High School, again

Today I mistakenly went to a high school music parents booster meeting. I have not generally done well as a booster parent. I find that booster parents don’t seem to have moved on since high school. Remember in Desperate Housewives when Lynette is trying to be accepted by the other preschool moms? Good comedy is always based on truth.

I do not feel particularly welcomed by booster parents. I suspect part of this is because I work. I’ve seen other parents (moms, who am I kidding?) rejected for this. Part of it is that my kids are not the superstars. Part of it is probably the wheelchair. Being around booster parents immediately reduces me to the emotional level I was at in high school.

So there we are, sitting in little rows in school chairs. I am sitting off to the side of the second row. The teacher passes around a volunteer sign up sheet which appears to be 5 or 6 pages long. This thing goes around very slowly, as every mom who gets it first looks extremely surprised, then apparently has to study it with the intensity of a Kabbalah disciple.

The sign up sheets make it down the first row. They are coming towards me in the second row. The woman next to me in the second row gives them extra scrutiny. She is turned away from me. “What can I do if I work?” she asks no one in particular. “I want to help, but I can’t come to the school in the middle of the day to help with bookkeeping. Can I do some computer work at home in the evening?”

“Do you have a Mac?” the teacher asks, with the certain knowledge that she does not. She tries to engage him in a little platform independent speculation, but he has already turned away.

She lifts the sign up sheets in a little gesture of resignation. Hopeful that I will get my chance to sign up for something, I turn towards her, start to smile, start to reach out my hand. She glances at me briefly, turns away from me, and hands the sheets to the woman behind her.

I watch the sheets pass through several more sets of hands. The teachers are no longer talking to us, so the only thing left to do is to wait for the sign up sheets. Third row. Fourth row. The woman currently holding the sheets is talking to the band director. I decide not to be a passive martyr, and go over to her. “Do you mind if I look at those while you have your conversation?” She either doesn’t hear me or ignores me. She abruptly stops talking and starts studying the sheets. I retreat to my previous position. After a while she stands up and walks over to me. “Did you want this?” she asks sternly, holding the sheets firmly. “Whenever you’re done,” I say. She walks away to consult with the band director some more. After a few minutes I decide that there probably isn’t anything on there that can be done by a working mom, put on my coat, and leave.



  1. Susan

    Oy. And schools wonder WHY parental involvement is so spotty. Years ago I learned that 9 out of 10 adults, when asked about their most ‘humiliating experience’ describe something that happened to them in school…usually perpetuated by an adult. Apparently that doesn’t cease when kids become parents and need to engage with schools on their kids behalf. Sorry for the rant.

  2. Katja (Post author)

    No apologising! I ranted first.

    It is weird that, on the one hand, teachers would really seem to benefit from parents’ help, but on the other, they seem so reluctant to actually use it.

    Last year I dutifully went to the musical volunteer meeting, signed up for the three things that did not seem to involve hauling crates in and out of the car (publicity, doing the program, and something else) and was never contacted about doing any of them. I even called, twice, so it’s not like I’m not taking initiative.

    I suspect that in the end, the teachers rely on the tried and true subset of parents who always do the work, because it’s easier. It’s nice for those parents, too, because then they get to feel indispensible.

  3. mdmhvonpa

    Urgh. I’m getting a sinking feeling that the PTA is just an outreach group for parents who never entered the work-force.

  4. Patricia Tryon

    It often seemed that way to me, md. There is a box that seems to get smaller and tighter as kids progress through the grades and it always seemed very clear to me that people did not want to or were unable to think outside it.

    This is probably terrible to admit, but eventually it seemed to me that it was no great sin to allow other folks (who am I kidding? other _women_) to over-function. Occasionally I still feel a little guilty about not feeling guilty *shrug*

  5. Stephen

    Even as a home-dad, volunteering in the school – which was very important to me – was uncomfortable. Maybe because I’m a man, maybe because I wasn’t one of the inner circle of volunteer moms, who knows. I did it for years, finding that so many of the kids wanted to be physical with me – wrestling, tickling, etc. – which of course was not allowed (What? My child was touched by a man? Horrors!) I figured they needed contact with a man, but, again, who knows. The whole thing turned me off, and I’m glad that my kids are in high school, and I’m not expected to be in their classrooms.


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