Policy is…

Last Wednesday was the first day of school for most of the country, and now that school has started, the kids are out of the house by 6:40 a.m. and not to return until 3:30 p.m.  I am once again captain of my day or most of it, any way.

On the first day of the new semester, my oldest child, a Senior, came home mad as a hatter because apparently the guidance counselor would not approve her schedule due to an extra study hall on her B day (The high school is on a modified block schedule which is very similar to a college course schedule, certain classes are taken on A days while other classes are taken on B days; therefore, a student can have a study hall on both A and B days).  The guidance counselor advised her to have me write a letter to the principal requesting she be allowed to have a study hall on her B day.  It all seemed ridiculous to me that a Senior in the last semester of school, taking AP and CP courses and only needing 1 credit left to graduate wasn’t allowed to make a simple decision based on the need for another study hall.

I told her to write the letter, and I would sign it.  She did. I did. I thought it was over.

It wasn’t. I received a call from the guidance counselor the next morning informing me that even with the note, he could not approve the schedule change. I wanted to point out the idiocy, not to mention waste of time, of the suggestion to write a letter that he knew wasn’t going to bring about the desired results, but I held my tongue and a long conversation ensued.  In order to keep your attention, I have deleted much of the drivel and have shortened the conversation to the pertinent points. It basically went like this:

Guidance Counselor (GC): The School Board policy is that each student’s schedule must have classes that produce a total of 6 credits each semester and a total of two study halls, one per day.  Your daughter used three of her four study halls last semester, leaving her with only one study hall this semester.  The Board’s policy is such so that a student cannot sit in study hall all day.

Me: First, my daughter only needs one credit to graduate, so the policy is ineffective for her.  In fact, it is hurting her.  Second, my daughter has never sat in a study hall.  She has always spent her study hall as a teacher’s aide, so I’m not sure I fully understand what you are trying to say.  Mr. _______,  she is in the top ____% of her class, has always taken CP or AP classes when available, has never had a disciplinary action taken against her (except for that one in fourth grade which I didn’t dare mention), and she has always found a productive way to spend her study-hall time by either helping a teacher or doing her work.  She needs that time to get help from the teachers while they are assessable.

GC: I’m sorry Ma’am, the School Board policy is that –

Me: I am aware of what the policy is, Mr. ____, thank you.  I am not sure that you are aware of the student you are counseling.  My daughter wants to attend the U of Hard To Get Accepted in the fall.  She is carrying two AP classes besides the other four classes she is taking.  All she is requesting is substituting a study hall for one of the electives that will only take up much-needed study time.  There has to be some way that you can help her.

GC: I’m sorry ma’am, but the policy is – 

Me: Mr. ______, “Policy is” doesn’t sit well with me.  In my experience, when someone continually says “Policy is, policy is” what they are actually saying is, “I’m not going to help you.” And that isn’t something that I want to hear from my daughter’s guidance counselor. It is your job to help her. Now, as I see it, you can either stop saying “Policy is” to me and help me figure out a way to help her and then get the principal to sign off, and if he can’t, then we go to the school board, because the policy isn’t working for the good students, OR, and what I’m going to bet is that you will do nothing for my daughter, but instead, sit in your little office and hide behind your “Policy is” because it is easier for you.  Please prove me wrong. 

GC: I’m sorry ma’am

Me: That’s what I thought. I will be taking this up with the principal immediately.  You are not a very good guidance counselor, sir.

GC (with a little sting in his voice): Goodbye and have a –

Me: Goodbye.

I immediately called the principal and was sent to his voice mail.  I like to think the guidance counselor’s butt finally caught fire and was on the phone with the principal and that’s why I was sent to voice mail, but who knows.  I left a message and the principal called back within the hour.  The conversation was short and very productive.  There was much less drivel to cut from this conversation (which lends itself to a great teaching point, but I should save that for a later post).

The Principal (MM) began the conversations reciting the School Board’s policy that GC recited to me, and then added

MM: I understand that you think that she needs another study hall to keep her grades up.

Me: Yes, sir, I do.  The AP courses she is taking are becoming increasingly difficult to the point that she needs more one on one with the instructor.  Is there a way that we can stay within the policy and give her the extra study time?

MM: There are labs that coincide with many of the CP/AP classes. (I am on the other end of the line wondering why the guidance counselor didn’t mention this.) Let me ask her AP instructors if we can enroll her in one of their labs with the understanding she can use it as a study hall.

Me: That sounds perfect. I am sorry that you had to become involved with this.  Thank you for your time.

Approximately an hour later, the principal calls back and says that one of the instructors has agreed to enrolled my daughter in a lab (receiving .5 credits) and allow her to use it as a study hall (she gets extra study time in her school day).

I told my daughter about the conversation with both her guidance counselor and the principal.  She rolled her eyes and groaned at the points where she thought I went overboard, but she was happy when she found out that she gets the extra study hall.

The following day all teachers were informed that it was no longer necessary for the principal to sign off on schedule changes for the Seniors.  My daughter danced around and said, “That’s because of me!  I did that!”  I wanted to respond with “Um, yeah.  I think it was me, but go ahead and take the credit.” Instead, I turned it into a teaching moment. “See, one person can make a difference,” is what I left her with. She’s pretty much a follow-the-rules and don’t-rock-the-boat type of person, so I really don’t worry about her freshly won battle changing her nature and beginning her on the path of challenging every rule she encounters. I can see my middle child doing that, but not my oldest.

Side Note:  I expect my kids to live by rules, but the rules are simple: 1. Treat others the way you want to be treated, 2. Go to church. Everything else is negotiable. Maybe that’s why my oldest wants to be a lawyer.


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