As Week Two of my career as a High School Mom comes to a close, all I can say is “so far, so good.” Or, as Bill Clinton might put it, I am cautiously optimistic.
That’s a fairly glowing report coming from the likes of me.
As I wrote in my Lowcountry Weekly column, back-to-school time always tends to leave me feeling estranged from the human race. All the normal humans, anyway.
When I say “normal humans,” I mean those competent, together parents who are on board, on task, getting with the program, etc. etc. The ones who got their kids’ school supplies early, filled out the paperwork on time, bought uniforms in late June – when there were still uniforms left to buy – and actually like the fact that their kids wear uniforms.
I’m talking about those casually shipshape adults who can sit in a back-to-school parents’ meeting without feeling intimidated, overwhelmed, disoriented or slightly queasy. My child is in high school now, which means I’ve sat through plenty of these meetings, and if I had a dollar for each new acronym or buzzword I heard, failed to understand, then promptly forgot – only to be faced with learning new ones the following fall – I’d be a rich woman. Do they actually try to make edu-speak as robotic, mechanical and inhuman sounding as possible . . . or does it just turn out that way by accident?
Things got off to a bumpy start when Amelia received her schedule and found that she hadn’t been placed in her “elective” of choice – Dance. Nor had she been placed in her elective of second choice – Art. She had, in fact, been placed in Chorus. Now, being a choral singer myself, I found Chorus to be a delightful alternative, but this opinion was immaterial as my daughter does not fancy herself a singer nor have any interest in being in the school choir. What she fancies – and has fancied for 10 years now – is Dance.
So, she got herself a change-of-schedule request form, filled it out, and turned it in on time. We weren’t worried. We assumed the computer had made a mistake. We would follow the proper protocol and all would be well.
Several days later, I got a call from one of the school guidance counselors. The following (paraphrased) conversation ensued:
Counselor: Ms. Evans, I’m calling about Amelia’s change-of-schedule request form. She has asked to be placed in Dance, but Dance is full. We need to find an alternative class for her.
Me: But, my daughter is a dancer! She’s passionate about it. For years, we’ve been hearing about the great dance program at BHS. In fact, we’re actually zoned for BCHS, but decided to go to BHS instead – in part, because of the Dance program.
Counselor: I’m sorry, Ms. Evans. But Dance is full.
Me: But my daughter has been dancing for 10 years! She’s danced competitively. She was in the Gifted & Talented Dance Ensemble at her middle school. We decided NOT to take any after-school dance this year because we knew she’d be in the dance program at BHS! Isn’t there anything you can do?
Counselor: I’m sorry, Ms. Evans. But Dance is full. There’s nothing I can do.
Me: But Amelia did everything right! Filled out the paperwork last spring . . . got her change request form in on time. And she says all her friends got into Dance. Most of them aren’t even dancers. Some of them are boys who just signed up because they see it as an easy A. This doesn’t seem right!
Counselor: I’m sorry, Ms. Evans. More students signed up for Dance this year than usual. The students who got in were randomly selected by the computer.
Me: So you’re saying there’s nothing you can do?
Counselor: No ma’am. I’m sorry. There’s nothing I can do.
Me: Well, could you at least put her in Art? That was her second choice. She loves to draw. She’s very good!
Counselor: I’m sorry, Ms. Evans. But Art is full, too. I could put her in Google Apps. It’s a computer science. She has to have a computer science to graduate…
And on it went. Amelia ended up in Google Apps. It was better than Chorus (the horror!), but she was heartbroken about Dance.
And I was mad. The more I thought about all those dance-indifferent kids who’d signed up for an “easy A” – and that damn computer that had “randomly selected” them – the angrier I got.
So I decided to be one of “those” moms. I sent an email directly to the Dance teacher, explaining Amelia’s situation. Her love of dance, her talent, her experience, her commitment…
I started it like this:
I know this is the LAST thing you need at the beginning of the school year, but I’m hoping you can help me… or at least advise me.
I ended it like this:
I’m sorry for the long note, but I wanted you to have the backstory and to know how much this matters to my child. When the counselor told me on the phone that “these names were randomly selected by the computer,” something in me just welled up. It shouldn’t be that way. Not with dance.
As I hit “send,” I immediately had regrets. I envisioned the Dance teacher – this woman who didn’t know me or my daughter – rolling her eyes and thinking, “Great. Another one.” This was public school, after all. 1500 students. I’d already been told by the counselor – several times, and quite emphatically – that nothing could be done. Who did I think I was asking for special treatment?
Well. Amelia’s mom, that’s who.
The next morning, I received the following email from the Dance teacher.
Hi Ms. Evans,
I am so glad you emailed me. We definitely need to figure this out. I remember Amelia from Lady’s Island Middle School and am looking forward to working with her here at BHS. What I will do is recommend her for Dance 2, which isn’t as full as Dance 1. Our guidance works really hard to place students but sometimes we have a few who slip through the cracks. Without your email, we would not have known… Hopefully her schedule can be adjusted to accommodate Dance 2… If not, I will recommend she be placed in Dance 1. If you have any other questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me!
Also, please ask her to come see me Friday or Monday. We are gearing up for our National Honor Society for Dance Arts and we want her to join!
As I read her note, my eyes filled with tears. Just the simple kindness of it overwhelmed me. She cared. She actually cared. She even remembered my child – my daughter, the dancer. And she was going to help us.
An hour later, I received another phone call from the counselor – the one who’d said nothing could be done – telling me it was done.
The moral of the story is three-fold, I think:
#1) Computers are great, but they will never replace the human touch.
#2) When somebody tells you “there’s nothing I can do,” ask somebody else.
#3) When in doubt, ask a teacher.
Oh, and I guess there’s a #4: Never hesitate to be one of “those” moms.