Preaching to the Irritated Choir

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

It was at the curriculum night that I decided, in a spur of the moment action, to put my name forth for the home/school governing council.

To be honest,my all consuming hatred for the shirt man was the impetus. I was determined to crush him and do everything in my unholy power to make sure he lost the contract for shirts for the school. You do not, Sir, get to scream at me that my check is "No Good" over and over and just have that slide. Oh no. And to top that little shit sundae with you not delivering the shirts we TOLD you we were purchasing and me then having to calm my hysterical kid because the god damn shirts didn't get delivered?

And you took my money.

I hope your life has been enjoyable up to this point, because I have now rearranged my priorities to make your future a living hell.

This was Tuesday Night. I calm Emily, Terrance calms me ( and prevents me from running the two blocks to the school so I can personally stomp this guy with my highest, spikiest heels) and we put the matter to the side.

Emily is a bit anxious at the best of times, but any kind of teacher/parent meeting, or field trip, or any other thing which does not comply to her well ordered schedule can send her into a tizzy. She checks, she re-checks, she triple checks to make sure we KNOW the curriculum night is Tonight and that we are BOTH coming. Yes. We are both coming.

Terrance warns me before we leave the house to be nice. Be nice? What ever could you mean? I am the picture of suburban calm and demure motherhood. I am wearing a skirt...and a funky t shirt...and my rainbow skull sneakers. I am harmless.

We walk in and the principal sees me and turns away.

My reputation precedes me. I see my letter has had an impact. Or perhaps it was my crusade last year against the special ed sector of the English Montreal School Board when I cc'ed my local Parliament representatives. Not that I can vote here, but I do write a well put together letter and no one asked my voting status or ability.

Terrance leans in, "Wow. I have never seen her move so fast before."

I glare at him. His job is to keep the attackers off of me for as long as possible, and/or push me out of the way in an assassination attempt. His commentary is not needed.

We see some parents with whom we are familiar and sit down. Minor chit chat occurs. The new school website is unveiled. Parents look attentive and then the nominations for home/school begin.

I lean into Terrance, "I should nominate you", I say loudly.
The four heads of the parents in front of us whip around

"Thats a GREAT idea", they collectively say.

I mess with Terrance some more. "Yeah hon, I'll nominate you and then I will help you out if you are out of town for that meeting."

The other parents are looking positively pleased at this prospect. There is lots of agreement and encouragement. Terrance snarls back through his not quite smile, "I'll nominate YOU, Dawn".

The greek chorus of parents in front of us begin their declarations of agreement to this amended plan.

Whats this sir? A Challenge? Have you slapped me with your glove? Thrown down your gauntlet?

I ready myself for the renewed verbal spar when my husband does something so unexpected as to render me speechless. He legs it out of the gym. Gets up and takes off. Holy Crap! I smile at the greek chorus of parents - "Sure, you can nominate me" I say. I begin furiously texting things such as "chicken" and "coward" to my husbands phone.

Now that my handler has fled the scene, all bets are off. Who KNOWS what I might say? BWA-HA-HA-HA!

But I don't. I get nominated, I don't get voted in I find out later that week during the secret parent ballot vote count and I walk up the stairs to my child's new classroom where I will "meet" the teachers and be given an overview of the Cycle 3 curriculum. Terrance is still absent.

I get to the class and sit down with Emily. She shows me her desk and how she has straightened it up for my "visit". We ready ourselves for the Curriculum presentation. I continue to taunt my spouse via text message.

So, there we are. All the parents of Cycle 3 who have attended this evening. The four classes have about 120 children all told and there are maybe 40 families in attendance. Now, I am going to take a leap here, but I am guessing that the families that DID show up to this evening....Well, they are the ones who are the "involved" families. I am guessing that THESE families are the ones who send in their forms promptly and pay their school fees during the first week. I am further going to go out on the limb to say that these parents send their children into school with the entire list of school supplies purchased AND probably check over their child's homework nightly. I don't have any empirical evidence of this, but long experiences has taught me that this is the Choir right here. You don't need to preach to THEM.

Oh, but I would be wrong. The preaching begins. My daughters teacher leads the charge with the God Damn Shirt Lecture. My jaw drops. I am staring RIGHT at her and she just goes on and on about the school uniform shirts. She expands this lecture to include that blue pants with stripes are not acceptable, nor are blue sweatshirts with any logos or markings other than the school uniform. My Stare becomes an Outright GLARE. Not satisfied with the descriptions of the type of blue pants that would be acceptable, she then lectures the group of parents on what their child may wear on Free Dress Day, freely giving her opinions of outfits which are NOT acceptable, including, but not limited to, jewelry and/or makeup.

Sitting next to me, Em peeks from the side to see how I am handling this. I am in full glare with my mouth Open and eyebrows raised. The lecture continues.

I turn to Em and say - not quietly - "Does she lecture you all day like this, or does she teach you anything?"

Em stifles a giggle and whispers "No, she does teach us some things, but she does this alot."

Mrs XXX then moves her lecture to the finer points of school supplies and why everything on the list should be purchased. One of the other teachers picks up with her spiel about science and technology. Oh Thank God. Its CURRICULUM!!! The French teacher does her part and my jaw unclenches a little but I continue to stare at Emilys Teacher.

I have now Written you a letter about these shirts. I have written a letter to the principal, and you have the cojones to stand in front of ME and lecture ME about these shirts? For a good 20 minutes? You have lost your ever loving mind.

Furthermore, you just blew your last chance of redemption with me.

I almost feel sorry for you.


White Shirted

Monday, September 28, 2009

Ah, so where was I? Ah, yes. Stuck in a Curriculum night being lectured by a woman who was rapidly pissing me off.

First, because she conveyed no warmth to the parents of incoming students...looked at my spouse and I like we were the village idiots when we asked a question to clarify the list of school supplies And her endless harping about the school uniform shirt.

Now, I Admit it. I did not buy the school uniform shirts last year.

At first it was simply because I wanted to speak to the uniform guy and make sure that I was buying the right size shirts. Emily has been whipping through sizes in the past two and a half years at an alarming rate so I honestly just wanted to make sure I bought shirts big enough to get through the year.

I called him. I called again. And again, and again. After leaving numerous messages and waiting nearly two months for a return call, I gave up in November and simply bought a bunch of white polo type shirts. Screw him, I figured. It was not killing me to not give this man 250 bucks for ten white shirts she would trash in minutes.

No one asked me last year about why Em didn't have the school uniform shirts. She was in a white shirt (without the school logo) and her blue bottoms every day, so it isn't as if I was dressing her like a Bratz doll and sending in to wreak havoc on the uniform code.

Within two days of the new school year, however, my kid is having a full on panic attack because her new teacher is telling them over and over about the UNIFORM and how SHE MUST HAVE IT, OR ELSE. Ddduuuuuuudddddeeee. Chill out. I will order the shirts. School starts on Monday and by Tuesday I have sent in the order form for the school uniform shirts.

"Did Mrs XXX see your order form? Is she going to chill it with the Uniform shirt talk now", I asked Em on Tuesday afternoon.

"Yes, she sent it to the office. Do you know when they will be in, cause she said soon she was going to start checking to make sure we were IN our required uniform and we would be in trouble if we weren't..."

"I can't control how fast the shirts get in, but Em - she has seen your order go in. She KNOWS you have ordered shirts. We can't do anything else but that - if you get in trouble then she will be deeply sorry she went down that path..."

Emily is quiet. My voice has that rattle. The Mother rattlesnake rattle through which my next move is clear. Pulling over, and marching up the stairs with daughter in tow to have a little "talk" about these shirts with Mrs XXX.

Em wisely drops it. Until that Friday, when she bounds out of school and hands me the still sealed envelope with her uniform shirt order. "Mrs XXX gave this back to me and said the office said you have to call or order online. Can you do that as soon as we get home, cause Mrs XXX said she was going to start checking next week to make sure we had our uniform shirts on... "

Oh friends. Oh My.

I will just pause a moment in my re-telling to let you ponder my reaction to this tidbit of news.

Let us suffice it to say, I first went online and attempted to locate a internet ordering option for these shirts. By 4 p.m., when I had found NONE WHATSOEVER, I first called the school and left a very clear message on the school answering machine.

I then called the Shirt company and left an even Clearer message on that voice mail, with my added critique of their customer service from the previous year and the promise that I would be sharing my impression of their company with ALL the other parents I could speak with, the principal AND the Home/School Parent Representative.

Then I fumed. And spluttered. I am generally not a threatener of action, but a Do'er. I don't do well sitting on this energy. So I wrote my first email to the Home/School Parent representative explaining my history with the shirt people and now my frustration at having my daughter freak out about these shirts because her new teacher was vaguely holding some nebulous punishment over her head.

The very kind parent rep wrote me right back, offering her suggestions for actions, her understanding of my frustration and offering her phone number if I wanted to speak about this further.

Sufficiently soothed, I went about my plan. Letters to the principal and teacher were written, copies of the emails to the parent rep were included - I am nothing if Not thorough in my documentation. Monday morning, the letters went into school, with my email address and cell phone number attached.

I hear nothing. I ask Em if she gave the teacher the letter.

"Yeah, I gave it to her", Em shrugged.
"So? Did she say anything to you after she read it?"
"Yeah, she said she felt like my mother was scolding her..."

Oh Mrs XXX, that was a bad move. Perhaps in hindsight, we will agree that this was a fatal move, but the game has not yet finished so we can not make those endgame pronouncements. The CORRECT answer, Mrs XXX, would have been for you to reassure my daughter that you understood that we were trying to get her the school uniform shirts - and that she would NOT be in trouble. But Nooooooo. You chose to subtly criticize her Mother in front of her while giving her the whiff of your disapproval at being "scolded". I mean you ARE the teacher after all, right?

By Wednesday, the shirt guy finally returned my phone call ( since I can only assume the principal has now called Him and warned him to call this crazy mother NOW) and leaves a message. I called Thursday around noon, sitting next to Terrance on the couch to keep me vaguely calm.

Shirt guy makes HIS opening move. Which is to start yelling at me, Immediately.
His opening shoutfest is :

To which I - still calm - explained I was AWARE of that since it had been sent back from the office the previous Friday. At this juncture he begins Yelling:


with me trying to ascertain just what the fuck he is talking about - cause I have NO IDEA. I am the one who has experienced rotten customer service and NOW I am having some man scream at me that my check is no good?!?!? WHAT?!!

My voice starts to raise. I start to shout and Terrance reaches over and grabs the phone from my hand...just about at the point when I am going to tell this man EXACTLY what he can do with his overpriced shirts, and the offer of my assistance in placing those shirts in my suggested areas. Terrance shuttles me into the bedroom and closes the door so he can speak with this man without me doing my best "Girlfriend on COPS" impression, shouting over his shoulder that I am going to Kick this mans ASS.

Terrance speaks with the man and tells him exactly what shirts we need. The man informs Terrance that he will be at the school on Tuesday to deliver the shirts and Terrance tells him we will bring cash for the shirts. I fume. We agree that Terrance will go and get the shirts alone, as we can all see that putting this man and I in the same room would be unfortunate.

Emily is told her shirts are being delivered on Tuesday. She can sleep easy knowing that she will be in compliance with the school uniform policy.

Tuesday comes and I stay far away from the school. I get the phone call from Terrance. He has been and seen the man. He has brought the money for the shirts.

He does not have the shirts.

What? WHAT? We told his man exactly what we needed on THURSDAY and he did not bring the shirts AND he TOOK our money????!!!

This was the evening before the curriculum night.
Things were not looking promising.

A Bad Beginning

Friday, September 25, 2009

If there is one lesson I have learned as both a teacher and mother, it is this: During the first month of the new Parent/Teacher/caregiver relationship, it is REALLY important that all parties set a good tone. The Teacher/caregiver is the lead in this new relationship, as the parent is pretty vulnerable and in a defensive position by default. I mean - this is their KID and regardless if you have 29 others in the room and have been doing this for umpteen billion years this is still THEIR CHILD.

They have resisted the urges to drown this child during screaming fits about parsley on her plate at a restaurant. They have not yet left this child by the side of the road after enduring 4 hours of "Blues Big Musical Adventure" or more frequently these days, the waxing poetic of the skillz of the Jonas Brothers or vocal stylings of Miley Cyrus. They have not yet stabbed the other parent during a fight about the others parenting style/skills/ability. With this child entering puberty, the temptation to flee her becomes and turn to drinking becomes stronger. In short, they have made it to this point on the strength of their fear of prison alone.

Your job - as teacher - is to make sure the parent understands that you know their child is special. That you are listening to them. That you know they are listening to you. You need to project humor. Confidence. The general aura of "everything is going to be all right - we'll get through this together."

I can speak to this job, because I have done it. I have calmed hysterical parents of both genders when they flip their shit about very small things. I have conveyed that they are not being silly and that I completely understand their concern, because this beginning time in the parent/teacher/caregiver relationship is as important as this time in the Teacher/Child relationship. A misstep on the teachers part during this phase can take forever to repair ...if Ever.

Which brings me to the lecture I, and others, received last Wednesday night. During the curriculum night at my daughters school. When we were supposed to be hearing about CURRICULUM and the PLAN for the school year.

I don't have to tell any of you that I am a keen observer of other teachers. I've made a living of it so far. I know the messages being broadcast between words...because I have crafted and delivered those messages. I still do.

Of the four teachers that my daughter could have gotten for the next two year cycle, we seem to have drawn the Eeyore of the lot. It isn't simply her age, of which it is indeterminate, it is her manner...her persona. Her terrible, terrible teeth.

We kind of guessed on the first day when Terrance and I corralled her after school to seek clarification on WHICH oxford concise dictionary she wanted for the class list. I mean - there are LOTS of versions of this dictionary. A school Edition, a hardcover - one edited in 2004, or in 2005. Being two oldest children, Terrance and I wanted to make sure that we provided the PRECISE one on the list.

There we stood. Dawn and Terrance - both speaking to the teacher. Asking questions about this dictionary. Because Terrance and Dawn make sure that the teacher and child have the exact thing they requested on the first day of school. Lists are made to be respected!!

She looked at us as if we had both lost our minds. Which could well be true...BUT. The correct response SHOULD have been. "Wow! I was unaware that there were so many versions - The school edition is fine..."

Her answer, "What? Didn't I put it on the list? Cause that is the one I want."

Silence as Terrance and Dawn stare back at her...having been pretty sure they collectively just explained that what she had on the LIST had many versions - did she have one in mind?

Tick, Tick, Tick, Tick...............

"well - it doesn't matter - its for her home study space anyway...."

and with that she turned away from us. To be fair, she was getting kids lined up for the bus which I know is a hectic operation, BUT.....

"I don't think I like her", I muttered to Terrance. He rolled his eyes, "You don't like anybody."

Ok. Fair enough. I OWN that judgment.

Now comes the careful questioning of Emily. What did SHE think of the teacher? How did SHE feel in the classroom?

As any 5th grader, Emily is most concerned about 1. What friends are in the class and 2. How much homework she will be expected to produce.

As far as she is concerned, she likes the majority of girls in her class and so far, the homework is manageable. Life is pretty good.

"But", she said," Mrs XX reminded us that the school shirt uniforms are mandatory and she is going to be checking to make sure we are wearing our shirts. And we can't have pants with any stripes or anything on them."

Shirts, as you will later learn, are quite a sore spot with me. That is story to be told in this larger story arc, but not yet. Suffice it to say that I boycotted the required shirts LAST year, sending her in with plain white shirts rather than those with the crest silk screened on them.

Emily pushes me. "I brought you the order form home so you can fill it out and I will take it back tomorrow cause I need to have these shirts or I am going to get in trouble. Mrs XX says she will give us a couple of weeks to get our shirts but after that, we'll be in trouble..."

Grrrrr. Fine. I fill out the order form and cheque for 200 bucks and send it back into the school. In fact, ALL forms get filled out and returned, with all cheques for the school year fees. 225 for this, 60 for that, 150 for the other....another 200 for the shirts...100 bucks for girl guides renewal. Sigh.

Emily delivers the shirt order to her teacher to be passed down the the office.

"Did she see that you were ordering shirts? That she can hold off on giving you the shirt lecture cause they are coming?"

On Friday, Emily brings me back the order and cheque. "Mrs XXX said the office said you need to order online - can you order as soon as we get home cause I am going to get in trouble if I don't have these shirts..."

And, that, my friends, is all this whole fiasco began.

Girl, you'll be a woman soon

Thursday, September 24, 2009

If I have to have one more discussion about vaginal mucous and its consistency, frequency, color or texture I may have to kill myself.


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Can I take a moment to express my utter dislike for the Shakira song - "She-wolf"?

Not because I dislike Shakira, nor her right or the right of any other woman to be a "she-wolf" in or out of the closet.

Its that dreadful howl she insisted on inserting in the song. That is the weakest most pitiful howl EVER. That howl indicates a sick and sad she-wolf...certainly not one who is an alpha and being chased by other he-wolves.

Furthermore, I get the distinct sensation that she fell across the word "Lycanthropy" in her word-a-day calender and then decided she would be clever and craft a song around the word.

And while I am kvetching about artists - Hey L'il Wayne. Stop with the metallic computer voice over yours. We don't want you to branch out into rock. Stick with what you are good at, as I am pretty sure your other career options include sullen Wal-Mart restocker or the guy at the gas station who ignores the customers while texting on his phone until the line becomes unbearable.

This goes the same for you - T-Pain. Stop spending your cash on those stupid hats. The gravy train is going to pull away in the near future and you don't have alot of other career options either. You may blame it on the Al-AL-Al-Al-Al-AL-Cohol, but I would suggest poor financial planning is more likely the culprit.

And Finally. I fucking hate Nickleback.

Me and My Big Mouth

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Back when I was gainfully and steadily employed by a Government Agency, we had a joke amongst my work colleagues.

Let's NOT send Dawn to any meeting where we don't want to offend any attendees, because inevitably - regardless of the meeting - She WILL say something that will get her "Un-invited" to ALL the meetings. She may do this in the first meeting. She may hold out and do this at the middle of the series of committee meetings, but rest assured...It WILL happen.

This little personality quirk has not made me terribly beloved to most supervisors, and believe me, if I could stop it I would. It has cost me more reprimands and punishments than I care to recall. Even as I am sitting there with Dawn-Ego saying "Don't Say it! Don't Say it! Let it Go! Do Not Open your Mouth..." things will slip out.

Like this meeting in the Governors office. As in the Actual Gov's ( at the time) office - at the giant table with the huge leather chairs, where the Executive Council meets, when I said this:

"Seeing as I am the only person at this table who has worked with REAL LIVE children and families, I think these standards that you are writing are ridiculous."

This was edited down from what was in my head which was :"You people wouldn't know a real child if they jumped up and bit you in the ass, furthermore you're are all terribly, disgustingly condescending about poverty and you generally couldn't find your asses with both hands and a flashlight."

While I got in trouble for what I really said, I was congratulating myself for NOT saying what was going on in my head. Small victories is what I am all about.

Which is how I ended up nominated last night for the Home and Parent Governing Council at Emily's school.

Those poor , poor people. They know not what they have done.
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