Saturday, May 17, 2008

But I Wanted A Pony

I am incensed. Well, I was on Thursday night. The burn has slowed a bit. Let's get right to the details, while it's still smoldering.

The #1 son had a choir concert that he had to attend at 7:00, or lose 600 points and have to do a long test to make it up. I had to go to the school board meeting, as Science Fair placers were being honored. They did this last year, except that nobody from Newmentia entered, and the sole honorees were my son and his partner, who placed 1st in the Middle School Physics division. Flash to this year: we took 13 kids from grades 6-12, and ALL FREAKIN' 13 of them placed. So you'd expect all of them to be honored, right? Helloooo? I'm talking to you. Don't let your mind wander.

I asked the #1 son all week if he'd heard anything about it. He and his partner again won 1st Place in the Middle School Physics division this year, and a 6th grader received Honorable Mention, which is like 4th place. There were 16 entrants in that category, so this was a big deal to them. My boy said he hadn't heard anything, but I was sure this was something that would be sprung on him at the last moment, like the day of, which is how it usually goes in Basementia. I had already promised two of my students a ride from the meeting in Basementia to the concert, which was being held at Newmentia. I even asked my principal if ALL the winners were being honored, or if it was just for High School. "It's for all of them," he told me. I added that my boy had heard nothing about it, and he said, "Well, they were invited."

After school, the #1 son got off the bus at Newmentia, and informed me that he didn't have to go, because he asked his principal, and was told, "No. We're just honoring Students of the Month and FCCLA." Hmm... We went to my mom's house to save a trip home, and #1 said he was riding with me anyway to catch a ride to the concert, because he didn't know when his dad would get there. Here's where it gets interesting.

Because a lot of people were coming, the meeting had been moved to Basementia's gym. We parked out front to make a quick getaway, and #1 went to see if the door was unlocked. It was, so he motioned me to come on. It's an old building, made of slick concrete blocks and wooden bleachers. It has an echo. We heard, "Welcome. Come on in." As we rounded the corner, we saw that we were the first to arrive. #1's principal was the only one there. He gave us an odd look. Like we didn't belong. We sat on the back row, again, planning an early escape. The kids were supposed to be at the concert by 6:45. My principal assured me that the honoring would only take 10-15 minutes. I knew better.

The boy and I got a fit of giggles. He whispered, "He thinks you're going to make a scene." I told him I wished he had put on the tie he was going to wear to the concert, and he could sit there with his hands in praying position, and jump up when it was announced that Science Fair winners were being recognized. Then we started riffing on possible scenarios:

After they've announced all of our winners, I want you to cry a single tear down your cheek, like that garbage Indian from the 1970s. (That was back before we called them Native Americans, and it was acceptable.)

Look. Your principal is talking to mine. They're whispering. I bet he's saying, "Why are they here?" Can you read lips?
Maybe. Except their backs are to us. I'm not a miracle worker.

There's Mrs. C. Hey, he's signing something. I bet it's our awards.
I guarantee they are Mrs. C's awards.

Mr. G is printing something on his laptop. Maybe it's our awards.
He's not printing. He's putting those pictures up on the screen. Where's he going to print?

Hey! I'll go up and say, "I have pictures on my phone from the Science Fair if you want to use them. That'll make them feel bad.

I know. I'll go up to your principal, and say, "Oh, are you giving your kids Science Fair awards, too?"

Maybe they can download some really quick from Certificates 'R' Us.

When they call the last of the High School kids up, you can stand up like you think you're next.

Make a big scene, Mom.
No thanks. I like my job.

Have dad call him, and say, "The last man to mess with ME had to pay $2500 for bond and a lawyer."

I'll leave you sitting here after everyone has left. As they turn out the lights, say, in a pitiful voice, "Is it time for my award now?" Like Ralph Wiggums.

The shindig started at 6:00. A bunch of students of the month were awarded, from the entire year, with quotes about why there were chosen. Then the FCCLA sponsor introduced her kids, to perform a 3-act skit. Then my principal gave awards to some vo-tech students. Then he announced that the science teachers were giving their Science Fair certificates. Which was news to me, because never had he once said I even had to be there, and most certainly had not told me that I would be presenting. Or my colleague, either. We muddled through some unprepared remarks, which wasn't too hard, because hey, we're teachers, and we know how to think on our feet. We finished at the stroke of 6:40, and I rounded up my boy and the students to hit the road to the concert. #1 said, "Mom! Didn't you see me? I was waving to you and pointing at myself. Why didn't you mention US?" Which kind of broke my heart.

Although the partner was not present, the 6th grader WAS there, because his sister got an award for FCCLA. I imagine it was a bit hurtful for them to see the high schoolers recognized while they were not. Could I have mentioned them? Not without committing professional suicide. What if they had come up front? There were no certificates for them. They weren't mere certificates, but were signed by the principal and the school board and the teacher, and were in nice black glass-fronted frames. Even by mentioning their names, it would have been brought up in front of the school board that some students were honored, while other students just as deserving were left out. And in all my years of teaching, at a variety of schools, there is one thing I have learned. If you make the principal look bad, it will come back to bite you in the butt 1000 times. It was not my place to recognize students that were not MY students, even though I was at the Science Fair with them all day, on a day off school, after they had worked hard preparing a project on their own time. As opposed to the Students of the Month, whose only requirement was to breathe, and be voted on by some teachers. Not that I am saying they didn't deserve to be recognized...only that those little Science Fair kids deserved it as well.

This whole situation had me spittin' mad by the time I got to the concert. I told HH. I said, "Every time #1 walks by, put your finger up under your eye and drag it down your cheek like the garbage Indian tear. He'll know what you mean." We did it when he walked out to sit in the bleachers. We did it when he came off the risers. We did it when he went back for an encore of the school song. After the concert, the boy said, "I will never look at you again!" Huh. He was laughing about it each time. All he had to do was look away. He knew we were going to do it.

HH is very put out. He called a higher-up on Friday, but the higher-up was out of the office for the day. HH did not leave a message. He is calling back on Monday to raise the issue. He threatened to call two of the board members, but I discouraged that tactic. HH said, "I know what he'll say. "Why didn't Mrs. Hillbilly Mom say something about it?" And I'll just tell him, "It's not her building, and it's not her students. She didn't want to get involved." Which is exactly the truth. It will be taken out on my sweet #1 when it all finishes rolling downhill, anyway. But it's not right, by cracky! Someone has to go to bat for these kids.

I suspect that somebody simply forgot about the Science Fair awards, and didn't want to admit it. All he had to do was say, on that day when asked, "Oh. I forgot. I'm going to give those awards the last day of school, at the award assembly." That would have sufficed. But don't ignore these kids, and think nobody will say anything. You can award kids for going to a regional Spelling Bee, but not for winning a regional Science Fair? I'm sure it was not intentional, but it was a crucial public relations faux pas.

What kind of world is this? I though we were still in the namby-pamby, touchy-feely, I'm OK-you're OK, everybody's a winner world of rainbows and unicorns, and that we were all getting ponies.

Does this mean no ponies?

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