Thursday, August 14, 2008

back to school (i think)

i feel like this mama duck. i know i only have 3 kids. most days i feel like i have 11 though. don't you have those times when every child seems like 3 or 4 in one? i have had lots of those days lately. but i feel like this mama duck because i feel protective. and here's why.

for the last 24 hours i have been dealing with some serious stress. for various (really good) reasons, i have put off registering our 5-year-old for kindergarten. i really do have good and legitimate reasons that don't include laziness, forgetfulness, or slacker mom disease.

when i called yesterday afternoon to make sure all the documentation i have for our son is kosher, the woman in charge informed me that "no, it's not okay." then silence. so i asked, "are you telling me my son can't come to school on monday?" (monday is the first day of school here.) she said, "yes, that's what i'm telling you."

there were some other heated words exchanged, although i would like to say for the record that i didn't yell; i like to think i was very assertive, but you can never tell when you are angry. i never insulted the woman, but i did inform her that i would be filing a complaint about her with the principal because of her flippant attitude about something so serious as me trying to enroll my child for school.

again, i have to emphasize that i realize we are only 2 business days away from school starting. but the documents i was trying to use to register him are THE SAME ONES i used for gillian last year at this very same school. and NO ONE EVER TOLD ME LAST YEAR that anything was wrong with her documentation. so i assumed (wrongly i guess) that i would be fine for this year and if needed i could obtain a more official document from his birthplace after school started.

so back to the phone conversation: this woman, who is in charge of registering all students, gave me no options, no empathy, no kindness. she just bluntly said (after i asked) that my son couldn't come to that school because i didn't have the appropriate documentation.

this morning, i paid a visit to the school office, because i knew there must be a way around this. it's not like i have NO PAPERWORK on this child's birth. i just don't have exactly what they want. i am even willing to get something overnighted to us so we can have it in time for monday. i just want my son to be assigned to a teacher so he can visit her tomorrow during meet the teacher time at his new school.

i was greeted by a lovely woman, who put me at ease, and then by another woman, who was unbelievably helpful. they both were very empathetic, understanding, and encouraging. i told them how physically sick i had felt yesterday when i was informed i couldn't bring my son to school. they immediately told me that everything would be okay, that there were things i could do, that he would be able to come to school.

they sent me home and asked me to come back later after they had done some checking around. in the meantime, my lovely sister, who is a certified counselor, advised me that maybe instead of talking to the principal i should just address the offending woman and tell her how upset i was yesterday, how she could have been more helpful, and so forth. so that's what i did...bad idea (no offense sara).

or maybe it was a good idea but my expectations were too high. i got aedan registered and then asked the woman if i could speak with her. at first we were civil, but then she started repeating, "i did the best i could. i did the best i could. i did the best i could." so i felt myself getting angry, and i told her, "you did NOT do the best you could. you didn't help me at all. i am looking for you to understand that you could have offered me options."

so she responded, "i am not going to stand here and let you personally attack me." ok stop here: i have dealt with this before, and it always makes my blood boil the most. first of all, i wasn't attacking her; i was trying to let her know (very calmly) what i needed from her and how i felt slighted by her. i never told her she was crappy at her job (which she is); i never told her she was rude to me (which she was); i never told her she needs to get a personality (which she does). :) thankfully i was able to hold my tongue and not say these things. of course they would have just inflamed the situation.

eventually, we got to an impasse and she advised me to take it up with the principal. all the while, a woman had been standing in the background listening to the conversation. so she took the offending woman's hand, led her into a side office, and said "it will be okay." like i was the big bad wolf. come on people: i'm 5'2." i'm really not that scary.

then she came up and without introducing herself said "can i help you?" (because i was standing there wanting to be CERTAIN that i am able to meet with the principal) and i said "i would like to be sure i have an appointment to meet with the principal. i've already given my information to some other women behind you, and i just want to be sure i can talk to her before school starts."

so she said, without introducing herself, "they would have told me." okay, first of all, what does that mean? who are you? can you speak coherently? can you see i'm frustrated? and did i mention she was giving me a look of death while asking "can i help you?"

so then she informed me, "i was listening to that whole conversation and i will let you know if the principal has time to meet with you." oh no. i'm not letting you slough me off. anyway, anyone who knows me knows i just can't let things go. and you know, i'm glad in some ways because if i let this go i will save myself some stress but then this will happen to other parents and probably already has.

so i pushed back and firmly said, "i want to be called today with an appointment time."

so we'll see if i actually get an appointment. i'm not confident at all. after all, this woman WAS giving me the look of death, remember? and acting like i had just punched the offending woman. i think at the root of it all my issue is that i wanted to be offered some explanation at least, some reason, some kindness. instead i got attitude. and in any situation, but especially in a school setting, where teachers and other administrative persons should be held to the highest standards (after all, i was a teacher for 3 years and got in trouble for not being so tactful--i know it's tough to imagine but i was young...), this woman should have been more professional.

i'm so thankful gillian is at a different school this year. they seem much more communicative (read: communicative at all!) and in general nicer, kinder, more interested in helping rather than hindering parents. now we just sit on pins and needles waiting until next year rolls around so aedan can join her...


Amelia Plum said...

I'm so sorry to read about all you went through with this woman and the other lady giving you the look of death. The whole experience sounds horrible and very stressful. The secretary at Owen's school is like that, I liken her to the soup nazi from Seinfeld, she'll be friendly, well civil, to some but I can't figure out what you have to do to get civility. I hope they got back to you with an appointment and that Aedan is hopefully ensconced in school come monday - still jealous you all start a week before us.

asti said...

Totally unbelieveable Kristi. These petty, official, jobsworth, imperious types are a pet hate of mine too (and like you, I don't let things go or let people fob me off ;).
We have a secretary at our doctors surgery like this - before getting an appointment you have to go through an interrogation about your pesonal problems......but lets not get me started on that, eh !!
Hope it all gets sorted out. Shame it had to start like this though.
Good luck..