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As a high school teacher turned stay at home mom, I was really excited to read Gerry Brooks’ Go See The Principal: True Tales from the School Trenches. I recognized Brooks from his hilarious YouTube videos, which have become a bit of a legend among teachers. A few pages in, I wondered, “Is this going to be a book for educators or parents?”
Turns out, Go See The Principal is a great read for both.
As a parent, I knew Brooks and I were going to see eye-to-eye before I even finished the first page of the Introduction, where he explains why he has taught every elementary grade except kindergarten. His explanation?
“Because I’m not insane. I love that kindergartners all want to be your best friend, but the ‘um, um, um, um’ that permeates their conversations is just one straw too many for me.”
–and parents everywhere said, “Amen!”
In Go See The Principal, Brooks does an excellent job of giving you a behind-the-scenes look at elementary schools (though this book can really apply to any grade).
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He paints a masterful picture of the chaos involved in running a school, including several fictional conversations with the school nurse, bus driver, and this little gem from the front office secretary,
“[On the phone] School Secretary here. How can I… hold on one second, please. Hey, honey, why you late? Your daddy was pooping? No, don’t write that down. Just put ‘Overslept’ and tell your daddy to poop on his own time.”
These little chats will give you a laugh, but also a great deal of appreciation for the thankless work the people in these positions do to keep the school train on the tracks.
Only a very few people have witnessed more absurdities than the administrative assistants or cafeteria workers in a school.
Even when he clearly tells it like it is (side-eye to you car-line violators, chronic complainers, and school-supply-list skeptics), Brooks does so in a good-natured way that can’t help but win you over. He doesn’t gripe and he doesn’t lecture, but he does give parents great food for thought.
I think some of Brooks’ most helpful commentary to parents comes in the sections about gifted and talented programs and support interventions.
My oldest is only entering second grade and I’ve already seen this issue rearing its head in my community.
Parents are so adamant about getting their kids into the GT programs that they hire tutors and commission special tests to try to game the system. That kind of pressure is unhealthy for anyone, let alone a child who has not even reached double-digits! Brooks reminds,
“It’s hard for parents to see the big picture when they invest so much in their kids, but as long as they love their children and are involved in their lives, it all pans out in the end.”
On the other hand, for students who genuinely struggle (behaviorally or academically), the “not my child” tendency in parents is strong. Our kids are our whole world and it’s a lot easier to blame the teacher, teaching style, school environment, or the weather (kidding!) than to accept that our kids are having trouble and may need special supports. Yet, as Brooks states plainly,
“If your child had a broken leg, would you tell the doctor, ‘No, I don’t want crutches for him?’”
I think this book is a dose of real-talk that parents would do well to consider.
But Brooks never lingers too long in the heavy. One of my favorite parts of the book is when Brooks “labels” the various types of parents. It’s hilarious because the labels are so painfully accurate. To name just a few, there’s
“IABYF: It Always Be Your Fault,” for parents who blame the school for everything,
“HSB –Healthy Snack Bringer” for parents who bring carrot sticks to the class party (a major party foul, according to Brooks), and
“HOE: Hatin’ on Exes” for the divorced parents who can’t get along for five seconds, even at school.
He even dedicates an entire section to the “CKMs — Crying Kindergarten Moms” who “tend to hide in school janitorial closets, crying, in order to stay near their little ones” on the first day of school.
As a mom who will be sending off a new kindergartner this year, I’d just like to say: Thanks for the great location tip, Principal Brooks!
Go See the Principal is the perfect book for parents to round out their summer reading and gear up for a new school year. It may not get you excited for packing lunches again (groan) or checking homework (double groan), but it will help you get the right attitude to tackle back to school: enthusiasm, honesty, and a delightful touch of snark.