Monday, January 7, 2008
Only the Best
Those of you who have written a memo will probably agree that, in an ideal world, the people receiving said memo will actually read it. Even better, your memo audience will remember the information you have carefully passed along, and perhaps they will even act accordingly. If you are a regular writer of memos, you probably know that this rarely happens. Memo readers a)don't read memos, b)read and immediately forget what they have read, c)read and immediately ignore any instructions contained in the memo. This is true, at least, in every public school in America (if you doubt such a generalization, read Up the Down Staircase and become a believer).
My beloved assistant principal and I decided to reinstate our Chess elective this semester. We would gather together 16 students who have taken Chess with us before in order to create an advanced class. In order to recruit students, we sent a memo to four elective teachers with the following information and instructions:
- We would like to reinstate our chess class
- We would like 16 students who have taken chess with us before
- This will be an advanced chess class
- This class will be for 8th graders only
- Please ask your students if any of them have taken chess with us before and would like to take this advanced class.
- Please write the names on this memo and return it to us by X date.
The lists should have been returned to us on Friday. As of 10am on Monday we had received no names. I made phone calls to the teachers, who I will call Mr. Drama, Ms. Computers, Mr. Art, and Ms. PE.
Me: Hi Mr. Drama. Do you happen to have the names of the students who want to be in the chess class?
Mr. Drama: Um. Well. Oh, right. I guess I could ask them about that today.
Me: Ok, great. Could you let me know when you've got the list and I'll send someone over ti pick it up?
Mr. Drama: Sure, but (chuckle) that's if anyone actually wants to take the class.
Ok. So far, great response.
Me: Ms. Computer, sorry to bother you. Do you happen to have the names of the students who want to be in the chess class?
Ms. Computer: Oh geez. Hmmm. Awwww. Well....? (This is all said with great anxiety). Well, I think there was one name.
Me: Ok great! Could you give me the student's name?
Ms. Computer: Oh, hmmm. I think it was Miguel. He was reading the memo and said he wanted to do it. Oh, geez. And then I think he never gave the paper back. Awww. So what should I do? Should I write....oh, shoot.
Me: No, no. Just give me his last name and we'll go from there.
Is this FOR REAL?
Me: Mr. Art, good morning. Do you happen to have the names of the students who want to be in the chess class?
Mr. Art: (very exasperated sigh) I sent that to Mr. 8th-Grade-Sponsor.
Me: Huh. He has absolutely nothing to do with this.
Mr. Art: Well, I sent it to him.
THANKS A LOT!
No answer from Ms. PE.
So, at 11am the period begins. My Assistant Principal and I should have 4 lists of names and should spend this period planning enrollment, etc. Instead, this is what happens:
- A combined list appears from Mr. Art and Ms. PE. On this list are 8 names. Two are 6th graders who have never taken our class. Two are 7th graders who have never taken our class. Out of the four 8th grade names on the list, three have taken our class.
- 3 students arrive from Mr. Art and Ms. PE's classes, none of whom appear on the list. Why does this happen? I do not know.
- The one boy from Ms. Computer's list cannot be found, although two students from her class appear having heard about the class from friends, not from Ms. Computer (who never after made the announcement, since Miguel ran off with her memo).
- 3 students appear our of nowhere.
- Mr. Drama is never heard from again. Obviously he doesn't think to highly of the game of chess.
At the end of the period, we have somehow scraped together 9 students who are ready to take Advanced Chess, and we have 3-4 names of kids we'd like to contact. As he's leaving for lunch supervision, my Assistant Principal says, "I should have just visited the classes personally." We laugh, roll our eyes, and try to contain the deep, roiling disappointment we feel. Is it really so hard? we wonder. Were the instructions unclear? But then the bell rings, it's lunch, and there is no more time to feel sorry for ourselves. Instead, there are nachos to be eaten, ketchup packets to be accidentally sat upon, and a hundred frenzied library nerds to be tamed.