Anything But Ordinary

By Andrea A. Celico

The school day had yet to begin. I arrived early to work, as I did every day in my new job as an elementary assistant principal in an inner-ring suburb of Cleveland. My enthusiasm for my newly found love consumed me, despite the challenges I faced as a young, white female in a predominantly African-American urban district.

Nothing could stop my momentum or take away the passion I felt for my students, my staff, and my career -- nothing but a tall grandfather who angrily entered my office and approached me as I stood frozen behind my desk.

It wasn’t what he said directly, but rather, the message he conveyed as he indirectly accused me of being a racist.

My first reactions were shock and anger. I remember thinking, “He doesn’t know me. How can he allude to such a thing?” I disciplined his grandson -- who received warnings, detentions, and eventually suspensions for fighting, disrupting class, and disrespecting the teacher -- the way I would have disciplined any other child. Why was his grandson an exception? My walls were being erected; I became defensive. That would only be the first of many hostile encounters involving enraged parents.

I could continue this story by telling you how we formed an alliance over the course of the school year once the grandfather learned what kind of person I was, but that’s not the point. The point of this snapshot is that, no matter how many college credits you accumulate or advanced degrees you earn, you never are truly prepared for the real-life tests you face as an administrator.

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