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Volunteering at school office is a real education

I’m coming up on my one-year anniversary volunteering in the main office at the Princess’ high school one morning a week. I don’t tell you this so you’ll think I’m a good person. I tell you this so you’ll understand that I will do pretty much anything to get material for this column. Pretty much anything.

Here is what I’ve learned about teenagers in the past year.

For starters, most of them are polite. Sure, a few won’t take the ear buds out and just grunt when I hand them a hall pass, but most are really nice and my too-loud “Have a nice day!” is often returned with something approaching sincerity. Hard to do at 8:32 a.m., am I right?

Some of them are clueless. One kid, when asked what grade he was in, said, “I’m gonna say freshman or sophomore?” I resisted the urge to be a jerk and say, “Let me know when the questions get too hard.” Oh, wait. No I didn’t.

Today’s teenagers have totally bought into that “breakfast is the most important meal of the day” propaganda we always ignored. Some mornings, our crack team of three volunteer moms might hand out three dozen or more late passes to kids clutching $5 coffees from Starbucks or, my favorite, two barbecue sandwiches “my mama’s making me eat.”

My daughter’s high school has a dress code, and this results in occasional sobbing and hysterics when a parent has to bring “suitable clothing” to school.

As we waited for one mom to show up, the pretty blonde student twirled in front of me and demanded: “Does this look like a dress code violation to you?” To which I replied: “Honey, that’s a dress code violation at Hooters.” A few minutes later, her beleaguered mom arrived with some Amish-looking skirt that was tossed across the room and, remarkably, a venti latte with a smiley face in the foam.

This tastes like sass!” the student didn’t say.

The parents are actually a lot more fun to watch than the students.

One mother coolly asked me to page her daughter to the office because “She stole my Michael Kors watch, and I know she’s wearing it right now.” (She was.) Another showed up to complain that her kid didn’t make cheerleader. (It didn’t help.) More than a few want to “surprise my kid by showing up in his class.” This is a chilling but highly effective deterrent to skipping, particularly if the parent is wearing a coat over her pajamas when she shows up.

Part of the office volunteer’s job is to file the excuse notes for tardies and absences. Let me know if I’m getting too complicated here. The notes range from legit doctor’s notes to formal parent notes typed on Mom’s business letterhead to scrawled crayon on a McDonald’s bag saying “XXX was late because we forgot it was a school day.” Hey, it happens. Who knew you had to go every Thursday?

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