Thursday, June 21, 2007

Ending My Tenure

For the past year, I've been one of the class mothers in Ann's preschool class. And now I'm glad I'm not.

Don't get me wrong - everything went pretty smoothly over the year. But as with all such roles, there were a few, ahem, issues that irked me.

Now, this was not that complex a job, as it basically entailed:

*Collecting money for the teachers' gifts at Chanukah

*Collecting money for the teachers' gifts at the end of the year

*Calling parents about school cancellations due to inclement weather or other unforseen events

Initially, the head teacher also suggested running a little program where instead of sending lunches on Monday, each parent would send about $1 or $1.50 and she'd buy bread, spreads, vegetables, etc. and the kids would make their own sandwiches. Since the preschool director was not a fan of this idea, the teacher left it up to the class mothers to poll the other parents and see if the majority would be interested. The response was a little lukewarm, so the idea was shelved.

I would have gone along with the sandwich idea, but I can certainly understand that in families where the preschool child is not the oldest, school lunches are made assembly-line-style and there's no major purpose served in being spared the making of that one lunch for the little one. Even in our smaller household, I typically make RaggedyDad 3 sandwiches for his long work-and-schoolday, and making one more for Ann is no big deal.

This year, we had no snow days at school. None. So basically, I was just a banker twice a year. Actually, my job was made even easier because there were 18 kids in the class and the teacher requested 3 class mothers, so my part of the class list amounted to just my family and 5 other families.

Of the three class mothers, one lives in an outlying neighborhood, works half-days, and sends her daughter to preschool by bus. The other is more of a queen-bee type who had filled the class-mom role once or twice before. And then there was me.

When it came to the biannual teacher gifts, we came to the consensus that rather than take the pooled cash and buy something for the teachers, we would present them with a nice card and The Cash. Having been a teacher myself (and received my fair share of Korean Jesus statuettes, etc), and having a mother who is a preschool assistant, I firmly believe that while less "personal", cash is most appreciated by teachers. Particularly in Ann's assistant teacher's case, where I'm aware that personal finances are tight, a gift card to a particular store would also not be ideal.

However, two issues came up at Chanukah time that irked me. First, since both the Chanukah performance and the graduation took place on Fridays, I thought it would be appropriate to present each teacher with a small bouqet of flowers, with a small amount of money taken from the amount collected. When RaggedyDad brings home flowers, he typically spends very, very little on them, so it can be done.

Queen Bee Mom nixed the flowers idea, and for no reason other than the fact that she felt that particularly the assistant could use every dollar. I hear her point, but the amount collected was sizable. I believe that even when someone could really use the money, if, say, a small, small fraction of it gets taken out, they're just as likely as anyone to appreciate a little pick-me-up like flowers. But I didn't push the point, and acquiesced. And it's possible that those few dollars would indeed mean a lot.

What bothered me more was that Queen Bee Mom insisted on presenting the teachers with the money in the same denominations in which it was collected. Which meant some larger bills, but also a Lot of small bills. I asked her if she thought we might go to the bank to change the money for larger, though not impractical denominations, which would be a little more presentable.

She decided against it because a)going to the bank would be a tirchah (imposition) on the class moms and b)[My blood is still boiling over this one] the assistant might have a hard time with larger bills "at the types of stores where might shop".

I probably bit my tongue hard enough to bring up blood. I saw that there was no headway with this mom, but how rude can you get? It's not as though the assistant teacher buys her groceries from vending machines! There really aren't that many stores nowadays that give you a hard time over a $20 or even a $50 bill.

I just can't stand it when, in the name of thinking they're doing what's best for someone, people get so self-righteous as to govern how and what is done for someone else. Queen Bee Mom would have you think this was a huge favor she was doing for the assistant. Grr.

Suffice it to say that when I was in charge of assembling the cards and cash at the end of the year, I skipped the flowers but made sure that there were kavodik (respectful) denominations of money in those cards. And Ann and I baked two little chocolate cakes for the teachers as well.

What are your thoughts?


Jack's Shack said...

Queen Bee Mom

Sadly they exist at every school. They irk me, but than again I am the guy who usually tells them they are out of line.

Ezzie said...

I would basically agree with you, but I can give a similar but different reason to go with the Queen Bee this one time... (ducks)

You've made it clear that this assistant isn't doing so well financially. She might feel uncomfortable carrying around larger bills than normal suddenly, particularly to stores where she often shops and pays in smaller bills. A familiar cashier may give her looks, etc., particularly if a store 'helps her out' on occasion.

mother in israel said...

Ezzie, would $20 bills be a problem? What about $10s? Ones are insulting.

RaggedyMom said...

Jack - I hear you. I saw early on with this mom that there was no headway, and I'm not much of a fighter.

Ezzie, MiI - Your points combine what I was thinking. My aim was to avoid having an enormous stack of singles in the envelopes. The end of year gifts contained twenties and below.

When cash is the gift, and the bills are a wad of singles, at best, this comes across like not much effort or care was taken. At worst, this may be interpreted as some kind of sympathy gesture.

It reminds me of when a close family friend who struggles a lot financially was able to buy a very nice quality coat. She felt great about her one-time splurge until she got a lot of questioning stares from people who "knew her situation". (This was by no means part of a chronic overspending problem).

While the charitable behavior in our communities is often so admirable, it should not give people a feeling of authority to dictate what someone ought to have or deserves, even under the guise of pity or concern.

SephardiLady said...

I'm with you.

I think a good gift is giving something that a person really wants, but probably would not buy for herself. I'm guessing that for this teachers, unexpected cash goes to straight the grocery store or is used to pay a utility bill.

Cash is practical and I'm sure is much appreciated, but so are small luxuries, especially if you were not counting on a certain amount of money to begin with.

Even struggling people need small treats. Assuming she likes flowers, the gift could have been a real pick me up.

But there is probably no point arguing with the Queen Bee. I've found that the Queen Bees that I know just don't hear the voices of other people.

triLcat said...

I have a hard time believing that someone never has 20s. I would understand if you were talking about 100s or even 50s.

Presumably when she draws money from a cash machine, it doesn't come out in 1s.

socialworker/frustrated mom said...

I was the class mom this yr and I had to collect for chanukah gifts and end of the year. Then I found out I had to buy everything for graduation and set up, but it ended up all fine, as you will hear in my next post....

frumhouse said...

I can't stand school volunteer politics. Makes me feel like I am back in umm..grammar school.

You've been tagged!

orieyenta said...

In a group there is always bound to be a "Queen Bee Mom". UGH.

But look on the bright side, I just tagged you. :)

Ariella said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Scraps said...

Ugh. Where is the woman's tact? (Don't answer that.) Really, giving a huge stack of $1 bills is so...tacky. I agree with trilcat; when she goes to the bank, presumably she gets $20 bills, no? So what's the big deal? It's just so much more kavodik to the woman; just because money is tight doesn't mean she wants everyone to think she's a nebbach case.

Juggling Frogs said...

I've logged lots of years as class mom, and I feel your pain.

My favorite gift to give the teachers is a credit card from the local mall. It acts as a regular Mastercard or Visa in any store or on-line, really anywhere a credit card would be accepted, and costs $2.50 as a service charge. With that service charge, the mall gives a very nice gift bag and tissue paper, too.

This lets us give the equivalent of cash, but in a nicer form. There are Israeli teachers who don't have credit cards, and they have been particularly appreciative.

I also like to spend a couple of dollars (either from the group funds, or just supplemented quietly by the room parents) on flowers to present at the year-end performances.

You get double mitzvah credit for all the scars on the inside of your cheeks. Queen Bee Mom is never going to slap her forehead and say, "You know, you're right. I was very insensitive. I'll try to do better next time."

RaggedyMom said...

I'm just glad that I'm not the one who has to go through school over again myself! I had enough of the Queen Bee types back in those days. At least now I'm a grownup and have more confidence about doing my own thing or walking away.