The “Principal” of Entitlement

Troll Doll Every day on the news, I hear of stories that make me think that some people have a skewed sense of entitlement.  It reminds me of a time when one of my principals almost helped to promote that concept.

I have been very fortunate that, for the most part, I have had some excellent principals.  One of my past principals is still alive at the age of 89 and I still talk and write to her several times a year.  She remains my personal mentor and I still think, “What-Would-Jane-Do in this situation?”  The way she interacts with people of all ages and the things that I have learned from her have been invaluable to me in helping to make me the person and teacher I am today.

I was privileged to work with a principal who memorized every student’s name in our school of about 1,000 students.  She was amazing to watch as she interacted with the student body, parents, and faculty.  I learned many lessons personally from her as well.  Teachers enthusiastically applied to work at her school since her reputation in our district was that she was a great person for whom to work.  At the age of 28, she was named “The Young Careerist” by the Business and Professional Women’s Organization.  She was also named Teacher-of-the-Year and Principal-of-the-Year for the state in which she worked.

I was honored to work for a principal who understood that family is the most important aspect of our lives and she worked very hard to make the staff feel like we were part of her family.  When Ron was going through his bone marrow transplant and then went through the process of dying, she never once questioned me when I would take time off, and in fact, would encourage me to take more time off.  She was there for me through a very difficult time of my life.  She taught me many lessons of compassion.

Every principal has taught me something.  Most of them have been good lessons; unfortunately, a few of them have been how not to behave.  And, on occasion, a principal will tell me that I have taught them something.   One such principal, Mr. Benson, gave me a Troll Doll pencil to give to my student, Cloie.  He knew that Cloie loved Troll Dolls.  I stated that I would tell her about it, show it to her, and give it to her as soon as she earned her way to the highest level in our No Bull 5-Tiered Level System.  I could tell he didn’t agree with me, but he let me go about my business.

I went to class, pulled Cloie out into the hallway and showed her the Troll Doll pencil.  She was so excited!!  She loved the way its hair went all over the place when she twirled it through her palms really fast.  I explained to her that it was from the principal, Mr. Benson, and that she could earn it by getting to the highest level in our system.  She was almost finished with the third highest level, so she only had to do one more level before she could earn the pencil (a little over 20 days).  She had been struggling to maintain the third level, but after she saw the pencil, her attitude changed.  She became more focused, her behavior improved, and she was soon promoted to the fourth highest level.  She would ask to look at the pencil often. I would let her look, but not hold it.  Sometimes I would twirl it to keep her excited and focused.

One day, Mr. Benson asked me why I hadn’t given the pencil to Cloie.  I could tell he was put out with me.  I explained that the Troll Doll pencil would mean much more to Cloie if she earned it.  He told me that he gave me the pencil not realizing I would withhold it from her and that he had originally expected me to give it to her immediately.  I told him I understood what he was saying, and I asked that he trust me on this point.  Even though he wasn’t happy with me, he agreed.

Finally, Cloie met all the criteria for her to be promoted to the highest level.  As soon as she did, I gave her the Troll Doll pencil and she was over the moon!  She told the principal that afternoon that she finally earned the Troll Doll pencil and how proud she was of herself.  She was jumping up and down, had a big smile on her face, was laughing, and kept saying how she was so proud of herself for earning it.  She thanked him several times.

Later that day, the principal sought me out and told me I was right.  He said that he learned that, in fact, that little Troll Doll pencil meant so much more because Cloie had earned it.  Mr. Benson went on to say that he would trust my judgment from now on and not question me.  He was truly amazed that Cloie was so excited over this small reward.  In truth, she was excited about her accomplishment.

When I remember this story, I find myself asking, “Are we giving too many things to kids instead of making them earn those things?”  I believe the answer to this question is YES.  I believe it is one of the reasons children and adults alike feel a sense of entitlement.  They have grown up being given everything.  Why not have kids earn rewards instead?  There are very few rights to things; everything else is a privilege (Laying the Groundwork: Rights and Privileges).  This is something to think about in our classrooms and in our homes: “What am I giving away that I could have my student/child earn instead?  What can I do to help instill a sense of pride in my student/child, instead of a sense of entitlement?”

See you next week, when I will be discussing this topic in more detail.

Be kinder than necessary, be grateful, and create a peace-filled week,

Ms. Brown

P.S.  Congratulations to this week’s winner of our “No Bull Teacher” polo shirt.  Check your email to see if you are the lucky winner!  There are two more weeks to go, so you have two more chances to win.


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