One of my jobs as the school clerk is to handle the absence notes. It's also my job to handle all the daily changes in dismissal, be it issuing a bus pass, or adding the student's name to the parent pick-up list, or keeping track of who is attending what Brownie or Girl Scout meeting on that particular day.
These notes are brought to the office, along with lunch account payments and class attendance sheets, and deposited in either of two wire baskets on my counter. One is solely for lunch money, and the other holds attendance and notes. It says that on each basket – LUNCH or ATTENDANCE and NOTES. Most of the students are savvy enough to figure it out, but there are those who walk in and stand there holding the papers in their outstretched hand. I'll show them the baskets and they walk away happily knowing that they have made the delivery.
Occasionally, a teacher without a homeroom will walk in and present me with an errant note that has been found on the floor in the hallway. Unfortunately, they too have been known to stand there with the paper in their outstretched hand. Now I know they can read because they have obviously read the piece of paper in their hand and know that it is not just a piece of litter, but I bite my tongue and calmly point to the correct basket. I'm sure they walk out mumbling under their breath "Bitch".
All notes and attendance are supposed to be in the office by 9 a.m., so at that point I begin to sort the items in the baskets. I sift through the note basket for lunch money envelopes and get them into the right basket for the cafeteria lady to pick up. Then I take out the attendance sheets and do the daily attendance. Lastly, comes the notes.
I'm sure you've heard the excuse for students not having their homework "my dog ate it." Well, sometimes, I wish the dog would have finished eating some of these notes. Bad enough that I actually have to physically handle all of them (I have thought about wearing gloves and a mask for this), I also have to file them in the correct place. The bus pass requests and pick-up changes go into my daily folder. The absence notes go into a file in my desk. What's that you say? They don't go to the nurse? Oh no. My nurse doesn't want them. She doesn't want them unless they're a note from a doctor. So they are filed in my desk. The sick notes. The notes from every child who has had a headache, toothache, cold, sore throat, earache, stomach ache, diarrhea, fever, flu, bronchitis, asthma, etc. God only knows what I have brewing in that desk drawer. One thoughtful parent this week put the note into a plastic zip lock sandwich bag……..because the dog really took a bite out of it! It's nice how they had enough time to find a plastic bag but not a new piece of paper!
These notes come in all shapes and sizes. I get everything from the 1x2 inch post-it notes, to whatever the parent can find to write on. Earlier this week I got a note scribbled on a white napkin. The kind you get from a fast food restaurant. The funny thing is that this afternoon that same mom brought in another note on a brown napkin. I asked her where this one was from. She told me she thought that it was Taco Bell. She said the white one from the other day was from MacDonalds. Now I believe in "Going Green" but this might be taking it a little too far.
Then there's the deciphering part. A note reads "To Whom it May Concern, Please send aksir home on the bus 15 today" signed by someone who writes in a foreign language that I am not fluent in. This is not good in many ways. No teacher name, no decipherable student or parent name. The only information I have to go by is the bus number. I like puzzles, but not this kind. It will probably take me until lunch time to figure this one out.
Going back to that note let me say that I can't understand why a parent would write a note to the school and begin it "To Whom it May Concern". Do you think it's because they don't remember the teacher's name? I can tell you that the answer to that is yes more often than you would think. (I can also tell you that sadly, they often don't know the bus number and if it's a dad, he probably doesn't know either.)
Sometimes we get emergency notes faxed in. We got a fax this week that read:
"To the School Office,
Please send B….. home on the bus today. He should not go to aftercare. Also, please make sure that he gets his cell phone back from aftercare. It is a $400 phone and I need it back. Please remind B….. to bring home his science book so he can study for his test. "
If I could respond to this parent I would say – B….. is in 5th grade. B……. knows that students may carry cell phones but are not allowed to use them to play games in school or aftercare which is why it was confiscated. If B…….. was responsible enough to carry a $400 cell phone then he should be responsible enough to carry in a note for a bus pass and not have you have to fax one in every day this week. B……. has a teacher who I'm sure reminds all the students to take their books home to study for tests.
But the note that made me laugh this week was as follows:
"Mr. ………, Please have C…….. take home the bus today"
I sure hope that C……… has a place to park that bus and remembers to bring it back tomorrow!