In which I fume about absurd school forms

I am facing the annual pile of forms from M’s school. I am immediately annoyed by the size of the pile. Welcome back! Let’s spend an hour filling out forms! The pile is stapled together in the bottom left corner, WTF? which heightens the annoyance, then I nearly break a nail prying out the staple so I can fill them out, which annoys me yet further. Oh, what fun. On to the forms:

  • Unnumbered form about the Safe Arrival program, requiring my signature, the name, room and grade of my kid. Rendered useless by the need to return the form, thus removing any reminder of the Safe Arrival procedures from my house.
  • Form 511H, Walking Excursion Form – Immediate Community. So they can take my kid outside the school fence. Requires kid’s name (twice), teacher’s name, my name and signature, date.
  • Form 511K, Physical Education Information and Intramural Information/Permission. Two pages long; summary: sometimes kids get hurt. It’s not like gym is optional, so what is the earthly point of this form? Requires name (twice) and grade/class of my kid, my name (twice), signature (twice) and date (twice).
  • Form 511E, Medical Information Form. Endless detail, mostly about allergies and Epipens. (Is it the school’s business if my child sleepwalks?). And yes, of course the school may call a doctor in an emergency. Sign, date.
  • Unnumbered form lecturing us about lunch hour procedures (“Lunchroom supervision is provided only for those students from grades 1 to 8 who cannot go home or make other arrangements” [like what other arrangements??]). Oh, I’m so terribly sorry my kid is inconveniently present all day but you know what? The school day overlaps most people’s work days and watching the kids over lunch is a perfectly normal part of the school deal. Rather contradictorily they point out that if kids who do go home are late coming back they may be required to stay for lunch. Make up your mind, folks! Requires kid’s name, schedule, grade, teacher’s name and room number (surely one of these would do?), and my signature signifying that I’ve read their snarky lecture.
  • Unnumbered Code of On-line Conduct form making me responsible for upholding the school’s policies, which are not provided for me to review. Sorry, but I am not signing this one. What my kid does during school hours on school computers under school supervision has nothing whatsoever to do with me. Also, it isn’t specified whether or not the kids are expected to follow these mysterious policies outside school, and what I let my kid do on our own computer is not the school’s business. I leave the line acknowledging that my kid will be using computers at school (like they need my permission for this) and cross out the rest.
  • School year calendar listing PA days and holidays, separately.
  • Class newsletter. In Comic Sans. WHY? Reiterates school hours (which seem to change every year) and which exits the kids use, as well as lecturing us about how to make a healthy lunch, lecturing us on the importance of reading, lecturing us on the importance of the mandatory ($6) planners, lecturing us about appropriate school supplies, and more. Lecture lecture lecture. Pthtththbbbbt.
  • Another calendar, very hard to read. Oh good, the kids are on a 7-day cycle this year so things like gym and library are even harder to keep straight. Of course, gym and library are not marked on this calendar OR the other calendar. Eventually I find them hidden in a corner of the class newsletter. I foresee a boring half-hour with this calendar and some coloured pens.
  • Unnumbered form requiring $6 for a planner. What, no signature required??
  • Unnumbered general Contact Information Form, in case my name wasn’t clear enough from the previous five billion forms. Comic Sans again makes me wince. I yet again cross off Mom’s Name and Dad’s Name and replace them with Parent/Guardian 1 and Parent/Guardian 2, and add yet another short note pointing out that there may be kids in care or in gay families, and inclusion never hurts. I do this every year (I can’t possibly be the only one) and yet there Mom and Dad remain on the form. There’s just no excuse for schools to have Mom & Dad on their forms in 2009. For shame.

And that seems to be it for the moment. It seems choir hasn’t started yet so I don’t have the form for that — as if it’s any of my business if my kid wants to join a school program during school hours — and apparently the Pizza Day folks haven’t quite got things together yet, so we still have those forms to look forward to. Whee.

The thing that bugs me most? I fill out these forms every.single.year. So do the other 950 parents at M’s school and probably thousands and thousands more across the city. All this paper and all this wasted effort! What did they do with the other four years’ worth of forms I’ve filled out? Why on earth isn’t all this information kept in a database for the duration of my child’s stay at the school? At worst it should be printed and sent to me each year to initial or update, but really it ought to be online for me to review and update. Remind me what year it is again? Or maybe what century we’re in?

The thing that bugs me almost as much: These things are SO badly designed. Why do I have to fill out my name and my kid’s name twice on many forms? Why (at the very least) is this not all one multi-part form? If you’re going to send these things to hundreds or thousands of people, put some effort into effective design!

Thing that bugs me quite substantially: The tone. The patronizing condescension. The air of mistrust and hints of disapproval. Please. Talking to me as if I were both six and slightly prone to misbehave does not make me want to fill out your forms.

Another thing that bugs me quite substantially: The unnecessary jargon. A whole page describing a Safe Arrival Program, which I can sum up as: call the school if you’re kid’s going to be absent? Two pages for the Phys Ed/Intramural one, which is: kids sometimes fall down? And these are the people who are supposed to be teaching my child how to communicate? Gaaah! Speak like normal people already, and if you’ve forgotten do that, hire a plain-language specialist.

Thing that also bugs me: Comic Sans. Let’s ban it. Nobody over the age of ten or so should find Comic Sans even slightly acceptable for formal communications.

This pile of forms is due tomorrow, as at least three forms plus the class newsletter remind me. By now I am in such a cranky rebellious temper that I am sorely tempted to hold on to them until Tuesday, just because. But I suppose it’s a little early in the school year to be that openly antagonistic, so I shall dutifully send them off tomorrow.

And now I shall have a beer and blow off my antisocial crankiness with an extra-loud belch.

6 thoughts on “In which I fume about absurd school forms

  1. When Patrick was in Grade One at our rural Queen’s Rangers elementary school, I arrived home in the middle of his school day to discover him in bright sunlight standing on the snowy cistern cover at the head of our lane way with a broken snowsuit zipper. He’d been brought home early by the school bus because there was supposed to be a snow storm (which never arrived) and had found himself locked out of the house. I went nose to nose with the school, and then the school board and etc. etc. and all this spouting went absolutely nowhere. Everyone said he should have gone next door to a neighbour. I explained we had no next door neighbours. Or he should have a key. Or, whatever. Anyway, it was my fault–the school was in no way responsible. Well, I sure set up a safety net in a hurry! And, this proved the rule, which is to say, probed the rule, that no matter how many forms you sign, and how many rules, you still have to be ready for just about anything, and for nobody to take responsibility for it.

  2. Not to “one-up” here, but I had to do that.. for three kids. And one kid is at a new-to-him school so there’s additional crap attached for “our information” – all of which we needed to initial. And that tone? Oh, man, I *get* that whole “talk to the lowest common denominator” thing, but there IS a limit! I also love the “use of child’s information or image in the media, internet or radio” form (because the radio isn’t media? I do not know.)


  3. I agree. I was actually impressed by the relatively low number of forms we had to sign (two) but I’m sure more will be coming. The information so far has contained good information that I actually want to know. (Bring in empty toilet rolls; here’s the teacher’s phone number.)

    But what would stop each parent having an account on their school website where they could confirm electronically (for multiple children, if necessary) that they have read the forms? Perhaps with a button saying “alert me if this form changes; otherwise, permission stands unless I otherwise state it.”

    Also it would be useful to be able to do things like have an e-calendar that interacted with Google calendars, or even the option to set up non-annoying reminders for swimming and library.

    Parents would be grateful. These little notes being ferried to and fro from school as though children were being used as carrier pigeons are a trifle silly. It’s absurd that teachers don’t communicate by email. I mean, there are probably areas where that wouldn’t work, but they ain’t Riverdale.

  4. Violet, I forgot that last form! I threw it away upon receipt. I am not signing over my child’s information and/or image for propaganda uses by the TDSB. I mean, WTF?

    C, as well as being grateful for e-communication, it would be a whole lot more effective. M loses a significant percentage of home-bound forms. And we miss a bunch more, because we are so un-used to paper that we don’t think to search her backpack for them.

    And also yes, yes! Let me subscribe to the class calendar via my Google Calendar! Especially since there’s no way to do repeats like “gym repeats every 2nd, 5th and 7th weekday starting Sept 8”. Each instance needs to be entered separately. Bleh. If I feel nice and if I have time perhaps I will do this in a subscribable way and let the other parents in M’s class know.

    M does have a teacher with an email address (that has been shared with us) this year. First time in five years. It’s clearly a throwaway yahoo account but hey, I’ll take it.

  5. Emily, they’ve swung to the other end of the spectrum: even in Grade 3, M is not supposed to walk the 200m home alone. An approved adult must pick her up from school. I think this is madness. Surely there is some solution somewhere between neglect and overprotectiveness…

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