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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Bitter and Sweet (05/28/09)

TITLE: Empty Honor
By Connie Dixon


It should have been one of the happiest days of her life. Janice Smith would be receiving the honor of Assistant High School Principal of the Year in her home state of Oregon. She also was a contender with two other finalists for the National Assistant Principal of the Year Award, sponsored by the National Association of Assistant Principals.

Janice was a nice looking, 35+ divorcée. She wore those stylish glasses; the ones that make you look smarter than you really are, only Janice actually was very smart. She had that Sarah Palin look - she wore her hair up in a bun and dressed in chic business suits that accented her girlish figure. Her faintly exotic perfume was pleasingly noticeable to both boys and girls alike. Her students loved her and the boys especially went out of their way to impress their trendy, popular teacher.

Janice spent most evenings alone in her two-bedroom condo with her calico cat, Alice and her 19-year old daughter, Kylie. The two resembled “ships passing in the night” due to busy schedules, part-time jobs and college classes.

Janice began her teaching career as a middle school English teacher in a small district just south of Ashland. After seven years, the high school English teacher retired and Janice was a shoe-in for the opening. She loved teaching middle school but boredom was setting in and she thought teaching at the higher level would change that.

Janice adored her English Lit and Honors classes and she was inspired by the creativity of her more gifted students. However, it didn’t take long before she became disenchanted with the apathy and poor attitudes of a high percentage of kids. Most had good attendance, but over half of them were careless and excelled at underachievement. Just passing her class was good enough for them. Even the parents seemed content with average grades and wondered why their teacher pushed them so hard.

After three years, Janice decided to get her Masters Degree in Administration. She had never seen herself as an administrator, but it seemed the logical step up in the educational field and she was ready for a change.

In two and a half years of night school she received her administrative credentials. The growing district amended her contract so she could teach still English and also be a part-time administrator. She was delighted to assist her Principal, Mr. Ray Meyer for the coming school year.

Janice enjoyed her experience in that first year and was appreciative of the responsibilities that Mr. Meyer entrusted to her. She was conscientious, dependable and professional in her approach to the new appointment.

Towards the beginning of the second year, Mr. Meyer was in a serious car accident that nearly took his life. His recommendation to the school board was to appoint Janice as full time Principal in his absence. He thought it would be great experience for her and he knew she could handle the job.

At first, Janice loved the challenge of her new profession. But once she took charge, things started to change. She had to make some difficult decisions and some people did not like it. A decision regarding a the use of the gym ended her relationship with the boy’s and girl’s basketball coaches, both of whom she had considered good friends. It seemed they could not come to an understanding on their own, but when they came to her for a solution, neither liked her resolution. They both got upset. Now the two are best friends but neither has spoken to Janice since that day.

Most of the teachers now act differently towards her. When she walks into the teacher’s lounge, conversations stop, heads go down, lunches disappear and the room rapidly clears out.

For five years Janice worked with these teachers… her colleagues, friends and allies. Now, they steer clear. They talk behind her back, mocking her, saying she’s too good for them. Others are jealous of her new role in the district and some even say she got the job by sucking up to the administration.

The night of the Awards Banquet, Janice found herself sitting with Mr. and Mrs. Meyer and her daughter Kylie. Receiving such an admirable honor should have been the highlight of her career. Instead, Janice longed for just one close friend that would come alongside and share in her joy.

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This article has been read 743 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Joy Bach 06/04/09
Having teachers in my family, I truly believe this is how it is. How sad. Certainly a bittersweet moment. Excellent writing.
Margaret Gass06/04/09
Wow...I've been in that teachers' lounge--you nailed the alienation that can happen whenever roles shift perfectly!(We don't have a teachers' lounge at our small school, but we don't have the alienation problem, either--what a blessing!) I also like your descriptions of the teacher, because I could see her so clearly. Your closing line was wistful, and it accentuated the theme well. Good job!
Mary Lou Cook06/08/09
My step-daughter teaches middle school biology. Everyday she faces these exact same problems. The story flowed easily and the description was excellent. Good job.
Genia Gilbert06/08/09
Reality here, unfortunately.
I've seen it first hand working in the local school system as a secretary/receptionist. Success is very often bittersweet! Glad God sees it in a different light, and has a higher purpose. Well done.
Jim McWhinnie 06/08/09
So realistically portrayed.

Certainly a slice of the rough and tumble world of school politics and strained relationships.

I felt for the MC.
Colin Swann06/08/09
Very interesting account of teaching. My wife was a teacher - very difficult job indeed. Really good writing. Thanks
Bryan Ridenour06/10/09
Excellent writing...made me really feel for the MC at the end. I think ministers can relate to this kind of scenario...