Schoolhouse Rock

29 11 2010

I didn’t appreciate school while I was there. Six years of elementary school, three years of junior high, four years of high school, four years for my bachelor’s degree, then back for another two years for my master’s…it would seem that I loved it, spending so much time there.

Now that I’m out, there are times that I really miss it. Especially when I do home visits in early September, and the kids excitedly show me their new bookbags and supplies. I get jealous. I mean, it’s not quite as cool as heading off to Diagon Alley for a wand and some parchment, but there’s something nice about new pencils.

Did I mention I’m a nerd?

Spending actual time in schools, though, that’s something different.

I visit schools fairly regularly. I attend IEP meetings, and meetings to negotiate around a suspension (spoiler alert: the kid always gets suspended) Sometimes school visits are the only way I can track down a reluctant counseling participant.

No matter what, I have to wait in the principal’s office. And no matter what, I feel like I’ve done something wrong.

I can’t help it, I’m just one of those people. I almost have an anxiety attack every time I walk out of a store, just waiting for the security sensors to beep.

Surly school secretaries don’t help much.

There doesn’t seem to be a human being alive that could hate their job more than a school secretary.

Let me qualify this–my aunt is a school secretary. I’ve met some nice ones, and some who go out of their way to help. And I see the bureaucracy that they deal with. Not fun.

That being said, more often than not, I stand at the giant barrier between the office workers and the unwashed masses, hoping someone will look up from their typing and notice me. I then beg for help, tracking down a student or obtaining records. No matter what, I ask the wrong person, and feel obliged to ask for their pardon.

“I’m so sorry, I didn’t know you weren’t in charge of attendance. Is Ms. Rodriguez here? Of course not. Please forgive me.”

Just last week, I was calling an elementary school daily, trying to track down a pre-k student. She’s four, you wouldn’t think it would be so difficult. But her mother just had a baby, the family is bouncing around and staying with relatives, and the child had been sick. A perfect storm for missed visits.

So I called the school. No answer. I tried three different numbers, until finally I got somebody. Oh, what a happy occasion that was!

But never mind. There are two buildings, and only one secretary. The kid I was looking for was probably in the other building, but she couldn’t go check. Try the assistant principal.

Stupid, naive SocialJerk.

Why would an assistant principal answer her phone? It’s ridiculous.

Finally, though, there was a secretary in the building that my child was actually located in, and I got to speak with her.

“Can I come to see the child today at 12?”
“They’re having a Thanksgiving luncheon.”
“Oh, that’s nice. Is it OK if I come during that?”
“I dunno.”
“…oh. Well, will I be able to see her if I come during the luncheon.”
“I dunno. They’ll be having lunch.”
“So it would be better if I came at another time?”
“I dunno. Doesn’t matter to me.”

She then tried to transfer my call, but instead hung up on me. Three times. I wound up saying that I’d come right over, and was told this was fine.

But no, no, no. It was nap time when I got there. They simply could not be disturbed.

Sigh. All this could have been avoided if I had a sassy gay friend the woman had been willing to walk twelve feet down the hall to check on what the pre-k class was up to.

But responsibility is diffuse. That’s someone else’s job. This person knows that the child is here, but not where that child is. The person who knows where that child is at this time doesn’t know if the child is here today. The person who actually has a relationship with that child is nowhere to be found.

I went to the school today, and finally saw this kid. She loves school, and it’s obvious that people there care about her. But it’s also obvious how easy it is for all of us to become cogs in a machine.

That reminds me, I better go punch out.

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