Friday, June 10, 2011

Come on, folks, this isn't kindergar... oh wait. Yes it is.

Subtitled: Rage against The Machine.

A sizeable chunk of my chill days away from the blog has been spent bobbing around in a stormy ocean of kindergarten politics, gripping tightly to a flimsy little makeshift raft that I had to hastily fashion from committee meeting notes, agendas and a spare pipe cleaner or two. The antics going on right now are in the realm of the unreal, to me, the likes of which I had heard about on various grapevines but never properly accepted as real or ever bound to happen - I thought those telling the stories were surely exaggerating or had just encountered good old-fashioned bad luck.

But no.

Kindergarten committees in Victoria. Ahhhh. The stuff of legends.

A place where a select few parents come together once a month and pretend (or not) to be a cohesive group for the sake of the other 50-odd families they are effectively representing and pulling the weight for. Who knows, perhaps of those other 50-something families, a large portion have "done time" in previous years and vowed never again would they go on the kinder committee. Their hair (the preservation of) and their health were more important to them.

I get that. Now.

Did you know, Victoria is the only state/territory that doesn't have some form of Education body as the provider or responsible agency for its preschool facilities? The Department of Human Services governs the structure of this branch of my child's early learning life. And now, seeing the inner workings of a preschool committee in this state, I'm not entirely sure it's the best or most appropriate way to conduct the program.

Our teachers are great. Love both of them. The kinder itself is wonderful. The care and environment they provide is very sound. But when it comes to costs of running it all? That's where the system can fail abysmally. See, here, a kindergarten is only as good as its fundraising efforts. A preschool with the latest educational/teaching aids and learning toys and so forth has only gained those by way of a combination of savvy teacher and clued-in parents on the committee getting their collective act together to ensure a steady flow of funds during the year. Basically, a preschool in Victoria is only as good as its previous year's committee and how well they grovelled for cash. How well they pretended to be ex-lepers haggling for a spare sheckle.

Is this fair? Is it right?

Actually, it's not the fundraising I have an issue with. It's the structure of the voluntary parent committee I see as problematic. I thought (HA) I could get past any concerns or hiccups. It's only for a year, I told myself when I signed up as Secretary. It's for the children, I reminded myself when cracks began to appear and the true sluggish nature of a group of overworked and unpaid parents kept coming together once a month. Our well-meaning little group has denigrated to the point of no return.

Now, we are on the verge of a show-down to rival the WWE. It's astonishing.

And all I can really do is put my student's hat on and take notes on the sidelines. Detach and observe. See how large personalities are gorging on their over-important egos, muddying the real job we have got to do here. This is not a battle about who's more important or who's got more say over whom. This is about putting one unpaid person at the helm of a group of unpaid people and giving them a modicum of power (usually in title alone - President) to get a rather large task seen to. Let's face it, this mob has nothing to lose if they are not in the business of acting decently towards others. A woman scorned is a scary thing. I've seen it at point blank range.

All of this isn't even to mention the anger, people. The anger! Where does it come from? I know I've got some. I've got lots of the stuff. Or so I thought, until I came across that intriguing creature known as the kinder committee member with an axe to grind. Wow. It seems my pocketful of kryptonite is not as radioactive as I imagined. My rage is nothing compared to this. And there is one reason why I don't even bother getting so pent-up: This, this kinder committee, this year - quite possibly the only one Steve and I will experience with a child of ours (yes, he is on the committee too) - is not important enough to spend so much of my energy. Over what? Something that will last for another 5, 6 months tops. My aim is to work with whomever is left on the committee to the end of the year and hope like hell we're not leaving the bank balance in an embarrassing state. Despite the fact that it personally represents a bittersweet turnstile year for our only surviving child, the antics being pulled by the blinkered few are just disappointing.

When it comes down to it, the volunteer committee represents society in some respects. There are the "gunners", the "doers", the committed, the rubber-neckers. There are the outspoken, there are the martyrs. There are the peace-keepers and the silent. And there are the downright missile-seeking train wrecks.

What would happen, I wonder, if people could get out of their own way a little more often and accept responsibility for their brazen energy-spills? What if they were able to rein in some of their rage - or actually, not feel it over such unimportant stuff in the first place?

Is it possible to talk your ego down from the ledge? Do you dissolve situations in your mind easily once you step back, detach and realise it is not the place for you to be taking anything personally? Do you hold on even once you see something was not directed at you personally? When you're in a committee, how do you handle yourself? Do your own internal rules change - do you blend in to the collective, or do you stand out and stand up for things you believe are right? No right or wrong here, I'm just interested.

In this situation - the good old kinder committee - I just don't feel it enough to make it about me. Even if someone else was making it personal, against me, an "attack" by a committee member would be difficult for me to take on. Because I can put other things aside and get on with the job (with whomever is left after any stand-offs and walk-outs and sackings and resignations).

Is that too Pollyanna of me?  Eh, suck it up. I'm the best and worst person to have on your committee. I am your Homer Simpson to their Drederick Tate.

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