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Type-A Twitch – Part 1

April 17, 2008

I am a big fan of organization. I have a serious addiction to places like Organized Living, The Container Store, Ikea, the basket section at Hobby Lobby, and what my husband affectionately refers to as “the organizational crap aisle” at Wal-Mart. I love Rubbermaid containers in all shapes and sizes, baskets, hanging shoe bags, space-saving pants hangers, labels, and hooks of any kind. And? I am a planner. I have a calendar on the wall of the kitchen that reminds us of every soccer game, dance practice, tooth cleaning appointment, veterinary appointment, allergy shot, therapy time slot, church activity, and anything else we can fit in the boxes for each day.

I do not like surprises. I do not like changes in plans. I do not like last-minute activities, or anything else that doesn’t fit in with my regularly scheduled program.

Call me OCD, call me anal retentive, call me Type-A. Whatever. In a family of six, blended the way we are, with three in elementary school and one in middle school, with both My Hubby and I working full-time, parenting time schedules to deal with, and the biological parent of three of the kiddos absolutely uninvolved in anything related to their care, organization is paramount… it’s imperative. It’s not optional. The schedule is the only way I can reasonably maintain my sanity.

So let’s suffice it to say that mucking with my plans makes me slightly grouchy. If it’s My Hubby or one of the kids that has changed the program (unintentionally), I can generally roll with it. But when it’s someone outside of our little circle, I get downright annoyed.

Case in point? Daphne’s Middle School. Since the beginning of this school year, they have been the touchstone of disorganization for schools across our district. They have set the standard on sending things home at the last minute, failing to notify us of important dates and events, lack of communication in general, and resisting the information age by not posting required things on their website. This school year has been an exercise in frustration for all of us, especially Daphne… followed a close second by me.

We started the year with Daphne trying out for a school play. She was very excited about it, as she had participated in her school play the year prior (at the elementary school) and really enjoyed it. When she tried out, I asked her what the practice schedule looked like because we would have to work out dropping her off early, having her leave school later than normal release, etc., since she is attending the after-school program at the elementary school still. We don’t have the flexibility of parents who have one parent at home. I have to know these things in advance. Of course she had no idea. There was no schedule that had been released.

More than just the before- and after-school schedule, I wanted Daphne to understand the commitment level required for this particular endeavor. Was it like the previous year when she had practices before school a couple of times per week until the performance? Or was it more often? How many weeks did she have before the performance? We got nothing. She knew nothing. The teacher sponsoring the whole deal did not yet have the schedule put together. She tried out anyway, excited at the prospect of being chosen for an important part.

Cut to a month later, when the teacher actually posted the names of those selected to perform. Daphne’s name was evidently on the list, and I got a phone call at work. Daphne had discovered her name on the list and was calling to tell me that the teacher had released the practice schedule for the performance… that day. On that day, the day she released the schedule, the kids were supposed to stay after school for the first practice… until 5:30. Sigh. Muckin’ with my program. I agreed to pick her up at 5:30, put in a call to the after-school program to let them know that she wouldn’t be there, and finished out my day.

When I arrived to pick her up at 5:30, she was near tears. We sat in the parking lot for a few minutes while I tried to figure out what was going on with her. She finally told me that she had not understood how many practices she would have. There were three after-school practices per week, and two before-school practices per week. She was already doing Choir and was required to be there two days per week before school, by 7:30am. She said she felt like she would be at school forever… almost every day. But she was pretty bummed that she put forth the effort to try out and then was going to back out of doing it.

I agreed with her. I was pretty annoyed that the teacher hadn’t set the stage (no pun intended) for what was expected of the kids prior to tryouts. I was also annoyed that I had to shift my work schedule around, and make phone calls to the after-school program, to accomodate the late pickup because the teacher hadn’t released a practice schedule before the actual first day of practice. I was doubly annoyed that Daphne had gone from excitement to despair in the short span of one day.

Surely I’m not the only person around that has more than one child, works a full-time job, and deals with blended family issues. Surely I’m not the only person around with at least one of those things on the plate. I can’t possibly be the only one out there who finds this kind of lack of organization unacceptable. I mean, seriously… I understand that they’re teaching a LOT of kids at one time. I understand that in Middle School teachers have to shuffle through and remember 200+ kids every day. I understand that their workload is heavy. And I do–I really do–appreciate the effort they put into teaching kids the ins and outs of music, PE, art, math, science, and English. I do. And I understand that they’re mightily underpaid.

But I don’t understand, especially in an environment like Middle School, where organizational skills would seem to me to be tantamount to success, why they can’t seem to let parents know these things ahead of time. I can’t understand why it would NOT make sense to have the whole program put together before try-outs. I can’t understand why they wouldn’t be encouraging kids to make educated commitments. I really can’t understand why they would not be posting these things on the website. Crazy, I tell you… all of it.

Daphne and I discussed it for a few more minutes, during which I told her that I thought her feelings about being at school that much were valid, but that she had made a commitment to be a part of this production and that she would need to talk with the teacher about bowing out of it. We talked a little about the importance of planning for things like this, of understanding what one might be getting oneself into, of taking in the whole picture before deciding that one piece would be a good idea.

Daphne is a good egg. She’s not a flighty kid. She doesn’t take her commitments lightly. She genuinely felt bad that she signed up to do it and then changed her mind. She agonized about telling the teacher–thinking that the teacher would be, at best, disappointed in her, at worst, angry. I reminded her again that she had made her initial decision without enough information, and that she needed to let the teacher know that. I assured her that her conversation with the teacher would go well if she was honest and forthright, and that her conversation might help students next year to have more information ahead of time.

She did follow through and had the discussion with the teacher, who was very understanding. I was proud of her for working through the issue, for being honest with herself about how much she could actually do, and for going to talk to the teacher. I chalked this one up to a learning experience–something we would be on the lookout for next year when Velma moved into the Middle School. I thought perhaps it was just this one teacher, that she might work harder over the course of the rest of the year to get information out in a timely fashion, that we had seen the last of that kind of disorganization for the year.

Boy, was I wrong.

Tomorrow? 450 sixth graders – Let ’em loose at the mall…

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. April 17, 2008 7:57 am

    450 sixth graders? Loose in the mall? Have they warned the mall yet?
    (Pushing jaw back together…)

    Good for your Good Egg in figuring out what was going to be okay in her world and what wasn’t going to be okay.

    And yes, although I am not as busy as you, don’t mess with my schedule. It makes me twitch.

  2. April 17, 2008 8:50 am

    I wish schools would be more respondent to parents working full time / more than one child / and more than one house hold.

    Our middle school had an event that was for incoming sixth graders… I had to call to get the information because it needed to be planned in our summer scheduling for parenting time. The school said, “Well, we don’t really schedule that this early.”

    I answered that surely I was not the only parent that had to plan summer parenting time and would need the information earlier than say August. They couldn’t even give me a ballpark of which summer month, June or July, they would be having it.Ends up, both of our eldest missed the event because of parenting time.

    As for the number of times that Britt has called to tell me she has to do something that day… more than I care to share!

    -d

  3. April 17, 2008 9:10 am

    In this day and age, there is no excuse for a lack of communication.

    I, too, am a Type-A organization freak. Which probably explains why I have been pulling my hair out trying to plan a program for all of my 1st, 2nd and 3rd graders. It has made me nuts trying to get them to turn in T-shirt money while at the same time I am trying to figure out how to make sure that each of my 4th and 5th graders has a recorder so I can start teaching that.

    Ick.

    On the flip side of things, I have had more than my fair share of being screwed over by school stuff. My principal truly lacks the skills to run a building, and it has been one thing after another this year. The latest: in January I contacted him and the building secretary to secure a date for a performance for my 1st, 2nd and 3rd graders in May. THEY chose the date and I confirmed it with all the necessary parties.

    Once I had the date, I did 3 MONTHS worth of lesson planning to ensure that the kids would be prepared for the performance. At conferences in March I set the teachers up with a little half-sheet to pass out to parents about the date and time of the concert. That’s when the first phone call came in. My concert was at the exact same time as the middle school band concert and some families didn’t want to have to choose which one to attend. So, my wuss of a principal told me I had to change the date. I told him no and called the middle school to see if they would adjust their start time. I adjusted my start time as well—-problem solved.

    Until a couple weeks ago. I get an e-mail from one of the second grade teachers telling me “FYI, the 2nd grade will be gone on a Field Trip the day of the concert.” FABULOUS. Because not only will they be EXHAUSTED by the concert that night, I also lose my dress rehearsal and school performance because they will be gone. Despite the fact that this is not the only field trip they will be on this year AND this concert represents 3 MONTHS of CURRICULUM in my room—-my wuss of a principal let them go on the field trip and made me cancel the morning performance/dress rehearsal.

    So, after this long winded gripe, the moral of the story is: it isn’t a teacher thing, a parent thing or a school thing. When you are dealing with morons you have to expect the unexpected. I figured all of my bases were covered when I let the front office choose the concert date. Instead, they didn’t do their jobs and continue to expect me to sacrifice to solve their problems.

    On another note, I will be writing on my blog soon (if I can get my wits about me) once again about how schools don’t do enough for divorced families. I wrote a post in the beginning days of my blog on this subject “Working Together for the Benefit of the Kids” that addresses some of these things. I still get a lot of traffic on that one if you care to check it out in my archives.

    I feel for you Stephanie!

  4. April 17, 2008 7:19 pm

    Hey – you’re writing about me again! I also do not like surprises or not like changes in plans. And I do not welcome last-minute activities.
    But at my current job, this is the status quo. It’s an unwritten rule that you’ve got to surprise your staff with multiple changes in plans and tons of last-minute activities. That’s how you get to the top, by doing what we refer to as “drive-bys.”

    I’ve adapted to that chaos. Additional chaos from being a mom. And more recent chaos from all the other drama I recently shared.

  5. April 17, 2008 9:46 pm

    While I generally do okay in those occasional fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants scenarios, I don’t have 4 children living with me full time. Schools should plan a little better, for sure. I don’t blame you for getting a case of the grumps when something messes up the plan.

    I’m proud of Daphne for her maturity and admitting when she’d accidentally bitten off more than she could chew.

    I wish I was a LOT more organized than I am. Maybe you should write an organization book!! I’ll be first in line to buy it!! I promise! But, I want mine autographed by the bestest cousin ever!!

  6. April 17, 2008 11:10 pm

    We had a really fun adventure last night…
    Elementary school was having a “Family Fun Night” for students enrolled in K-4th grade, no one older or younger could attend… They announced this that morning! Ok, fine, I could leave my middle schooler home with my preschooler. They get along great and he does a good job of watching him and playing with him, and he is old enough… Problem solved right? Wrong! Middle schooler comes home after a team meet and informs me he has a Business fair to attend until 6:00pm. He just stopped by the house to invite me. Oh, and no one other then parent is allowed, so his siblings would have to stay home… Uhm….. No can do, eldest elementary kid isn’t old enough to watch younger siblings, and I just plane out don’t trust her… And I had NO time to get a babysitter or anything!!! So not only did I miss out on the “Family Fun” night at the elementary school, I also missed the Business Fair at the Middle School! Don’t I feel shitty now..

  7. Tulip Girl permalink
    April 18, 2008 5:39 am

    Ummmm this is the school that you encouraged me to send Son #2 to. Misery loves company?

  8. April 18, 2008 7:16 am

    GOOD LORD! 450 sixth graders in the mall? What is God’s name are these people thinking!

    I am with you on the type A thing, and my hubs while he’s a neat freak isn’t the type A, he’s a fly by the seat of your pants. The most frustrating thing for me to deal with is our inability to get everyone out of the house on a timely manner when we have the kids.

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