The principal who started our school developed a fatal form of cancer. The staff of the school, some of whom loved him dearly, decided to honor him with a special program while he was well enough to appreciate it. His name was Jack Speicher. We all came up with our ideas and sponsored a banquet with a program entitled, "This is the House that Jack Built." Many teachers have latent talents and this was a powerful program, one to be remembered by all who participated.
The principal who replaced him had a very different personality. School systems in general are not blessed with great administrators. Successful teachers remain in the classroom because good teaching has its own rewards. Teachers not so successful look for ways to escape and administration is one. Our new principal was all business with none of the sentiment practiced by his predecessor. The teachers did not like him.
Doors closed throughout the school. Inside their classrooms the teachers continued their usual performances, some good, some bad, and most of us in between. The entire mood of the school settled to deep depression. Gossip in the teacher's room was vicious. Extra-curricular activities ceased. The students, without knowing why, reacted to the mood of the adults.
At one time I thought I had extrasensory perception. I do not, but I do have an unusual awareness of how people are feeling. In this situation this quality was a great burden. When I walked the halls with students around, I felt a serious unrest that frightened me. Also, because I taught psychology and used teaching techniques that encouraged students to express their views, I heard their discontent clearly voiced at times. I actually felt that a student uprising was possible.
Spurred on by one of my beloved cohorts who truly loved the school, I decided to do something about it. I asked the principal if I could have an opportunity to talk to the faculty at our next faculty meeting. Permission was granted.
When I rose to speak I started with "This is the house that Jack built and how sturdy does it stand?" My words were like dropping a bomb. I did not talk long. All I said was that we were not doing what we needed to do to maintain the school spirit so essential to students. I said nothing against the present principal but I did imply that Jack would not be happy with what was missing in the present situation. I challenged the teachers to open their classroom doors and resume the extra-curricular activities so important to the students.
The reaction was violent. The faculty all knew about an extra-marital relationship occurring between two of our teachers. One person thought I said, "This is the house that Jack Built and how dirty does it stand?"
A friend of mine who taught in another high school in the county called to tell me he had heard about it. He cautioned me, saying I could be fired for it. I did not tremble. I had a husband to support me, but I was not worried anyway. I was not trying to get rid of the new principal. I was just trying to jerk the faculty back to reality.
The chiding was at least somewhat successful. We had a senior class play that year. The cheerleaders perfected their skills and functioned at sports events and the marching band renewed its glory. Even more important, most of the teachers became aware of how important they are in putting heart into a school.