I haven't written here in ages, and I've skipped a soul-shoring trip to Maui, the first day of second grade (we scored an amazing teacher) and Jarrah's budding soccer career, which is blazing (as I expected--the kid doesn't share my scared-of-balls genes.)
But what has sent me scurrying for the benevolent cover of my blog is a problem that I have no idea how to fix. I signed up to be "Room Mom." I wanted to help. Let's be honest--I wanted to put my stamp on things. But I never should have done that. Because now I am being steamrolled by the twin Mack trucks of the campus mean moms.
Yes, yes, I'm overstating a bit. But at our first meeting, the two of them seemed to have everything all figured out--had I missed a previous meeting? The plan, as David described it, was to "shake down" the parents through a process of guilt and intimidation for large sums of money (this is public school, people!) which we would then use to purchase birthday, holiday, end-of-year and Teacher Appreciation Week gift baskets and gift cards in eye-brow raising denominations. I should add that I was instructed to email all the parents to clarify that they were still expected (I changed it to "welcome") to contribute individual gifts for all these occasions. I asked (reasonably, I thought) how much of the money would go back into the class? Again, public school: maybe the parents would like to see some of this money spent on class parties, or classroom supplies?
Apparently, I'm an idiot, and a stingy one at that. I was quickly schooled that parents would be contributing potluck items for the parties and we wouldn't spend one cent of the gift fund there. As for supplies, which I observed running low by second semester in first grade, I was told that I had been given an opportunity to donate these supplies at the beginning of the year, and I was welcome to take it.
That burned me. I followed that "suggested donations" list like it was gospel, and gave every item, some of them twice. It's also been suggested that I don't understand that teachers are "unpaid" (I guess she meant "underpaid") and "unappreciated" and the least we can do is lavish her with $500 (!!!!) worth of gift cards. The least we can do, people. The least.
Well, color me schooled. I mean, I taught for 18 years, but I had no idea that teachers are underpaid and unappreciated. Really? How weird. I always felt uber-paid and uber-appreciated, every minute of every day. And $500--bitch, please. I got at least $1,000 in swag every time I taught, because I'm just that awesome.
I would kind of like to quit, but I don't want our teacher thinking I have some kind of personality disorder or follow-through problem. But I can see lots of fun ahead as I tacitly cooperate with the total domination of the second grade, or I step aside and watch the room get leveled under a pile of BevMo and Macy's cards, flower arrangements from Costco and "Coffee Day Theme." I would kind of like to tattle to the teacher--really, that's what it would amount to--but maybe she'd like a say in where this absurd amount of money goes? She can't possibly want that much stuff. It makes it seem like we're overcompensating for our Talking Tina/Chucky Doll-type children--I don't need to do that. My child is a treat empty-handed.
And I do care, very much, about teachers, public education, and my daughter's classroom in particular. After all, I volunteered to do this thankless job. But seriously, I turned in my form on the first day so I could be eligible for art help and reading and stuffing folders and chaperoning field trips. More significantly, I will actually be providing P.E. for a P.E.-less school when I start teaching Nia to the class in a few weeks.
A friend reminded me that I'm not doing this to make friends with Mean Room Moms--I just want to be a part of my child's classroom experience and help out her teacher. I need to stay focused on that. But I can't decide if I should continue to fight the good fight, which is basically: "Let's save $100 of this money for classroom needs! We can even ask the teacher what she prefers!" or just lay down and let the gift baskets march over my body.
Any thoughts, Readers? If any of you are out there?