Posted by: Kate | October 1, 2011

Problem Solved

My interaction with the middle school principal seems quite bad enough already, doesn’t it? And yet I left one detail out.

A little thing, one might think. Just a half-dozen syllables, tucked into the depths of an hour-long rampage. Blink – or wince – and you could miss it.

I didn’t blink.

It happened on the heels of a comment I made to to Principal Mannish (which is so, so close to her real name, which makes me unreasonably happy… kind of like the pitcher from the A’s, Outman: some names just determine your fate, no?). I didn’t have the opportunity to get many words in edgewise, and so I treasured the chance to point out that this whole thing could have been avoided had anyone from the school ever returned even one of the six calls I made, between May and August, trying to get a spare set of textbooks at home prior to the school year. I hadn’t even cluttered up her precious inbox time with all of those extra syllables; all I had said was, “I’m calling on behalf of my daughter, and I need to discuss her 504 plan before school starts.”

(Her response to that? “I never bother to return parent phone calls over the summer. These things always work themselves out without my help.” Oh, yes, clearly, this particular thing worked itself out just beautifully.)

Anyway, so, I explained, in short sentences containing small words, that, if someone had helped us when I had called, we wouldn’t be having this interaction now. And she replied, with apparently characteristic grace and empathy, “Listen. I already said, the fact that your actions made your daughter apologize on your behalf tells me all I need to know about you. And now you’re being overprotective and it’s time to back off. If she just tried harder, she could get herself more organized without your help.”

She went on from there, but I briefly burst into flame and missed a few of her finer points. Because, what was that? Say again? Rewind, just a little, please?

“If she just tried harder…”

Right, that’s the spot.

Ohhh, yes! She needs to try harder! Pardon me while I smack myself in the forehead: why didn’t we think of that ourselves? Try harder! Up to this point, we’ve been lazing around, waiting for the world to cater to our every wish, never much bothered to do anything to try and improve Emily’s life in any noticeable way.

Now, the light dawns: this has nothing to do with ADHD! That’s just a silly, made-up diagnosis, anyway; we’ll call it a disability because the federal government has this pesky ADA thing that forces us to pretend to respect people like doctors and therapists, but really, she knows better. Who better than a middle school principal to be able to tell just how fake and pathetic all of these labels are?

And besides, seriously, folks: the child is eleven. Let’s cut the cord, already! It’s past time for her to be living on her own, by now. I really should have her in her own apartment, let her start dealing with her own finances, that sort of thing.

Phew. I’m sure glad we got that little conundrum cleared up before we wasted too much time on it. Now I know: I just need to stop coddling my kid – I might drop the word “advocate,” but the principal obviously sees right through that ploy – and let her figure things out on her own, because she’s just not trying hard enough.

Seriously, some things are just far enough over the border into Crazyland that I have trouble even pronouncing the words, much less wrapping my brain all the way around them. I guess while we’re at it, I should probably just start flagellating myself right now for this idiotic little spondylitis thing I’m pretending to have, and maybe if I just stretch a little more I’ll feel better, right? God knows what she might say if she knew I had a sister just lazing around all day, pretending to have some thing called muscular dystrophy. I bet the principal could set us to rights about that without even breaking into a red-faced, fist-clenching, name-calling sweat.

(Pardon me while I sit still and pant for a few seconds, just let me catch my breath. Spontaneous combustion takes a lot out of a girl, particularly when it’s fueled by rampant idiocy from someone whose job title alone suggests that she might – what a crazy idea! – know better. I don’t need, or even expect, a lot of empathy out of the people I deal with, but for some reason I kind of both need and expect it from the woman I entrust to oversee my daughter’s education. I’m just unreasonable that way, I know.)

I don’t know if I have the energy to take this any farther. I don’t know if I have the stamina to fight this the way it really deserves to be fought. I’m not sure I can put on my Cloak of Outrage and descend upon her with all of the righteous outrage stirred up by her words and actions. I know that I can, and should, take this farther, and a part of me really, really wants to. But another part of me is already so tired, so overwhelmed, so diminished from that which I once was; nowhere near the level of kick-ass competency I used to display.

Stay tuned…


  1. Of course you will carry it on. You really have no choice. And I am willing to bet the sheer act of doing so will bring you closer to your old self. And besides, all your loyal readers can’t wait yo hear how you have reduced her to a quivering mass of regret that she ever took you on in the first place. You certainly have lots of support out here.

  2. You could, in fact, forward the links to these two posts directly to the Superintendent. HER BOSS. Lodge a formal complaint, in writing. If you got shitty treatment from the employee of a store, you’d summon a manager. It’s time to summon the manager.

  3. Just put any response in writing, that cc’s all of the appropriate bosses, so there’s no confusion anywhere. No point in suffering through a face to face meeting with an obvious f’in idiot!

  4. This woman seems to be blissfully unaware that she PERSONALLY can be subject to a civil lawsuit, as a school administrator, for refusing to meet the requirements of an IEP. I am uncertain if the same is true for 504 plans, but logic would dictate it is. What a fun education to provide this woman….

  5. Put on your lawyer hat and contact the school board – the superintendent if possible and voice your concerns. Then, follow up with a detailed letter. I’m taking my time to get involved with my “school employee problem”, only because I don’t want her taking it out on my daughter for any reason. I need to get my ducks in a row before I go all postal on her and the system. Hee hee.

  6. I’d keep fighting, no matter how tired and worn out and not myself I was. I think fighting would make me feel better. As would looking for a different school for my child.

    I’m still outraged on your behalf.

  7. As a former NYC public schoolteacher, I used to field these calls from parents. The department chair ignored all such requests, as the school ignored all special education laws. We would get notices in May telling us that kids were entitled to testing accommodations. We called those the 65 notices, since we didn’t want to fail a kid who wasn’t getting the assistance their disability entitled them to. If your child’s teachers seem as unresponsive as the principal, you need to seriously think about suing the school.

  8. OMG. Perhaps principal Mannish isn’t aware of federal laws. It sounds like a good time to at least consult a lawyer.
    After you stop coddling your daughter of course.

  9. We call 504 plans “toilet paper” here. That’s how effective it’s been for my family and friends with regards to middle school and high school. And that’s coming from a special education teacher herself. It was fantastic and all I could ask for in grade school, but hit middle and it becomes a “parenting issue” in the eyes of many.

  10. Is it wrong that I keep picturing her as Coach Sue Sylvester?

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