would not relent. It was time to act.
"I turned more abruptly than planned to find my assistant principal in a pinstriped suit, looking down at me through his shaded responsive lenses, the sun glaring off of his bald head, a crooked smile on his face. I took another breath, mirrored his smile, and we shared a laugh. And that is how I stayed out of the principal's office that day."
Robeson Elementary, Champaign
"One memory that comes to mind is senior year of high school. A good friend of mine always left her keys in her car's ignition while it was parked in the student lot. I always teased her that somebody was going to steal her car if she kept doing that.
"One sunny Friday afternoon, I snuck out the last 10 minutes of school. I pulled her car into the school's circle drive, up on the school's front lawn, and parked it right by the flagpole. Amazingly, I returned to class undetected.
"Within seconds, I hear an all-call for my friend to report to the office immediately, right as the dismissal bell rings. So the whole school is dismissing, her car is parked on the front lawn — with her last name on the license plate, in case anybody didn't know exactly who's car it was already — and she can't even move it because the buses are in the circle drive.
"She was getting scolded by our dean in the hallway for having it out there, so I came clean right away. Administration was not very amused by my prank, although I think they took it relatively easy on me. If I remember correctly, I had to do some after-school community service hours and I got my hall pass privileges revoked for a while."
GCMS Middle School
"I attended Pekin High School with 2,400 other students, so to get to the principal you had to do something pretty major. Fortunately, I never met him in a troublesome capacity.
"That said, my sophomore year I was sent to the dean of students for coming to a school lock-in uninvited. The dean just happened to be my defensive coordinator for our football team, and the person I feared — and respected — most in the school. He played linebacker for the Atlanta Falcons and scared the heck out of me. After fours hours on a Saturday with him, I kept my nose clean."
Mahomet-Seymour Junior High
"I was in first grade and it was picture day. I had on my best sweater and my hair was perfect. Right before we were called to have our pictures taken, I told my neighbor to leave me alone. The teacher put me in the 'quiet box' for talking — and I proceeded to cry. Needless to say, this was the worst school picture ever."
Leal Elementary, Urbana
"In fifth grade, Stuart A. and I tried to hide from the principal behind a piano in the hallway when we got kicked out of health class because we couldn't stop laughing at each other during the lesson on human growth and development — also known as sex ed.
"The irony of the situation is that when I came to the U of I to get my masters in education, I had an assistantship at McKinley Health Center developing a program on male reproductive and sexual health issues.
"I guess it's true that what goes around, comes around."
PBL Junior High
"I was born and raised in Des Plaines. My most unforgettable moment of being sent to the principal's office was when I was in third grade at Central Elementary School.
"My third-grade teacher was married to man who owned a hamburger/hot dog place. Every Friday, we were allowed to buy hot dogs. Well, on one particular Friday, I bought my hot dogs and also took some mustard and ketchup packets outside with me to lunch recess. My friends were playing dodge ball during recess on the wall. I decided to take the mustard and ketchup packets and smash them with my foot, in an attempt to hit them.
"At the same time, my principal — who was a wonderful man — came up from behind, snatched me up by the ear and took me to the office. He didn't tell my parents, but I will never forget his disappointment in me."
Carrie Busey Elementary, Champaign
"Besides being a little forgetful, talkative and perhaps late a couple of times, I was a pretty good kid. In high school, my dad was the dean of students for the boys. So, if I would have been in trouble, it would have been horrible as I would have had to visit my dad.
"Fortunately for me, my brother had to visit our dad one time after a small altercation with another student. It was the classic case of getting in trouble at school and then getting in trouble again at home. It was severe enough that it kept me out of the office for the rest of my high school years. I learned from his mistake."
Holy Cross School, Champaign
"The morning after having a substitute teacher, several of us were called to the principal's office for laughing during class for the substitute. Even though it was a first offense, it was considered insubordination for being disrespectful to the substitute's teaching authority. The principal skipped right over after school detention and gave us a Saturday school detention. Lesson learned."
Urbana High School
"In fourth grade, a friend of mine and I were playing too rough at recess. We were probably on the verge of fighting when a teacher stepped in and separated us. We spent the rest of recess with the teacher as she talked to us about our actions and told us we would probably go to the principal's office after recess.
"We spent the rest of time trying to convince her that we were friends again because no one wanted to see Mr. Fletter or for him to call our parents. She did not send us and we were relieved and never got in a fight again."
St. Joseph Middle School
"I have to tell you it did not take long for me to meet the principal. It was 1966 and I was in kindertgarten at Randolph Elementary School in Topeka, Kansas. My teacher was Mrs. Smelser. I remember her as a great teacher and a very nice lady, but apparently we did not see eye to eye about what nap time was all about.
"Most of the kids laid on their mat and slept — or pretended to. Not me. I was always up and around and bothering the teacher during this time. One day, I began my usual antics and as Mrs. Smelser approached me I slithered from table to table through the chairs and around the other students. She was furious that she could not catch me. I, of course, thought it was funny — as did my classmates — so I continued my behavior for what seemed like quite a while until she snagged me. Down to the principal's office I went.
"Mrs. Call was the name on the door. I thought I was in big trouble but when I went into her office she smiled at me and said she wanted to take me to meet someone. I was up for that and smiled at Mrs. Smelser as we passed her. As we continued down a hallway, I looked back and saw Mrs. Smelser smiling at us as she turned to go back to her classroom. We walked down the hallway, turned into a door and stepped down a few stairs into what I thought was a basement. Mrs. Call said: 'Here we are, in the boiler room.' She looked at me and said, 'You know who works down here?' 'No,' I said. 'Come around to the other side of the boiler," she said.
"We walked around the boiler and there stood the largest man I had ever seen in the building — and he was holding a paddle in his hand. Mrs. Call introduced him and said, 'This is Mr. Jones. Sometimes when I am busy, I let him take care of the students who don't listen to the teachers. Good thing for you I am not busy today!'"
"She took me back to my classroom, where Mrs. Smelser met me with that smile she had, I'm sure knowing what had just transpired. Mrs. Call told Mrs. Smelser she probably would not have any more problems with me because I knew the principal was a very busy person and could not always take care of everything. I guess Mrs. Call's method was quite effective. I never returned to the principal's office again.
"At least not at Randolph Elementary, anyway."