It is said that if you work in an elementary school, the two most important people to make friends with are the administrative assistant and the custodian.
I've always gotten along better with the custodians.
It has been my experience that developing a beneficial relationship with the administrative assistant often requires a level of obsequiousness that makes my insides squirm into rebellion. When I was fresh new teacher, I couldn't do it at all. I was still solid in the moral absolute that says any demonstration of signs of friendship you don't truly feel is a lie to avoid at all costs. I mean, I was perfectly polite. I just wasn't...political.
Then I grew up.
I've known administrative assistants that are purely professional,
unruffleable women; some I'd swear are truly good people that turn
b--chy when stressed; and one that is a truly horrible person who,
through experience or plain inherent personality is downright cruel and
shouldn't be allowed to work around children (but that's another story
that I've already told).
But I've seen almost all I've ever worked with punish and reward teachers in an attempt to claim power in the relationship. For instance, at my
last school we provided planning binders for our students. At the beginning of one year, the employee
who previously ordered some of the necessary supplies for said binders had left the school the year
before, and no one had thought to take up this ordering task. And all the teachers were left hanging. We all knew the administrative
assistant had extras from the years before.
I happened into the office right behind another teacher who asked the
administrative assistant if she had any extra supplies. She was sharply
turned away. But because I had used my time to break down boxes and then
made a friendly advance, I was told, "You know, I think I have some
extra supplies from last year under my desk. You should take a look."
I had learned to finesse.
Disclaimer time: Of course there are thousands of lovely people who are administrative assistants at elementary schools in this world. My brush is wide, so wide. I apologize to you if you are one of these lovely people. But if you are, you know of the others so I hope you'll allow me my say.
I believe a certain type of person is attracted to the role of administrative assistant: someone who is inherently organized and appreciative of rules and order. Then this person is constantly bombarded by people who are not organized, not as appreciative of rules and order as she (or he). And this makes the administrative assistant crazy. Especially at the beginning and end of the school year. And the some really iffy power-struggling can appear (as above).
You know who else I lump in this rule-loving, power-grasping category? Flight attendants and other airline personnel. I just flew four straight hours to TX with a six- and three-year-old and then four straight hours back. My children were easier than the airline personnel.
On the way there:
Flight attendant: Is that a lap child? No? He needs to be buckled in; the plane is moving. (The plane was not moving.)
Me: I was hoping I could wait until the plane pulls away from the jetway. He's only three, and he'll have to be buckled in for four hours.
Flight attendant: He must be buckled in now. The plane is moving. (The plane was not moving.)
On the way home:
Me: Hi! I need to get a tag for our stroller.
Airline employee puts on a sticky baggage tag, not the kind with the elastic band.
Me: Oh! I'm used to a different tag. Does this mean we'll pick this up at baggage claim instead of on the jetway?
Airline employee: This is the tag everyone always uses.
Me: Hmmm...I've never seen it used on a stroller before. Will we need to pick it up at baggage claim instead of on the jetway?
Airline employee (impatient): No. You will pick it up on the jetway after your flight. If you've never seen this before, everyone's been doing it wrong.
***Clearly, I've been helped by no one but cheerful incompetents for the last six years.
Airline employee: We'll let you board this time, but families are supposed to board between Boarding Sets A and B.
Me: But I have a boarding position of A41 here on my boarding pass.
Airline employee: Families board between A and B. (This had never been announced and I had been allowed to have get an earlier boarding position.)
***By the way, if Southwest think for a minute that I'll board later in the future because I have small children and they want me farther back on the plane, they've got another think coming. I'll board with my given boarding position, and they'll like it.
Flight attendant (from her position of making and delivering drinks): You should not have taken your child to the restroom right now; it's dangerous.
Me: Well, we had an emergency.
Flight attendant: It is not safe for you to leave your seat.
Me: Well, when given a choice between a child who pees her pants and bumpy walk, I choose the latter.
You know, I get the necessity of rules for air travel. It's dangerous. And there has to be some underlying structure for managing all the people in an airport. You know what else? I'm well-organized; my chosen profession is to teach bright, creative children who don't get the structure of language how to read and write. That's because I get rules and structure. I understand their role and their importance.
But come on, there's more gray in this world than there is black and white. Yes, you can count on or making a consistent sound most of the time; tch is almost always the correct spelling for /ch/ after a single, short vowel*; and if you're totally stumped and not yet a prolific writer, just start your topic sentence with There are... and you'll probably come up with something that gets the idea across.
But we're talking about human relationships here. Can't there be a little more of an assumption of the good in others? That people aren't asking questions just to get your goat, that mothers who don't buckle immediately or who weigh slight turbulence below the strong possibility of holding and comforting a urine-soaked six-year-old for three more flight hours still have some valid motherly impulses?
Yeah, I'm grumpy. I need a night's sleep.
* Don't throw such, which, and much at me. There are always exceptions!