Thursday, October 8, 2009

Things I hate about your school.

Dear School Secretary:

My job isn't easy. I don't get to go to work in the same place every day. I travel long distances with heavy equipment, lugging it across parking lots and down hallways, usually to the detriment of all of the muscles in my back. I go new places and have to talk to new people all the time. I deal with about a hundred kids per afterschool session. Every school has its own rules, idiosyncrasies, and insane rituals, which I have to memorize and follow. Here's a list of the things I hate but have deal with, smiling.

1. Parking lots with parent pickups.
Some schools have nice big parking lots and lots of spaces. However, when I arrive or an afterschool program, I usually find that I have to beat the parent rush. Not all schools have this, but a massive chunk of them do. Parents line the streets like vultures, waiting in their minivans and SUVs with stickers that say "My Child Is An Honor Student At _____" and logos with the school mascot. The elementary school mascot. The cars are lined up as close to the school as possible, and parking is not allowed except for the back of the lot----and that's if you can find a space. Sometimes when I have a long walk I'm able to drop my kit off at the door, park, and then come back for it, but not when there's a line of cars at the entrance... I know I love a good quarter-mile walk with my good old bin. (I wish my hand truck wasn't broken. I wish my job paid me enough to purchase a new hand truck that wouldn't break. Even so, even if I HAD a hand truck, your asshole school would have stairs, and lots of them. Handicap access? What?)

2. Prison lockdown.
I don't know when this started happening. Schools weren't like this when I was a kid. Doors are locked during school hours and in order to get into the building, you need to ring the doorbell and be buzzed in. I understand why, what with all the loonies walking around and wandering into elementary schools every day (tch). Still, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, I suppose, except that everyone knows that the real loonies wait around in vans outside the school.

3. Visitor badges.
I get it. I do. The people who aren't on the staff at the school need to be accounted for. They can't just wander about willy-nilly. I don't mind signing the log. However, a lot of schools use sticky-label badges to mark their visitors, and they don't stick to my polyester lab coat. My lab coat has the name of my company on it and my professor name. I guess if I were a complete skeez I would wear this around when abducting kids, but ... no. Anyway, it gives you peace of mind and I'm glad to comply, but that damn sticky badge doesn't stick to my coat.

4. No prep time.
I don't think you get it. I don't arrive half an hour early to sit in the office and dick around. I arrive half an hour early to get into my classroom and set up, so that I don't waste time when the kids arrive. I need to have things set up and organized so the class goes smoothly, so the kids are happy, so the parents are happy, and so the school is happy. I need this time. Everything I have is shoved (neatly) in a bin. I have to take stuff out and find it and lay it out. I have to mix chemicals and lay out materials. If you tell me I have a 3:15 class and I can't get into my room until 3:10 when I arrived at 2:45? You were told I needed 30 minutes in an empty room. You knew this and you complied. Don't give me doe eyes and act like those five minutes are a big inconvenient gift you're giving me.

5. Earlybirds.
I need time to prep. Sometimes I have to set up secret things that the kids aren't allowed to see. Don't tell me I have to set up in front of the kids. They touch things, they crowd me, they ask questions. Set-up and clean-up are my zen private time. I'm not a babysitter, and I can't set things up if you give me a high-traffic area... say, a classroom that still has kids in it (which only pisses off the teacher), or the cafeteria, where all the kids are waiting for dismissal or other programs. No. No, no, no. I don't want to sound like a diva, but would you like it if you got to your office in the morning and had a bunch of kids talking and staring and trying to touch your stuff? I didn't think so.

6. Miscommunication.
School offices have a lot to deal with. Between parents being obnoxious and teachers being whiny, a school secretary has a lot on his or her plate. But you know what? Y'all need to fucking talk to one another. The principal needs to write sticky notes for his staff and let them know that I'm coming and where I need to be. Write it down somewhere. Put it on a calendar. This Professor gets cranky when you send her to the wrong room----the cafeteria, full of kids, with two other programs going on----force her to set up, and then have the principal redirect her to the proper room with five minutes to set up. That's like a triple-whammy and this Professor has a tantrum. Privately. Because I smile through it and hide the fact that I'm shaken and frazzled.

7. Your attitude.
Just... seriously. Would it kill you to be nice? Your job sucks, I know. It's got to be a bitch to work in an elementary school all day, every day, and take phone messages. But unlike you, school secretary, I don't live down the road, and I don't just amble in at 6:30 with my coffee and sit down and get ready to make miserable people more miserable until 3 or 4 PM. I'm sure your job warrants that level of crankiness, but if I can drag a sixty-pound bin across a badly-placed parking lot, balance it to ring your buzzer, carry it into the office, sign in, put on a visitor badge, and then lug my kit down six hallways and up a flight of stairs only to have you tell me you had my classroom assignment wrong and that my kids are coming in early so now I have no time to set up and STILL have a fucking smile on my face, so can you.

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