Ruffled Feathers and Spilled Milk

Farming with ducks and dairy goats, chickens and children.

AIM High.

Posted on | December 16, 2014 | 6 Comments

High school has been a new experience for us.  But some things never change in the public school system.  Some things are as predictable as pizza in the school cafeteria on Fridays.  Like the poor secretary left holding the bag in the front office.  You know, the one facing a long line of irritated parents while the administrators cower behind closed doors.  Whatever that job pays, it can’t be enough.  Not even close.

This week I arrived in the office to pick up Big for an orthodontist appointment.  Several parents (by “parents”, I mean “mothers”, of course) were already in front of the beleaguered secretary, looking confused.  The secretary was explaining that all the students were in AIM and as soon as each mother told her which room her child was in, the child could be called down to the office and checked out.  This was confusing because knowing which room the children were in kind of seemed like something the front office would know.  But, then again, the children were in AIM.

AIM is a new high school program and stands for Aim, Impact & Achieve.  For 25 minutes near the end of the day the students have an opportunity to attend tutoring, listen to career education, collaborate on projects in the media center, study in quiet rooms, or exercise in the gym.  Meeting in the cafeteria for socializing had to be immediately removed from the AIM opportunity choices because it was, obviously, the most popular.  Which was only fine if the school was AIMing for violating the cafeteria’s capacity fire code.  Although I’m not sure why meeting in the cafeteria got such a bad rap.  It’s high school, people.  Every single one of these options turns into socializing.

AIM is similar to a program called GAP, which my children had in middle school.  GAP operated on the same principle but was held each morning.  I don’t remember what GAP stood for because it was very short-lived, lasting only a semester before being abandoned.  First of all, it was a terrible acronym.  The school is usually better at disguising the substance of its initiatives, but GAP was exactly what it sounded like—-an empty space each morning where the children wandered the hallways, doodled at their desks, or read the latest series of vampire or dystopia novels.  The teachers initially objected to our children reading novels as the time was officially set aside for homework or tutoring.  When we pointed out that our kids didn’t need tutoring and couldn’t wait until the morning to complete assignments that were due that day (what if it wasn’t done before GAP was over?), the school relented.  I’m not actually sure if this was because they agreed with our reasoning or because I sent in The Other Half to handle it.  6’4″ of Daddy in flannel shirt, toboggan, and combat boots tends to get a bit more respect than Mommy.

Like GAP, AIM sounds great in theory, but it has been struggling.  It has been revised several times in an attempt to reduce the socializing.  Which just makes me wonder if whoever created AIM has worked with high school students before or if AIM is some 19 year old’s thesis experiment for an education degree at one of the local universities.  Going to the gym for “exercise” or library for “collaboration” is now limited to just once or twice a week.  The effect of this is that a lot of “collaboration” has moved into the so-called “quiet” rooms.  And all of it is upset by the fact that teachers are supposed to peruse the hallways when the AIM bell rings and any students still wandering just get dragged into the closest room for the duration.  I’m guessing this was needed because a lot of students were traveling the halls, peeking into each classroom to see who was there before deciding which “quiet” room was most amenable to their “collaborating.”

While the AIM innovators are stymied by focusing high schoolers on academics as opposed to the latest relationship break-up, though, the real difficulty is for parents (i.e, moms) picking up a child for an early dismissal, such as an orthodontist appointment.  You know, the orthodontist that never answers the phone after 4pm or works on Fridays but will drop you from the list, charge $25 for a missed appointment, and reschedule you for 6 weeks later if you’re more than 5 minutes late for your appointment time?  Yeah, that guy doesn’t like to be inconvenienced by tardy parents who didn’t know which room their child was in at school.  Which leaves a bunch of moms standing in the front office, blockaded by a secretary who only knows our children are somewhere in the building in some classroom pursuing some AIM objective.  And as soon as we tell her which classroom and AIM objective that is, she will get our children for us.

I stepped up with confidence.  I am not particularly recognized in our community for knowing the intimate details of my children’s academic lives.  I have never yet signed onto PowerSchool, the parent enslaving device that allows us to keep track of the acceptance and grading of each assignment as it is received and reviewed by the teacher.  I expect my children to get good grades and I expect the school to send me a report card each semester.  End of story.

I ensure my children are enrolled in the appropriate classes but the specifics are handled by my children themselves.  A parent (i.e., mother) asked me the other day if Big was in advanced math.  I told her that, yes, he was in currently in Math III.

“Yes,” she responded,  “but what is Math III?”

I blinked at her.

“Math III comes after Math II and allows him to move into AP Math for college credit next year.”

“Yes, but what is it?” she insisted.

I blinked at her.

“You know,” she continued.  “Is it algebra or trigonometry or precalc?”

“Oh,” I shrugged.  “I don’t know.  He hasn’t asked for any help with his homework so I haven’t seen any of the assignments from class.

She blinked at me.

“Well, have you checked Powerschool to see how he’s doing?”

Sure, lady.  I don’t even know what the III in Math III stands for, but I’m on Powerschool every minute of every day.  Really, where did this obsession with our children come from????

So on this one occasion, I was excited to show the school that I knew exactly what was going on with my child.  I pushed to the front of the line and smiled.

“My son is in a quiet room,”  I asserted.  I wasn’t exactly 100% sure about this.  I knew Big usually read in a quiet room because he complained about all the loud “collaborating.”  But Big had also been talking over dinner about the time he and another student spent dismantling and reassembling computers to check monitors and keyboard function for the teacher.  That might have been during AIM, too, but I felt vaguely sure that occurred during Drafting class while he was waiting for the other kids to catch up on CAD assignments.  See?  I am an involved parent.  Just in a kind of blurry, peripheral, is-it-their-bedtime-yet kind of way.  Which seems a whole lot healthier than PowerSchool.

But the secretary was not impressed.

“There are 10 quiet rooms, ma’am,” she said.

“And they change every week,” added another mother, wearily.  “I already tried that.”

The secretary held up an AIM schedule and suggested that in the future we could ask our children which AIM class they intended to participate in so they could be contacted easily for early dismissal.

“But what if the sign up is already full for the class they intended to sit in?”

“Or what if they get dragged into a random room because they’re running late in the hallway?”

“What if they decide to get tutoring from a teacher on an assignment they just received that day?”

What if there’s a real emergency and I need my child and you have no idea where she is????

The secretary looked over her shoulder, desperately, and we all listened to the soft clicks of administrative doors closing.

I hope that front office job has good benefits.  Really good benefits.

The secretary sighed.

“Let me write down your kids’ names.  I’ll start calling each AIM class on the intercom until we find your children.”

I looked at my watch in despair, the secretary picked up her pen, parents (i.e, mothers) jostled for position in line and then we all looked up as footsteps rounded the corner and the office door swung open.

Could it be a helpful administrator that would jump in and start calling classrooms as well?

Maybe The Other Half, looking big and brave enough to move us to the front of the line?

Perhaps the inventor of AIM so he or she could get a well-deserved kick in the shin?

Nope.  It was Big.

“Hey!”  I exclaimed.  “What are you doing here?!”

He shrugged.

“I saw it was getting close to my appointment time.  I figured you were in the office trying to check me out and they had no idea what classroom I was in.  So I asked the teacher for a hall pass so I could come down and get checked out.”

He held out a hall pass—a note scribbled on a scrap piece of paper in green pen and signed by a teacher.  An old school triumph against all the technological advances in the school system.  No intercom needed, no cell phone calls, no exchange of texts.  Just a kid asking a teacher for a hall pass so he wouldn’t be late to the orthodontist.

My heart swelled with pride.  Honor roll and sports championships are all fine and well.  But, oh, to know you raised your child with the right amount of common sense and cynicism to navigate the our country’s finest public institutions successfully!  On his own!

I clapped him on the back happily as we left the office, envious faces following our passage out to the minivan.

“Nice work!”  I told him.  “I thought I’d never get out of there.  The secretary was going to call every single room on the intercom!!!”

“Huh,”  he said.  “Usually the teachers have to go room to room, down each hallway, asking if anyone knows where a kid is during AIM.”

Yeah.  That job doesn’t pay enough either.

We were only 8 minutes late to the orthodontist but they had already removed Big’s name from the sign-in list on the computer.  He told me the receptionist wasn’t sure if they could still fit him in, but relented when he explained there was a hang up at school causing the delay.

I’m not sure exactly how he handled it because I just dropped him off at the front door and then went to look at paint chips at Lowe’s while he was at the appointment.  Just like the responsible parent that I am.  When I returned to get him, he was standing there with newly tightened braces and an appointment slip for next month in his hand, waiting on the sidewalk so I didn’t even have to park and come in.  A competent, independent young man who, in the same day, conquered the front desks of the school system and the orthodontist.

Today, high school.  Tomorrow, the world.

Since he’s already achieved the life skills of common sense and cynicism, I’m trying to decide if we should be working on sarcasm or sense of humor next.  Hah!  Just kidding!  Obviously, they’re the same thing, people.  Same exact thing.


6 Responses to “AIM High.”

  1. Laura
    December 16th, 2014 @ 5:23 pm

    This is great! I wish every parent I know could read this!

  2. Andrew
    December 16th, 2014 @ 6:04 pm

    Aw crap, man, I’m already on edge just thinking about kindergarten next year and now you’re trying to scare me about high school?

  3. Lin
    December 16th, 2014 @ 6:50 pm

    LOVE that kid. LOVE the teacher who allowed him out of the room to go to the office.

    I was pretty involved in my kids’ schools. AIM and GAP and all that other nonsense is created in an educator’s vacuum. They sit in meetings to come up with these brilliant “educational” ideas and then pat themselves on the back for creating them. When a parent comes in and tells them how stupid the idea is, they tell them that they are helicopter parents and that they don’t know anything because THEY are the educators.

    Been there…been on tons of committees and focus groups at the schools to know this game. My family is all educators, so we know the game full well. My mother was a school secretary for years. Yes, it scars you.

  4. Jill
    December 17th, 2014 @ 6:27 am

    oh yes, AIM. We love AIM because it is 25 fewer minutes of homework each night. I have no idea where J hides, but he appreciates the time-out near the end of the day… I don’t think he would ask for a note to go to the office on his own tho – he’s not 6’4″ or even close! lol. I did not know he could take an AP Math course next year. hmmm. You are “in the know”…

  5. Lisa Dumain
    December 17th, 2014 @ 9:43 am

    We hate AIM and refer to it as a waste of time. While my girl would actually like some Bio tutoring, she feels pressured to attend her club meetings which get scheduled then so they don’t have to meet before school! What is the point?

    Kudos to you for having an appropriately assertive and polite young man with some common sense!

    FYI – math III is a combo class like all the rest. Not sure if it has any calculus in it, but it includes everything else. My girl stopped asking me for math help around 6th grade since it took me too much time to google stuff. (sigh)

  6. The Human Planet…is Filled with Free-Range Kids | Bydio
    December 25th, 2014 @ 3:01 pm

    […] in underestimating kids? We are alerted to it by North Carolina family farmer Stevie Taylor, who blogs here! Enjoy — and Merry Christmas, too! – […]

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