Saturday, March 19, 2011

A rant

As I went looking through the file where I throw everything school related for Chongo, I came across his Freshman class request list. And that old anger at the way counselors have steered us wrong came bubbling back up into my stomach so that I sat there for several long minutes, just trying to recover.

We've had many negative and discouraging experiences, but do all the details matter? Today I saw proof that we really had tried to get the counselor's help in placing Chongo in the right art class. But we were never contacted and Chongo was placed in a beginning art class. After freshman year Chongo said, "I'm never taking another art class. It's such as waste of time." Which made me very sad, since he's actually good at art. Even his teacher at the end of the year told us, "he really didn't belong in this class." I know now it was my naievete as a parent, thinking I could rely on a counselor to be looking out for my child.

So this is a rant about counselors (Mr VB excluded, except that he retired just when we needed him most)...
  1. Every time I turn around I discover that something they told me, even insisted on is either entirely untrue or contradicted by the next counselor.
  2. When you don't take seriously something they said (" we don't change classes") they get angry despite your repeated experience of #1.
  3. They seem to think scheduling classes is formulaic, as if there's homogeneity among the 2500 kids trying to keep their heads above the academic water without losing interest or stamina or hope.
  4. It appears there's more interest in getting their schedule organized than in personalizing students schedules to best serve them.
  5. A pure, unadulterated prejudice against anyone who keeps her desk perfectly neat, devoid of papers, nothing out of place. Really? Okay maybe that's my own issue, but I believe it explains why this particular counselor does not understand the vagaries of my child.
A caveat: I am fully aware that counselors deal constantly with pushy, insistent parents who can only see their child's needs and not the larger community, and I am sure it can make them cynical. And I know there are many great counselors out there who have made a real difference in the lives of their students (did I mention Mr. VB?).

Now that Maia's filling out her high school registration form I had to email her counselor. "Surprise me," I wanted to say. Show me up, let me be wrong. Care about students as individuals, assume vocal parents might actually be saying something worthwhile, and above all, work imaginatively.

This time, I'm going to follow up.

P.S. I couldn't decide if I should publish this one... because a rant generally serves only to make me feel better, not to actually help anyone else. And I don't have any good advice. Except to counselors, which I mentioned, but which, if I were a counselor, I wouldn't even be able to hear after a rant... unless I was already a good counselor...

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Conversations in Middle School

A seventh grade conversation after I had used the desire to cheat as an example of internal conflict.

Argumentative Boy: "But what if you were a bad cheater. That would be external."
Me: "Yes, if you were caught, it would definitely be an external conflict."
Another boy (off-handedly): "That would be a sin."
Lovely, young girl (world-wearily): "Does anyone still sin these days?"

I would have loved to continue that conversation... but we were pressed for time and it wasn't on the sub plans!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Ash Wednesday

Ash Wednesday is upon us... and since it's so late this year, I've had a long time to think about what I might doforLent as in "what are you doing for Lent?" When I was growing up we never talked about Lent, but our church now celebrates Ash Wednesday with a service... so now I think about what I might doforLent.

The big question is always why.

A couple years ago I began to ask myself this question and was inspired by a poem by Mary Oliver called "Gethsemane" from her book Thirst. And it reflects on the poor disciples, falling asleep in the garden when Jesus was agonizing over the death to come, and the stars and wind that kept watch with him that night. In the Bible Jesus says "watch with me" and this is what I want to doforLent. I want to keep my eyes open to Jesus in this world, not to fall into the bleary sleep of everyday life. It takes intention, and open heartedness, and more courage, I am sure, than I have.

So I do acts of discipline, like pinches and slaps, to keep my eyes open during the long night of Lent. And sometimes I still fall asleep. Because, as Mary Oliver says, "this too/must be a part of the story."