We Had Five Minutes to Choose Our Electives.

Shane came home from school with a green piece of paper and a course booklet for middle school.

“We had five minutes to choose our electives,” he told me. “And we had to take a foreign language, so I picked French.”

“WHAT?!” I shrieked, as I often do. Long story short, the middle school counselor had come to the elementary school, and had the students select electives during an assembly. The fifth graders turned in their choices on the spot, without so much as a note to parents that it would be happening.

Within minutes, I was on the phone with the middle school.

Shane and I went through his elective choices, read the course book, discussed the classes, and chose electives that he would actually enjoy: band, film and theater.

Two days later, the middle school counselor called me back. I tried to be polite, even though I wanted to crawl through the wire and strangle her with it.

“I was wondering if we could meet for a few minutes,” I asked, “so that I could give you Shane’s new list of electives.”

“Oh that goes to his homeroom teacher,” she told me.

“But you already have a list of electives from him, right?” I asked.

“Yes,” she said, “but I don’t even look at those unless I don’t get a new one from the fifth grade teacher.”

In other words, I thought, 90% of parents whose children did NOT tell them about the assembly will never even know they had options.

“Well,” I ventured, “I would like to make sure that the old list is thrown away.”

“I always throw away the old list when I get the new one,” she said.

She wasn’t understanding how her stunt at the elementary school made me distrust her. I had to explain further – and with good reason.

“I have an older child,” I told her. “When he was in fifth grade, I spent 45 minutes with the counselor – a counselor who is no longer there – and we discussed his options. It all seemed fine until the first day of school, when we discovered that nothing from our discussion was in his schedule.”

“Does Shane have an IEP?” she asked.

“No,” I said. “In fact, after today, you may never hear from me again. Shane is a completely different kind of kid.”

“Well, she was a different counselor,” the new middle school counselor assured me. “I’m very detail-oriented and I make sure that every piece of paper that crosses my desk is handled appropriately.”

I envisioned her writing my name on a post-it note as we talked, scrawling, “TROUBLE-MAKER” after it.

I tried to laugh. “Oh, so you’re like me!” I exclaimed, suddenly hoping to bond.

She chuckled, but not much. “If it would make you feel better,” she said, “you can bring Shane’s electives list into the school and I’ll destroy the old one while you’re here.”

“That would make me feel better,” I agreed. “Thank you.”

Sometimes it just takes awhile to get what I want.

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