Thursday, August 21, 2008

Herd of Cattle

A large white envelope came in the mail. It contained a pile of forms to be filled out and turned in to the Middle School to "register" Timmy for 8th grade. 12:30 on a Wednesday. Can't get much more inconvenient for the working parent than that. I covered it by working from home that day and doing this during my "lunch." How can it be time for school already? I'm so not ready for signals that summer is coming to an end.

Timmy and I walked into the gym, with Jeff trailing along behind, and paused to read a giant hand-written sign that directed us to

1) Put forms in boxes on table A, then

2) Pick up schedule at table B, and

3) Stop by at the PTO table C.

We started to proceed towards table A, and the Big Bald Principle was standing there. He looked at us blankly (I have met and spoken with him several times) and shouted in a booming, crowd control type voice: "EVERYBODY PLEASE GO TO TABLE A WITH YOUR FORMS, AND THEN TABLE B FOR CLASS SCHEDULES!" He was making gestures similar to the ones he uses when directing traffic around the buses.

I looked over my shoulder to see if there was some huge crowd flowing in, but there was only a woman and her daughter wandering through the door, looking at the sign. Why was this man shouting at us in this manner? Wouldn't a smile of recognition (real or improvised) and a warm greeting to Timmy be more appropriate? Maybe ask how summer was going, welcome to the 8th grade? I just didn't see the need for him to be herding us around, there weren't very many people there, and it was rather obvious what to do.

Anyways, we went to table A and started placing our forms in the labeled boxes. Jeffrey was trying to be helpful, he read off the boxes for me: "Emergency Contacts....Medical Authorization.... Application for Free and Reduced Lunches." He wanted to know why I didn't have a form to put in that last one. "We don't need to do that." I said. He got curious and peered into the box where a filled-out form was in there, face up. I quickly shuffled him along to table B.

They really should have handled those forms with more privacy. I would like to look into that box, to know how many people apply for those state-subsidized lunches, who they are, how much money they do or don't have. But out of respect I did not. Every year I study the chart on that form and have to keep myself from calculating whether we are just one headcount reduction and slow sales year from qualifying. It's never far enough away. I suspect there will be more applications than usual this year.

Then Timmy gets his schedule, and we walk around the school to see where his classrooms are, and find his locker. I can't help noticing how dark and tunnel-like the halls are. Nothing cheerful or welcoming that would make you want to be there. Just big brown brick pipes through which our precious children are channeled through. Like herds of cattle!

Was it my imagination or does Timmy look a little more sullen and hunched in here? I looked at some of the other 8th graders. Each one so different in their gangly growing bodies. A tiny tilt in any direction about to lead them down a path towards their future. Which one will it be?

I kind of hate it the way this school seems so much like a factory. Process them through, 1-2-3. I long for an enriching school environment where each child can flourish in their own way. I settle for hoping to holy god that my son never has a severe allergic food reaction there, which he is forever one bite away from, because I have zero confidence that anyone there would handle the situation appropriately, if at all.

I wonder if I should have been making more sacrifices, or kicking more corporate butt so that Tim could attend a fancy private school. Don't they treat the students like individuals there? Some would argue that if every child were to be treated as if they are special, then none of them would be. But I can't imagine that "lost in the crowd" is something to strive for. Would my sons be better served if they attended a school that didn't seem like it could be anyschool, anywhere, and he could be just "anyone" instead of the special and unique person that his mother is so sure that he is? Then he could grow up to kick some corporate butt, and send his kids to a fancy private school. Or else they could qualify for Free or Reduced Lunches. I don't know. This is the stuff that I worry about.

Move along, now.


MomForThree said...

Speaking from experience a "fancy private school" is not all it's cracked up to be either. Don't get me started on the lack of response our school administration had to a parent report of lice on their student. Basically there was no communication for almost a week, no note sent home to parents in the affected grade to check their kids. This resulted on a mild hysteria among parents (myself included) and students missing school (my kids also) in order to keep it out of the house. We are fortunate that we have not faced this in our school in the 7 years I have been there, however the lack of response and the cluelessness of the staff was dissapointing.

aunt kathy said...

A neighbor's kid got into smoking pot and taking dope, starting in the 8th grade. I'm glad you're in Michigan, where Tim is surrounded by wholesome kids and morally strong teachers. Don't worry Mindy, you guys are way ahead of the herd!

Heather Leigh said...

I thought the EXACT same thing about the Free & Reduced Lunch form box. The instructions should have stated that ALL forms be placed in the boxes face down. Of course, maybe the bald man thought us heifers would have been too dense to follow THAT many instructions!

Anonymous said...

Glad that you didn't tell that lousy school administrator that you don't admire his tactics. It wouldn't have done any good. School institutions are part of life - most of us rise above it. Glad that you are getting testimonials on private schools- and you might suspect my attitude toward them. Anyway, our little Timmy- in 8th grade!! Hard to believe. But you both have done something right so far, so the best is yet to be. Aunt Chris