Guest Column: The snake in the school


Guest columnist Cody Woodruff narrates a story about how a principal deals with a snake. 

Cody Woodruff

A school principal walked around the building the night before the start of the school year. She felt excited to see the classrooms come alive with children once again, a new generation to educate and prepare for the future that would lighten up the empty halls. As she walked past the small lockers and on the freshly waxed floor, the principal spotted a snake outside a window. It sat a distance away from the playground and building, and she paused to look at its glistening eyes and forked tongue.

The principal had heard of other schools around the area that had been visited by a snake, and, each time, no matter how hard the schools tried to prevent it, the snake got into the building and ate some of the children. But this principal didn’t become startled when she saw the snake. It couldn’t rattle her. She knew it would come eventually, and her school had taken every precaution possible to stop it from eating the kids in her school.

She left the parking lot that night assured because her school came up with a monitoring system to locate and track the snake if anyone saw it. Her school created a plan to stop children from chasing the snake, for she knew they couldn’t help themselves, especially in the company of one another. Her school would be the one to avoid the snake, or at least stop it from eating too many children. So the principal got home and slept soundly that night.

During the first day of school, the playground monitor ran into the principal’s office out of breath. The monitor gasped, “A child got eaten by the snake at the playground!”

The principal felt shocked. How could this be possible? The strategic tracking program they implemented should’ve prevented this from happening. She quickly ordered the playground to be shut down so the snake could get no further.

The next day, the monitor once more ran into the principal’s office. “It happened again! The snake ate another child!” The principal felt stunned. “How did this happen? We already shut the playground down.” The monitor responded, “Yes, but the children still insisted on playing outside during recess.” The principal knew what needed to be done and put an immediate halt to all gatherings of children outdoors. She would ensure the snake did not get inside the building.

The following day, no new incidents occurred, and the principal relaxed a little, thinking the worst had passed. “How fortunate,” she thought, “that we only lost two children.” As she walked to her car, she spotted the snake near the entrance to the school. She smirked knowingly, assured in her carefully set plans that the snake could not possibly get inside the school.

But the principal had spoken too soon. A teacher rushed into the principal’s office the morning afterwards and shrieked, “The snake got into my classroom! It ate one of my students!” The principal’s heart dropped, but then rose slightly. Perhaps it wasn’t too late. Maybe the snake could still be stopped. “Quickly, let’s go to your classroom and catch the snake!”

The teacher and principal sprinted to the classroom only to discover three more children missing, presumably eaten by the snake. The snake could not be found. “Where did it go?” cried the principal. Just then, yells emerged from another classroom. Children ran out screaming, “The snake ate our teacher!”

“The snake ate a teacher?” thought the principal. “This hasn’t happened before.”

Teachers and children surrounded the principal and asked, “What do we do?” The principal stood and thought, and she confidently said, “Return to your classrooms and continue on with your teachings. We knew this would happen, but the number of students lost remains reasonable and the school continues to be safe enough to operate. I will meet with other staff members to discuss what to do next.”

The principal convened a meeting of her top administrative staff and posed a question to the group: “What do we do about the snake now that it’s here?”

Many suggestions were offered, and a new plan emerged after consulting with the brightest minds in the district. This much became certain: school must continue. As the meeting adjourned, the secretary popped his head into the meeting room, his face drained of color.

“I’m sorry to interrupt, but while your meeting took place, we lost another teacher and eleven more students. We also lost the gym coach and school nurse,” the secretary whispered to the principal.

The principal felt aghast. It became unbearable to think that maybe, just maybe, school would need to be canceled. The school dismissed for the day, and the principal spent the night readying the new battle plan against the snake, prepared to take down the menace to her district’s dollars and resolute that classes would continue.

The final day of the school week arrived, anticipation palpable in the air. The principal wore her favorite outfit, a battle armor composed of a red skirt and yellow blouse. She took her time getting ready, confident in her new plan and sure of success. When she pulled into the parking lot at school, she witnessed absolute chaos. Children and teachers ran out of a burning building, clutching one another and clinging onto loose papers and half-zipped backpacks.

“What happened here?!” the principal asked deliriously. A teacher responded breathlessly, “The snake got back in the building! We did everything your plan said to do, but none of it worked. It kept eating children and staff, so we abandoned the building and the kitchen caught the school on fire!” The principal had no reply and stared at the catastrophe until only burnt rubble remained.

When summoned to the board for a complete overview and thorough debrief of the events that unfolded at her school, the principal carefully explained to the members everything they had done to prevent the snake or stop it at every step of the way. She walked them through the meticulously laid plans her school had implemented in the hopes of avoiding what had happened to every other district in the area, but she conceded that her school now stood as the worst example, and their community had lost the most.

After finishing her elaborative explanation, the board members sat quietly thinking everything over and feeling the immense weight of the moment. Then, after a long silence, a young member of the audience spoke up and asked, “Why didn’t you just move classes somewhere the snake wasn’t at?”

Cody Woodruff is an alum from the class of 2020, graduating with a degree in political science. Woodruff is also the former Student Government Speaker.