Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Room Moms Are Evil

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?


Mrs. Chapman's 2nd Grade Class said...

Holy Moly!!!! I want you as my 2ng grade room mom!!! $500 gift cards are insane. I'd so much rather the parents get me things for my room. I mean let's be honest...I spend more than that anyway. I have never gotten gift cards like that and I haven't always taught in a low income area. When i was in a upper middle class school I got a $50 Starbucks gift card one year from my class and thought I hit the jackpot. I was always asked what things were needed for the room. Aside from supplies and such. Like learning games and center type things that aren't part of the normal supply list. I say stand your ground with those two wack jobs! Is this really what all the classroom moms do? Is it what's expected? If so send me an application! I'm moving to California!!!

Jen said...

Those moms seem totally over the top to me, too. And for them to make it out like you are trying to shortchange the teacher is just asinine. Of *course* the teacher deserves an entire week at a spa resort. But I suspect she would much prefer that if parents truly have $500 to throw around, they give a very large portion of it to the CLASS where ALL OF THE KIDS can benefit from it, which will also make her job easier and more rewarding. Gah. :-)

Stephanie said...

Have these women been successful with the shakedown in the past? They sound obnoxious and clueless. Have all the parents actually made the donations they are requesting?

We are getting hit up from every direction at our school, and I am most generous with those requests that are appreciative in the asking and for a specific purpose, ones that don't include a Nordstrom personal shopper.

As for teacher gifts, so far I have not been asked to participate in a joint monetary gift for the teacher. Instead I personally choose one of three gift cards: 1) $10-$20 Starbucks cards if my gift money has to go in several directions, and I have seen the giftees with a clear Starbucks habit. 2.) $50 Target card for the teacher that you want to have the choice to get something for herself or the classroom or 3.) $50Lakeshore card for the teacher that has worn-out Lakeshore booty in the class and has made it clear that she would enjoy a bit of a splurge.

I don't suppose the Twin Macks have put it to a vote with their donors, have they?

So glad to "hear" your voice.


Jenn said...

Well, my first reaction is that I want to teach your daughter in her school to get that kind of parent gift! WOWOWOWOW. But really... in light of the state of education these days, the higher class sizes, the loss of salary, the cutback of special programs, and the insane things still required of teachers, that seems way over the top. I would think that asking for parent donations to an educational fund to create an arts program or pe program for the school would be more beneficial and appreciated in the long run. I am all for pooling the money to make a more significant gift but it should be at a level where everyone can participate and feel comfortable.

Samantha said...

Thank you all so much for your feedback! This really helps me to calm down and see the situation clearly. Since all of you are teachers and/or have children in public school, I know I'm getting some really valuable perspective. Thanks again!

Jen said...

And I should add that $500 could feed a heck of a lot of the kids at Sage's school who have subsidized lunches. Just sayin'.

john d said...

Loved reading your blog again. I've missed it. I can understand your frustration. Very sensible comments from your friends. Teachers here may or may not get a little gift from each child at the end of the year. And that's it!
Parents and Citizens Committees at every public school here raise money by various means ( running school canteens, cake stalls, fetes etc) for additional school expenditure.

Anonymous said...

This was pretty much the norm in the school my kids used to go to (another San Diego Unified school, with high test scores and well-educated parents). It was $25 per child, divided between the 4 gift-giving occasions you mentioned,
with a little left over for end-of the-year gifts to the school nurse and a few other folks. The "Parent Mafia" thing sounds familiar, too.
These parents do a lot of good at the school - parent-led art programs, playground monitors, science nights and stuff, but they also have a lot of control, right down to who gets the "best" teachers. And, the excessive parties for every possible holiday where my kids came home all hyped and sugared up drove me nuts!

Last year, a charter school opened
up in our neighborhood, and we jumped at the chance.

Middle State said...

Interesting. I received the third e-mail appeal in the last few weeks to consider being a room parent. I'm already involved in two other volunteer endeavors at the school as it is and apparently in arrears with my financial "obligations" toward PTA and other groups. I will not give in to this appeal as I am not the right person for the job. I understand the need for parental support in both classroom endeavors as well as supplying necessities, but so much of this seems to veer away from education and into entertainment.