Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Oh, What Might Tomorrow Bring?

Forget all the nice stuff I said yesterday, positive day has passed. (though I would like to point out that it is ironic that my happy day happened on a Tuesday) Clearly, positive inconsequential events were not well-received, as no one had much to say about it, so I'm back to being my cynical self*.

So. My school has taken the lack of respect for teachers to an entirely new level. Teacher "Appreciation" Week is over and finished......enter Parent Volunteer Appreciation Week. No, I'm not kidding. Our counselor and secretaries were in charge of today's Volunteer Luncheon, a fine idea I think. I appreciate the parents who have volunteered more than anything in the world. Every year I have always written them personal and sincere notes of thanks accompanied by a nice plant. [Note: Though parents in K-3 are biting at the bit to be helping in the classroom and go on field trips, the novelty tends to wear off in the upper grades when the curriculum gets harder than they prefer to help with, the copy pile grows larger, and the kids start to become embarrassed by their hovering mommies.]

On to today's lunch. Since my room mom quit in December, I had five parents to thank for various tasks with which they have been a tremendous help. I invited them to the luncheon as instructed by the organizers and wrote it on my calendar. End of thought, right? Right! Until last week, when the luncheon planners kicked into overdrive and became intoxicated with the power and glory of organizing the event of the year: the school volunteer lunch.

We received an email filled with very explicit instructions. I read it carefully, and not without awe. I had never seen such specificities go into what I thought to be a fairly inconsequential event. Silly me....silly, silly me. This lunch had a theme. (our yard sale-esque teacher raffle last week did not, in fact, have a theme, in case you were curious.) "Puttin' On the Ritz", today's lunch was called. I know, because there was a handlettered sign emblazoned on the library door which declared it so. Our library had been shut down - for the day! - for these festivities. Nevermind that school isn't over yet and our kids still need to read like crazy, we had a volunteer lunch to put on.

But let's get back to that sign. Because behind it was the essence of the message. The entire non-fiction half of the library had been swathed in soft folds of white fabric - think wedding tent - and there was a red walkway lined with sparkling white Christmas lights leading the to the entrance to the parent gala. The entire scene was reminiscent of the red carpet at the Oscars. There was a tuxedoed mannequin bowing in the doorway. I swear.

Our first instruction in the email was: "Write each of your volunteers a thank you note for all of the hard work they've done for you." Hmmmm...I never would have thought of that. It's a good thing they told me. I happily wrote my thank you notes and had them in hand when entering today's luxury soiree.

It was our second instruction that disturbed me: "Wear black pants and a white shirt. You will be the servers for our lunch." Um, sorry.....what? I squinted and reread my direction. They were serious. They expected us to serve the parents as a waitstaff. You can imagine the collective excitement as my team (dressed in our uniforms, of course) entered the twinkling arch and passed into...wonderland. The library had been transformed into a sheer wonderland. The furniture was swathed in yards and yards of soft tulle. Soft, twinking white lights sparkled around the room and over tables to create a soft glow that permeated the atmosphere...the white covered tables had centerpieces comprised of crystal vases containing soft petaled flowers floating gently on the surface. The vases sat on mirrors and were flanked by tall pillar candles flickering in the semi-darkness. It was romantic, really.

After some not-so-subtle staring, we were quickly startled back into reality by the sound of our counselor and assistant principal snapping their fingers for us to hop to it. There were hungry, hard-working parent volunteers waiting to be served. These people people had copied papers and passed out flyers! They were famished! We rushed over to the - catered - lunch and reached for the plates. Which is where I nearly organized a wait staff strike.

There was a stack of large, black, shiny plates and there was a stack of smallish, white, 100-for-a-dollar styrofoam plates. The stacks were explicitly labeled with arrows. An arrow pointed to the black plates reading, "For the parent volunteers" and an arrow pointed to the white plates reading "For the teachers." Was this an intentional act of humiliation directed at the teachers? Could we be belittled in any other manner? Perhaps we could eat in the cafeteria with the kids? Could we shine your shoes while you eat?

I bit my tongue, took a deep breath and began serving. First, I took a drink order and then I filled plates, serving both to my parents, before humbly returning to the serving line to serve my own (white, styrofoam) plate with what remained of the food. All this under the watchful eye of the guidance counselor. The meal was fine, my parents were great, I made innumerable self-deprecating remarks about my humble servitude, but good grief. I had not expected something quite like that. What kind of world am I teaching in? Is this normal? I certainly can't wait to find out what tomorrow's event is. Maybe I'll get to wash parents' cars!

*It is important to note that while I am snarky and sarcastic on my blog, I really am a quite pleasant teacher at school. I do not harm children's psyches and am actually quite loveable.

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