Nut Clusters

The Parent Imperfect walked through the dark room to Connie’s bed in hopes of getting her up to go to school. He bent over and rubbed her back, but before he could utter some soothing words to begin the day, C rolled over, looked him in the eye and said with unmistakable clarity, “Ziti!”

How is it that a child would emerge from the deepest sleep to name the dish that her father had committed to bring to the third grade party today? She was, of course, anticipating the usual explanations of why the PI’s work would not allow him to come or why he didn’t have time to prepare the designated dish.

It worked. The PI, in fact, had a lunch date downtown with his college roommate, but that one went out the window in favor of an hour of noisy children, chicharrón and platanos. He wouldn’t have it any other way. The PI loves seeing parents in the classroom and so do the children, even C. The leftover macaroni salad would feed the rest of the school. Always seeking the purchased solution, the PI got his Ziti at his favorite Italian grocery in Hyde Park.

When the PI he arrived at the Hernández, there were three ambulances out in front and several paramedics standing outside the main office, talking to the Vice-Principal and one of the teachers. One coudn’t help but jump to conclusions. But mum was the word, and even SBW claimed not to have heard a thing, so the PI was left to his own conclusions.

Less was left to reflection when he and Liz journeyed to the nation’s oldest public school the day before. When he asked to meet with Vince’s Latin teacher, he was told that he needed to meet with the “cluster,” the group of teachers that teach all of Vince’s required classes (Reading, Writing, Latin, Math and Earth Science).

Cluster? How would such a post-modern term creep into a place that still calls seventh graders, “sixies,” (because they must survive six years to graduate), issues demerits, requires four years of Latin, makes all students “declaim” and generally tries to project tradition in all things?

Perhaps it is the effort of a new administration to promote collegiality and collaboration among teachers, and to minimize those days when the students get three major assignments that are due the same day. If a parent wants to meet the teacher of a seventh grader, they must go to the cluster.

Imperfection reigned. The PI arrived 15 minutes late simply because he overslept. To his surprise, Ms. Liz was still standing outside of room 351, waiting to be called in.

He immediately surmised that she had blown it by not simply going into the room. No one ever opens a door and invite you in here. This was not a welcome comment from a late arrival. Smoke poured from ears. They agreed to go to the Guidance office to try to set up a new meeting, but V’s counselor was…”AT CLUSTER MEETING.”

Just as they were about to leave, the Guidance Counselor burst back into the office, breathless with apology. The woman in the Main Office must have seen smoke and somehow paged the Guidance Counselor.

Still breathless, the GC led the way back toward Rm. 351. “I’m so sorry…a very important meeting just happened…I’m not happy with how it happened, but it happened…You didn’t do anything wrong.”

“Oh yes, I did,” thought the PI.

Before they could get more details, a door swung open and they were in a meeting with teachers, nurses, guidance counselors, etc.. The PI wondered where the soccer coach might be.  Since the “important meeting” had taken up all the time, there remained only time for a tiny introduction by the PI, spitting out meaningless words about “a tough transition.” Then came comments from each teacher about just how much of a struggle it was for Mr. Vince. Thankfully, one or two did mention the things that he is doing quite well. The only Mr. in the room (the cluster “Master,” of course) seemed particularly “alarmed,” if unclear. “He has a great memory, but the short-term thing just isn’t there…” Mr. Master was not convinced that the issue was still one of ‘tough transition.”

The PI was just about to come forward with all of those prepared questions when Mr. Master  stood up, thanked the bewildered parents for their visit, and led the mad rush out of the room to the second period class.

Thankfully, V’s Reading and Writing teachers had another couple of minutes to speak to Liz and the PI, but it was all over very quickly. Even the Guidance Counselor had another meeting.

The good news about the morning was that the PI didn’t get a parking ticket in the illegal space he had stuffed the car into so as not to arrive even later. They had gone through the motions, and were just a little bit more aware of the struggle that lay before them.

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