I worked at Peter W. Thompson Academy, an accelerated high school for students who had trouble thriving in a regular school setting. There were lots of students with behavioral problems, serious family issues, failing subjects, and many were teen parents. It was a last resort for many kids. Peter W. Thompson was a principal at the academy who was well known for giving much of his time, energy, and funds to the school. He had been diagnosed with cancer and died many years before I began working there. To honor him, the school was renamed, and a large photograph of Mr. Thompson was hung in the Great Hall for everyone to see.
One afternoon, my daughter asked if she could be dropped off at my office after school. She was in second grade at the time, so I knew she could keep herself busy coloring or playing on the computer while I finished my work. When she got to my office door, she immediately asked for change to buy a snack and drink from the vending machines. The machines were located in the student "break" room, where kids played pool and foosball during their lunch break.
I had no problem letting her go to the machines alone because all the students were gone for the day. She came back to my office a short time later, snack and juice in hand. I started some small talk with her, but she seemed to have something on her mind. I asked if she was ok, and she said, yes, but she had a question.
"Mama, where is the principal's office here?" I laughed and said, "Well, you know Ms. Thurman's office is right next door to mine!" I thought it was strange of her to ask such a silly question since she had visited Ms. Thurman's office numerous times to visit. "No, Mama. The PRINCIPAL'S office!" she said impatiently. I repeated that her office was next door. She sighed and said, "Then where is that man's office?" I thought at this point she was mistakenly referring to one of the male teachers as the principal. "Mr. Smith's office is down the hall," I said. At this point, she was getting red in the face. "No Mama! The man who was in the break room just now! He asked if I would buy him a soda and he made me laugh!"
Thinking that there must have been a student still in the break room, we walked to the vending machines together. I looked around, but I didn't see anyone. I asked my daughter what the man looked like. She began describing a man with a mustache and gray hair. At this point, I began to be frightened that some stranger was wandering around the school. We left the break room so that I could call for help. As we were crossing the Great Hall, my daughter pulled my hand. "There he is! That's him! Where is his office? He was nice to me."
I turned to see who she was pointing at, but there was no one there. She was pointing at the picture of Mr. Thompson, smiling down on us from his photograph.