Yesterday was the Prince’s very last day of high school, ever. That’s right, both my kids are officially done with basic edumacation.
Seniors traditionally get out of school a week or so early, so graduation can be arranged before the end of the technical “school year”.1 Which means I’ve spent a couple weeks in a constant round of emails, literally forcing school administrators to do their jobs so the process will go as smoothly as possible for my youngest child.
The teachers have been wonderful all through this. But administration is another kettle of fish entirely. I am forced to the conclusion that in education, as in many other industries, a vast proportion of petty Napoleons habitually rise to the level of their incompetence and do their level best to keep their jobs by inflicting needless torment and paperwork upon the rest of us.
Don’t try to convince me otherwise.
The Prince started the day by getting up early, going over the list we’d made the night before of all necessary items, then tucking a mask in his pocket and shouldering his backpack to walk down to the school. It’s not a long ramble; it’s even enjoyable in good weather. He could have biked, walked, or rode the bus in any normal school year; the pandemic, of course, meant “remote learning”.
I will say the school district’s relatively long-ago decision to invest in cheap but robust laptops for all high school students was a good decision–one of the few. We’re privileged enough to have the hardware for him to do the remote learning without that help, but it was nice to have the school-issued gear and frankly, I would not have sent him into the petri dish during lockdown like the superintendent was making noises about insisting on. I’d’ve pulled him out and just let him take the GED test when things calmed down.
I did not spend millions of calories raising this child to have the malignant neglect of an administrator infect and literally kill him. No, indeed.
Anyway, yesterday was Seniors’ Last Day, which meant turning the laptops and all paperwork in. Of course none of it could be done early, partly because of lockdown and partly because they want to squeeze every last ounce of control over the kids to the max.
And it was, as anticipated, an utter shitshow from an organizational point of view.
Admin: “This is all the paperwork you need to graduate.”
Me: “This is ALL the paperwork? In toto? This is EVERY PIECE of paperwork? There are no hidden pieces?”
Admin: “Why would you ask that? This is everything.”
Me: “This is absolutely everything? You are prepared to swear in writing this is everything necessary?”
Admin: “Why don’t you phone us so we can chat?”
Me: “Because I want a record of everything said. You swear in writing this is everything necessary, every piece of paperwork necessary for graduation?”
Admin: “Yes. We swear.”
The Prince: *walks to school* *turns in everything on the list* “Now, this is everything, right?”
Admin: “Well, there’s one more piece. And it requires running all over the school.”
The Prince: “You mean the school where kids below the vaccination-age are attending classes? You mean a senior who might not have been able to get vaccinated yet2 has to run around the ENTIRE school filling this out?”
Admin: “Of course.” *pause* “Oh, and it needs a parental and counselor signature too.”
The Prince: *texting me* “Um, Mum? They did it…”
Of course we knew they were going to pull some bullshit. But that wasn’t even the final touch. The “senior counselor”3–whose signature was necessary on this piece of paperwork they were dropping on kids at the last minute–had decided yesterday was a marvelous time to take a half-day off.
So the Prince brought the piece of paper home. I signed it, put on my heels4, and drove him back to the damn school after the “senior counselor’s” expected arrival. Then I waited in the parking lot, engine running, and by the gods if I had to turn the car off and go into that complex of buildings, there were going to be fireworks.
Some time later, the Prince strode out, head high, and I knew from his body language that all had been a success. He got in the car, tossed his backpack into the back seat, tore his mask off, and heaved a sigh. “It was,” he said, “a circus in there.”5
I contented myself with two words. “All done?”
If the answer had been no I would have slapped on a mask and gone forth to do battle. But thankfully, my youngest child grinned at me and announced, “All done. I’m free.”
On the bright side, learning how to work an unwieldy bureaucracy, leveraging any inch of privilege one has, is a highly useful life skill. And, as I told him, sadly this sort of thing is the rule rather than the exception in adult life. It’s good to get the lesson and attendant practice out of the way early; they’ve seen me problem-solve this sort of thing all their lives.
I must mention the one piece of school bureaucracy which had its shit together6 was the library crew, who where stellar and which surprises me not at all.
We returned home in victory, had celebratory pho–his favorite meal, one we haven’t had since lockdown started because he kind of prefers the restaurant experience–delivered for lunch, and the Princess came home early from work. Upon hearing the tale she grinned with relief. “Yeah, *senior counselor*’s always been useless. I’d’ve been in the office at 6am to prep for the seniors’ last day.”
Which made the Prince and I laugh like hyenas, because it was exactly what I’d said in the car.
All vastly improved from there, with the Prince retreating to his room for video games, the Princess baking a special celebratory Oreo cake, and a quiet afternoon while the dogs calmed down because omg the humans had left them aloooooone in the hoooooouse for a half-hoooooooour.7
I couldn’t settle, so I was extremely online the rest of the day. And after dinner, we lit a candle and sang the family anthem, and that was wonderful. I was misty-eyed.
But the administration wasn’t done. There had to be a final fuck-you from them to surpass their usual practice for both kids’ school careers and crown the further mess of the damn pandemic year.
Yes, my beloveds, I got an automated call that evening from the school, informing me that my student “had been absent unexcused for one or more class periods today.”
I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. I’ve been engaged in sort of a running skirmish with the attendance office all damn year-plus-long lockdown, because they have not bothered to get their ducks in a row and put some goddamn protocols and procedures in place for the kids (at first ALL the students, then later just a SIGNIFICANT PROPORTION) doing remote learning. It appears completely beyond them, though there are at least three adults in that single office alone whose entire job remit is “attendance.”
So I had to email them one last time, politely pointing out that there was no way my senior could have attended classes since it was the last day and the damn laptop used for sign-in had been turned in as the school had requested, and they would reply with verification that they had fixed the problem and furthermore would not do this again for the rest of the school year or I would be in touch. Because I wouldn’t put it past them to hold his diploma or transcripts hostage if every last i wasn’t dotted and t wasn’t crossed.
I will, gods willing, never have to force those people to do their jobs ever again. The Princess, of course, fixed me with a mischievous look when I muttered as much at the dinner table.
“Just watch,” she said. “You’re going to foster some kid, and they’re going to go to school, and the school’s gonna try something. And then they’ll see your name pop up in their email notifications and the earth will tremble.”
It’s not that I like being adversarial, I swear. It’s just that when you’re dealing with a child I have taken responsibility for, by every god that ever was, you will behave properly or I will make you, and if you still refuse to behave properly, I will end you. It’s that simple. I don’t ask for special treatment, I am content with you doing your goddamn stated job.
I’m sure I sound bitchy and rude, but when it comes to protecting one’s spawn, well, I’ll be as bitchy as I have to be. And again, the teachers have been stellar8, it’s just the petty, bullying faux-Napoleons who have turned in (far, far) less-than-satisfactory performance.
Same as it ever was, I’m sure. Petty bureaucratic bullshit will be with us lo unto the crack of doom. Otherwise things just might be too easy, and we can’t have that.
But it’s all done now. I’ve gotten both children through high school. I suppose a wee bit of pride is justified, though all I feel is the weary exhaustion and decompression of a major life goal reached. It was an Experience right down to the wire, as they say.
And…well, my children are hilarious, beautiful, kind, crackerjack-brilliant human beings. I can’t wait to see what they do next, and I’m utterly grateful both of them want me in their lives to witness it.
All’s well that ends well, and all that. I’ve got to get back to work…
…but that’s (say it with me) another blog post.