The future’s so loud, I gotta wear (ear)plugs

By Mir
June 20, 2006

This morning–the LAST! DAY! OF! SCHOOL!–dawned cheerful and bright, and I realized that for all of my careful end-of-year organization and preparation, somehow, I hadn’t procured a gift for the bus driver.

This was a problem. Not only do we have the only bus driver in the history of elementary schools who actually LIKES and is GOOD WITH small children, I’m pretty sure she spends her entire (meager, no doubt) salary on treats for the kids. The woman deserves canonization, really, but I usually settle for a small gift.

What to do, what to do. Oh! A Dunkin Donuts gift card! Know what else they have at Dunkin Donuts? DONUTS! For breakfast! Because I am SMART. And masochistic.

We piled into the car and got a gift card and donuts with frosting and sprinkles. Let me tell you, I was a VERY popular lady this morning. I’ve always said there is no better way to start out a day of learning than with a pound of sugar and preservatives. But who are we kidding; there wasn’t going to be any learning today.

Chickadee bounced onto the bus and thrust the card at the driver, then flung herself into a seat and succumbed to a diabetic coma. I mean, I assume. I was busy riding her scooter back over to our house from the bus stop, so I don’t really know.

Monkey ran laps around the house while I did some work, and after a while I announced that it was time to Go Outside. This ruling was greeted with glee until Monkey discovered that:
1) it was hot out
2) rather than catching bugs with him, I would selfishly be mowing the lawn.

I was no longer Cool Donut Mama, I was now Boring Mowing Mama. Rather than allow me to just mow the lawn as quickly as possible, Monkey felt it was necessary to head my way, arms flailing, mouth moving, several times. I would turn the mower off only to be told “I’m hot,” or “it’s boring without Chickie,” or–my personal favorite–“It’s too buggy!” (In case you’re wondering why that’s my favorite–he was holding the bug magnifying glass in one hand and the bug-catching contraption in the other. He’d been, you know, CATCHING BUGS. But it was TOO BUGGY.)

We did have a few good minutes out there. I let him help me take apart our big plastic climber (which the kids are really too big for, now), and that was sort of fun. Also I brought him a ginormous toad I almost ran over with the mower, at one point, and he followed it around the yard for a bit and gleefully reported that it stuck its tongue right out and ate a bug! For some reason he was not enthused at my suggestion that he just put the toad on his head to be his personal bug deterrent system, though.

After lunch, I started thinking about how Chickadee would be bringing home her class assignment for next year, and I still really didn’t know when we’d find out about Monkey’s placement, so I decided I’d call the school to ask when we’d been finding out.

Please note: I did NOT call the school to ask WHAT his assignment was. In our school district, class assignments are slightly better-guarded than military secrets. I don’t know why. But I do know that every year it’s a huge to-do, and every year we’re told we may not request specific teachers, we should not ask about assignments until they’re sent home, etc. Well. I knew that existing students were getting their assignments today. So I thought I’d just ask when we’d be hearing about Monkey.

Three people later, I have Someone Important on the phone, and she is clearly not having a good day. I was pleasant, I was not demanding; in fact, I apologized for even bothering her, but just wanted to be able to give him an estimate arrival time, seeing as how his sister would have news today. “WELL,” I was huffily informed, “we haven’t even STARTED the assignments for the new incoming first graders.”

There was a pause, during which I felt the earth’s rotation slow.

“Excuse me?”

“We haven’t started doing the assignments yet.” Okay, so I hadn’t heard wrong. But…? No, I must be misunderstanding.

“Ummmm… I’m sorry. I don’t understand. How is that possible? There are kindergarteners who were sent home with class assignments today. Clearly you HAVE done the class assignments…?”

“No, not for students who aren’t already in the school. We take care of our own, first. FIRST we allocate the kindergarteners who are already here. THEN we work on the incoming kindergarteners. When ALL OF THAT is done, we move on to the private school kindergarteners.” Lady, you are wasting my time, was the subtext.

“Wait. You don’t…” I struggled for the words. I didn’t want to make this woman any angrier–if indeed, that was possible–but surely I missing something. “You don’t just consider the entire pool of first graders in one group? You assign the kids you have, and then whatever’s LEFT, the other kids get?”

“Well… no. That’s not it at all.” Now she was really starting to hate me, because I was not UNDERSTANDING how LOGICAL she was being. “We have to take care of our own, first,” she said again. “The children who are ALREADY HERE.”

Right. Their own. Because I haven’t been paying this town’s outrageous taxes nor participating in the PTA and volunteering in the school. Nor did I save the district an entire year’s worth of expenses by sending my child to a private school during a year in which he was entitled to a (crappy, half-day) public education.

I don’t know; the entire thing just really rubbed me the wrong way. Our school district has some quirks wherein there are two very different settings for our first graders (which is a whole ‘nother rant for another time), and neither setting is necessarily better than the other, but they are very different. Parents are allowed to state a case for one environment over the other–though not to request a specific teacher!–and in Monkey’s case, I did do that. I agonized over a letter I wrote prior to registration, many months ago. This woman wouldn’t even confirm whether or not anyone had READ that letter yet. Or whether it would be granted any sort of weight whatsoever.

And I hate to be THAT PERSON who starts ranting about public servants, but ya know, I’M THE PUBLIC. SERVE ME. At the very least, don’t act like my kid is gum stuck to your shoe. Sheesh.

So by the time Chickadee got off the bus, I’d been on the phone with a bunch of other parents, trying to figure out if I was overreacting or if this whole “taking care of our own” system was utter bullshit.

And then! She got off the bus! And we stood there in the yard and opened her report card and found her new teacher assignment and she was thrilled! And I was relieved!

And then the madness began.

She had to call all of her friends! And see who they had! But some of them weren’t home, so she left messages! And then we discovered a current classmate who will be in next year’s class. Hallelujah. I tried to convince her to stop calling, then, because odds are she’d only have one old classmate in the new class. But no! More calls! More squealing and giggling!

I had a terrifying glimpse into my future, there, as my daughter lounged in a chair with a leg slung up over the arm, yakking on the phone. Hold me.

Eventually it was time for the kids to head off with Daddy for a bit, and I was left with explicit instructions as to what to do when her other friends called back. She called twice while they were gone, to check. And I had several interesting conversations while she was away, too.

Me: Hello?
Girl: HellothisisGirlisChickadeethere?
Me: I’m sorry, sweetie, she’s at her dad’s. Can I take a message for her?
Girl: Yes.
Me: And you would like me to tell her…?
Girl: Ummmmmm.
Me: Okay. How about you tell me what teacher you got for third grade?
Girl: Oh! I got Mrs. Soandso.
Me: Okay, Chickie will be disappointed you’re not in the same class, but I hear Mrs. Soandso is really nice. I’ll let Chickie know you called. She’ll probably call you back tomorrow. Okay?
Girl: Okay!
Me: Anything else?
Girl: Ummmmmm.
Me: Okay, honey, she’ll call you tomorrow. Bye!
Girl: Bye!

By the time Chickadee returned, we’d found three friends who’d be joining her in her new class. This put her in such a jovial mood, when I sent the kids upstairs to get ready for bed, for several minutes all I could hear was Monkey laughing hysterically. I don’t know what she was doing to him. I probably don’t want to know. Eventually they ricocheted off the walls and each other enough times that they landed in their pajamas and then their beds.

Monkey kissed me and rolled over onto his stomach to sleep.

Chickadee wanted to KEEP CHATTING. Because lord knows, there had not been enough with the talking, yet. She wanted to know what we would do tomorrow, on our first official day of summer vacation. I named a few errands. Musing aloud, I remembered that I need to order new birth certificates for the kids, as theirs have gone missing. And Monkey isn’t officially allowed to enter school until I present his birth certificate.

“Why do you need THAT?” Chickadee asked me.

“I don’t know, honey. They just want to be sure that you kids are who I say you are, and that you belong with me, and that you’re American citizens, I think.” Honestly, I was guessing. I have no idea why they need to see his birth certificate. Maybe in case he’s actually 40 and not 6?

“What if he WASN’T an American citizen?” she asked.

“Hmmmm. Good question! You know what, I’m not sure.” I was feeling more and more idiotic by the moment. Also I really wanted to just have some SILENCE. I didn’t want to discuss the finer points of birth certificate presentation. I wanted her to go to sleep and BE QUIET.

“What if he was born in another country?” she pressed.

“I just told you, sweetie, I don’t know.”

“What if he was born ON PLUTO?”

I was still laughing when I got back downstairs. All that noise… it’s worth the headache, I think.


  1. Izzy

    We take care of our own, first.

    That just sounds so…un-schoolish.

    Doesn’t it?

  2. Shash

    I WISH we got our teacher assignments at the end of the year. My sister-in-law is a teacher in a MA school, and she tells me about how that works every year, while I stew down here in FLA because we don’t get that. We find out who our teachers are the day before school starts. It totally sucks, epecially when you have a child that could do better going into he summer knowing where he is going.

    Anyway, enough about me… :)

    Glad you caught that toad. Now you’re catching toad cool mom.


  3. Melissa

    Our school has idiots working in the office too! They work so hard on anti-bully programs when they act like bullies.

    My youngest starts Kindergarten in the Fall & I still have to get her birth certifcate. I can’t believe we have never got it yet.

    I like the fly protection hat. Good idea! But could your hair grow warts & is your son really from Pluto or is he from Disney World. That was a funny one. That will be a good question to remind her when she is grown up.;)

  4. Peek

    I’m thinking that Pluto would bite him in the butt…. because he doesn’t like to be laid on. LOL. Get it, Pluto….dog…. Oh, nevermind. Happy summer, stock up on lots of Tylenol. Don’t feel too bad, I’m waiting to hear on Nick’s assignment for next year too.

  5. Christina

    We take care of our own??? Are you kidding me? This is public school? My oldest will be entering kindergarten in the fall so this is all new to me, but come on…

    Good luck to them both next year!

  6. Zuska

    Hmmmm, what are the odds that “we take care of our own” is NOT the company line she was supposed to deliver to inquiring parents? What a fool! And what a foolish policy – it makes absolutely no sense.

    We also don’t get teacher assignments until late August – and I’m sure it is so that you have very little time to complain or try to coerce the principal into a change.

    Anyway, enjoy the first! official! day! of! summer! And keep those toads handy, lol!!!

  7. tori

    At our school, you ARE allowed to request teachers and they do try to put you where you request. EXCEPT third grade, where there is one teacher no one seems to like. Guess what grade my daughter will be in next year? I have never requested a teacher, because honestly I have no idea which personality my daughter (and now my son and other daughter too with first grade starting for them next year!) will get along with best. Whenever I try to guess at what my children might or might not like (even as simple as trying to guess what color or food they like) I am wrong, so why would I even attempt it with a teacher. I always hope somehow fate will put them with the teacher they belong with. It is much more stressful for me than it is for them though! I can believe the office staff *thinks* things like “we take care of our own first” but I can’t believe they actually *said* it to you! If it were me, I would try to forget I ever heard that, although it would be pretty difficult! Also, why are the teacher assignments so secretive? Craziness!

  8. Bob

    we always got the third degree when presenting our kids’ birth certificates. They were issued by the U.S. Embassy in Athens as they both were born on the island of Crete. Try explaining that to the school administraters in back woods Georgia. Yes, they are american citizens. No they aren’t Greek. (Although for show-and-tell in the 3rd grade my daughter took her Greek birth certificate.)

  9. Latte Man

    Well, now you can certain you will be the LAST person to get assignments.

    As I have recently, painfully become aware, the Administration of the Public School System is made up of the most demonic, mean spirited, spiteful, vengance minded, and self-important twits in the world.

    Well, at least they are around here, and it sounds like you at the very least got some of our trainees.

  10. Bethany

    As a public servant (former special education preschool teacher currently posing as a stay at home mom), I can tell you what we did. I have no idea if this is what YOUR school is doing, but maybe.

    We had four classrooms to divide the kids between. Every year we sat down and first divided up the kids we had. We did this because we knew the kids, new their ability levels, and knew their personalities. We usually had 4 or 5 kids who were more involved (had more special needs) and we tried to put one in each classroom. We then moved on to the students we knew were incoming and divided them up equally among the classrooms. Finally, we left slots open for students we didn’t yet know about. (Of course we did this all in one day and always before the end of the school year, so all parents found out their placement at once.)

    My guess is this is what your very unprofessional woman on the phone was trying to say — that they first placed the kids they knew and then place the kids they don’t know.

    I know it sounds better just to roll the dice and place kids randomly, and it may in fact be better, but a lot of schools like to sort out caseloads and try to head off any problems ahead of time.

    That said, the woman you talked to today spoke to you like a jackass. No one deserves to be treated that way, and you have a history with the school.

    Good luck!

  11. Lisa

    Take care of their own first..?? The hell? This sounds like how they’d manage an elementary school on a Lost episode.

    The frogs – with all your rain, I bet that’s not the last frog you’ll see this summer.

    And, Chickadee will soon decide her brother is actually from Pluto.

  12. Ashley

    The image of you riding the scooter home powered by the donut induced sugar high is wonderful.

    And don’t you wish kids came with on/off switches?? Just for those times when you NEED them to stop talking.

  13. InterstellarLass

    Idiots work in school offices. Any kind of bureaucratic system employs idiots. That way they don’t question the idiotic system.

    What would a night of no chatter be like? Silence is a treasure!

  14. Waya

    Yup! My son’s last day of kindergarten was yesterday and today was all about “I’m bored!” Man! The summer just started for crying out loud.

    This will be a very long summer!

  15. Amy-Go

    My guess is that the woman you spoke to is not the top of the totem pole, so to speak. I’d call again tomorrow and try to speak with her superior. I’d tell them exactly what she said and why you found it upsetting…especially the part about acting like your kid was gum on the bottom of her shoe. Your child is about to start his career at this school and I think you probably want to make it clear right off the bat that you will not tolerate being treated this way. You are Monkey’s best advocate…and a taxpayer, too! Now go kick some bureaucratic behind. ;)

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