Her Side of the Story: When Romance Beckons Between a Male Teacher and Female Principal

Joel Eisenberg

My former principal read my previous NewsBreak article on the matter, and she has given me permission to reprint her response.

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Just FriendsHarli Marten, Unsplash

Introduction

Last month, I posted the following article: “Before #MeToo: I Was a Teacher, and My Principal Invited Me to a Romantic Weekend.” I was surprised at the amount of attention and subsequent discussion caused by the article, as was my former principal who was sent a link by a mutual friend familiar with the incident.

Six weeks later, I received this private message on Facebook: It’s good to be remembered. What’s your email so I can send you a proper response?

I was nervous, but her ensuing email was as kind and thoughtful as it was forward. I was questioned for writing the article and using #MeToo in its title; my first impression was I agree with the latter.

What follows is her response in its entirety.

The Principal’s Response

Joel, I hope you’re well. You’re right; it’s been a long time. Though I do not understand why you felt compelled to publicly share this story from so long ago, I may surprise you by admitting I’m glad you did, and I’ll tell you why in a moment. I must say I am equally curious why you referenced #MeToo, which was in no way a factor back then.

But these choices were yours. I’m sure you had your reasons. Of course, I appreciate you keeping my identity anonymous, and reflecting the correct series of events that we both treated as adults.

I’ve thought about you over the years. You were a good teacher, and a friend to me during some difficult times. I do believe you either have forgotten or you were somewhat disingenuous in maybe trying to spare my feelings if I saw the article. Notably, my husband did not pass in an accident. He committed suicide and I do not believe you’ve forgotten that fact, especially as the rest of the article was so detailed.

Anyway, I said I’m glad you wrote and shared the story. The reason why is I stayed alone, by choice. I told you then I was scared to be alone. I have plenty of friends, and in my 60s as active a social life as I’ve ever had. My son has a family of his own now, and I’ve become the visiting grandmother when I get to Virginia.

I stayed alone, though, save for a brief remarriage out of rebound.

Which is my point. Our weekend would have been rebound for me too. I cared too much for you to risk the awkward and and all-too-brief friendship we shared.

I looked back in a journal. We only worked together for two years. Seems like longer, doesn’t it? It does for me, anyway. I confided in you at the time because if you remember I was not all that popular an administrator and you were always kind to me. To get things done at the school, there were times I felt I had to be a bitch, which was a role I strived to fill well if that was the direction I needed to turn. Speaking plainly, I was the only female principal with a male assistant principal in the borough (editor’s note: Brooklyn). I was the ‘bad cop’ to his ‘good cop,’ which was the only way I’d earn my respect.

I do want to bring up #MeToo. You made a point of mentioning it, and though you accurately played out what happened to my eyes, equating my asking you for a weekend when I was in such a delicate place, to a movement such as that, was a weak straight male equivalency. I don’t know how else to say it. In 2021, more than three decades later, I’d bet in your movie business you know women or maybe some men who now feel safe going public and detailing their abuse.

When did I abuse you, Joel? Just think about that.

I kept a note from you when you left and moved to Los Angeles to pursue your writing dreams. It says: “You deserve happiness. I want you to know I consider you a friend. Would love to stay in touch.”

I could never casually stay in touch with you back then. My issue, not yours.

I’m running long. I do want to thank you for not making a mockery of a heartfelt ask, and if you want you can reprint this on NewsBreak in its entirely. You have my permission.

Please don’t answer me back, for personal reasons. Just stay well.

My Takeaway

A writer‘s past is fair game to a reader, which is how it should be. They are the judges.

I mentioned in the Introduction that, upon reflection, I tended to agree with my former principal’s response for the most part. Reading her letter back before publishing this piece, however, I agree with her completely as it regards my use of the Me Too hashtag while sharing our story. As I read the comments of the original article, others mirrored her criticism. While generally praising the piece as balanced and the incident it reflects as mature in its outcome, readers have also criticized my use of #MeToo as a poor equivalency.

Indeed, the incident as reported was handled by two respectful adults. There were no victims. Further, her supposition in the letter is correct. I do know people, unfortunately, who have needed to lean on #MeToo to regain their confidence and sense of self. Mine was neither a good nor fair comparison, and it is here where I will make my apology to her, and anyone I may have offended despite my best intentions.

Though I by necessity harkened back to the movement in this update, today is a new day, with a new mindset.

It is never too late to learn.

Thank you for reading.

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I am an award-winning author, screenwriter for film and television, and producer. My mission on News Break is to share socially important perspectives on both culture and pop-culture. Member of PEN America, and the WGA.

Northridge, CA
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