Fiona Ma for State Assembly

Scantrons and Science Projects

I thought my job was tough...try being a Principal!

My mom was a public school art teacher for 20 years, and growing up I often got to play "Teacher's Assistant." As part of the annual "Principal for a Day" hosted by San Francisco School Volunteers, I finally experienced what it is like to be a principal by shadowing Principal Judy Dong of Hoover Middle School. The rules seemed simple enough: no hats, no gum, no cell phones, no spaghetti straps.

She starts her day greeting students in front of the school each morning. Early rising neighborhood kids arrive way before the yellow school buses appear from around the corner close to the first morning bell at 9:10AM. Today, two of the buses pulled up late and caused a flurry of walkie-talkie warnings just before a wave of children surged past us on their way to Home Room.

At the end of each period, STAND ASIDE, as the students magically flood the hallways for the four minutes before the next class bell rings. Hoover Middle School receives kids from 50 elementary schools and has a very diverse student body with both Chinese and Spanish Immersion Programs. While classified as a "high performing" school complete with a band and singing classes, 40% of the students qualify for reduced/free lunches. More students would apply if the stigma was removed by upgrading to a debit card system...but that is only one of a number of technological upgrades that schools want to implement.

As a product of public schools, I tried to recall being 11-13 years old again: 2 foot lockers; oversized back packs; pimples, bed-head, cellos bigger than the players; girls watching the boys play basketball in gym class; adding/subtracting fractions; Atticus, Scout and Boo Radley in "To Kill a Mockingbird"; creative science projects on three panel cardboard canvases on such topics as Household Germs, Flaming Wood, Greedy Minds (Does Greed Affect Memory?); and handmade posters illustrating examples of "Abstinence and Love" (my favorite: "Sing karaoke".)

After spending the day there with Principal Fong, I had fun, but I was exhausted. 1,200, anxious, wide-eyed, confused, troubled, motivated, growing, learning...under the leadership and watchful eye of the "Big Fish," Principal Fong.

I for one am glad that our kids' future is in good hands!