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Getting to know Sophie Higgins

You just need to do the right thing in a crisis

“Sophie, Sophie, hurry…” 

I heard shouting in the corridor. 

I immediately got up from my chair in the corner office. I grabbed my phone from my desk next to my computer. Then, I went down the hallway to meet the voice shouting out my name. 

“What’s going on?” 

I asked the girl that came running down the corridor shouting my name. She was out of breath when she reached me. She said: 

“Hurry, there is a boy on the roof of the gym. He is threatening to jump off and kill himself.”

I ran across the cantina and out the door, where a small group was gathered outside. They were all anxiously looking up towards the roof of the gym. I looked up. Cold sweat ran down my spine as I saw the boy on the roof running along the edges.  

It was at least 25 feet from the roof's edge to the ground.

“Did someone call the police?” I asked with a low voice.

I had only been on the job as the school principal for about two months. I had never been in a situation like this one before. 

The janitor said that someone was calling the police. 

“Do we know who this is?” I asked.

“We don’t know this kid,” he said. “It is not one of our students.”

The other janitor came around the corner with a ladder. I followed him around to the backside of the cantina with the ladder. He said: 

“We can put the ladder in the corner up here.”

And then he said something that made my heart pound even faster as he placed the ladder against the wall. 

“One of our students crawled up along the drain here just before you came out.”

I said: “That’s it. I cannot let one of our students take responsibility for this situation. I need to get up there to support him. Hold the ladder,” I said to the janitor. 

I climbed up on the roof of the cantina. “Tell everybody to stay calm. It is going to be okay,” I said.

I went up the ladder in my short-sleeved shirt, skirt, and high heel boots. I thought to myself as I climbed up in the fresh April air. I should have brought my jacket. But there was no time. 

As I got up on the cantina roof, I saw the boy and the student on the top. I crossed the roof slowly. I thought to myself. The most important thing to do in a crisis is to remain calm.

I got to the edge of the roof of the cantina. There was a narrow metal ladder with a rail on one side going up to the top of the gym from the roof of the cantina. I looked down the 25 feet gap between the two buildings. I had butterflies in my stomach. Just look straight ahead, I said to myself. 


You can do this

I step out. Just put one foot in front of the other. And so, I did.

I came up to the roof. I made eye contact with the student. There was a corner of the roof where the fall was more minor. It was in the corner that had the entrance to the gym. The student and I approached the boy very slowly as he was yelling and threatening to jump. 

I said to him: “It’s okay. Don’t be afraid. We are not going to hurt you.”  

“We are just here to help you. It is all going to be okay.” 

The boy was crying. 

“It’s okay,” I said. 

Then I heard the sirens approaching. 

The student and I were very close to the boy. “What’s your name?” I asked.  

Then suddenly, someone was yelling, and the boy got scared.

He sat down on the edge of the building. The Student and I looked at each other, and I nodded to him. And the following things that happened I can still see in my head like in slow motion.

The poor scared boy swung his legs across the edge of the roof. He put his arms on edge and rounded his back as if he was going to jump off. 

The student got his arms around the poor boy, pulled him into the roof, and held him down. 

I spoke to him gently. “It’s going to be okay. You will get help. You will feel better. It’s not going to feel like this always.”  

All the time, I thought to myself. The crisis is over. It is going to be okay. The fire department came with a long ladder. They got up to the roof. They took care of the poor boy. 

The student and I came down from the roof together. I took him into my office. In the administration, they asked if I wanted to speak with the press. They were on the phone. 

I said: “No, this is a sad situation. It was handled well. But nobody needs any press around this. Just let them know that I have no comments,” I said. 

I looked at the student. He was clearly in shock. I asked him: “Are you okay?” 

He was shaking. 

“Is there anyone home where you live?” I asked. He said: “My dad is home.”  

I said: “Okay, you come with me, I will take you home, and make sure your father is there to take care of you.” 

We went to my car. I drove him home to his dad. His dad was surprised to see his son in the principal’s car. He had heard the Sirens. I explained the situation to the father. The dad looked at me as I told him all about what had just happened. The father then put his arms around his son and took him into the house. 

I felt a sense of relief. 

I went back to my car and exhaled heavily. And then the tears came—tears of grief and relief at the same time. 

I drove back to the office and spoke with the janitors who had been present. I thanked them for the effort and made sure that we had a crisis counselor come by the next day to process the episode with everyone that had been directly involved in the incident. One of the staff members pulled me aside and said: “Thank you, Sophie. That was real leadership. Very few people would have been able to do what you just did. Thank you.”

 

Helping people grow and solve the mystery of writing successfully

“I read all your papers,” I said to the class. “Please take a few minutes to read the feedback I have given you individually,” I continued.

“What we will do today,” I said. “Is that I will split the class in two. Some of you have some challenges with grammar that we need to go over.” 

“While some of us do that, I ask the other group to be detectives for all of us.”

“I want you to examine these model papers for the rest of us. The model papers will look like the papers you will be writing at your final exams.” 

“When you go out in the smaller groups, I want you all to think like detectives. Pull out your magnifying glasses and investigate the language, the content, and the structure.” 

I sent the group out with these questions to explain to the rest of the class later:

 

  • How are these papers composed? 
  • How are they answering the task? 
  • How do they establish credibility? 
  • How are their arguments? 
  • What works well? 
  • What could be adjusted? 
  • What grades would you give the paper and why? 
  • What key points did you learn from your research on these papers to implement in your next piece?

 

The students were all motivated because it was the final exams were approaching. 

I had taken over the class just before Christmas. This was the last effort to dramatically improve what I saw as general challenges for the students. 

I worked with the smaller group around basic grammar rules. We worked on correcting a specific sample together. I explained the basic rules. And they applied the rules in action. 

When we were done with the exercise, one of the girls said: “Thank you, Sophie, for explaining this. I was embarrassed that I didn’t know these rules. I felt I should.” 

I said: “You know, this is why we’re here. We are here to learn. And sometimes it just takes a little while until we are ready to learn.”

 

We’re here to learn

The rest of the class came back into the classroom. The students shared the results of their detective work with the rest of us. They had found some good things about how to create a lead, how to build a logically concise argument, how to use research to strengthen their arguments, how to create cohesion and precision. And how to connect the lead and the close. 

“Good job! I’m proud of all of you! Great effort to learn something new from everybody today.”

A few weeks went by, and two of the students from the grammar group passed me in the hallway after they had gotten the results from their final exams in writing.   

One of them said: “Hey Sophie, I just wanted to thank you! The last three years I always got a D on my papers. I just didn’t know that I could do any better. But guess what I got a C+.” he said smiling all over his face.

The other student said. “Thank you, Sophie. I finally understood how to improve my arguments.” 

“Good job, guys,” I said. “I knew you could do it!” 

To this day, I love to be a detective with my clients. 

I love to learn. I love to write. I love to create meaningful & profitable online courses with my clients. And I just love to help people grow, shine, and be their best.

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