Over the years, AP and I have had many discussions — I daresay arguments — about the correct way to deal with children. Particularly his kids. As I have never had children of my own, I have oodles of advice for AP, which isn’t always appreciated but there you have it.
Readers of my blog know that my friend and neighbour, Diana, (aka Mrs. L.), was a headmistress of a large primary school and believe me, she has dealt with just about every problem and situation that you can imagine.
This story popped into my head the other day while I was thinking about how to get ahead of a particular problem and because the story delights me to no end, I’m going to write it here on my blog.
There is a school uniform in British schools and one of the rules is that students may not wear sneakers. They must wear black shoes with their uniform.
There arose a situation in Mrs. L’s school: Students were wearing sneakers with their school uniform and not black shoes. Sneakers are not a part of the uniform!
Mrs. L. thought about it. One the one hand, what’s the problem with wearing sneakers? Is it worth the trouble to enforce this rule? It’s only sneakers, after all.
But no. Mrs. L. understood that it’s a slippery slope when one rule slides. No. The children must wear their black shoes and that was clear. But Mrs. L. isn’t a hard-knuckled type of enforcer. She is gentle and wise and she knows how to get the upper hand.
Mrs. L. stopped off at a large department store after work one evening and she bought a pair of plimsoles in every children’s size. (These are Plimsoles):
She slapped down her credit card and paid for them out of her own pocket (because it was worth it, every pence.)
She went home that night and painted a big, white L on every left foot shoe — and a big, white R on every right foot shoe.
And these were henceforth known as “Mrs. L’s Special Shoes”. Any student who came to school without standard black shoes was sent to Mrs. L’s office. I know Mrs. L and I imagine that she warmly greeted the sneaker-wearing student and probably said something like, “Oh darling… did you forget to wear your black shoes?! Don’t worry my darling… I have a whole range of black shoes that you can borrow today. Just give me your sneakers and I’ll keep them safe in my office and — here — you may wear Mrs. L’s special shoes today!”
I asked Diana how many times she had to hand out her special shoes and she said, “most of the shoes were never worn.”
And that story always makes me smile.