|Pretty much a daily task|
Prom is a four-letter word
Prom is a four-letter word, perhaps the one word most dreaded by school administrators like me.
After all, apart from graduation, it is the quintessential high school rite of passage and therefore brings forth all sorts of emotions. Prom can lead to temper tantrums, tears, bouts of paranoia and rage. Sadly, I’m not talking about the students attending. Perhaps all I ever needed to know about prom came from watching Carrie back in the 70s. On the eve of the 19th high school prom I have attended, I am waiting for that bucket of blood to fall on my head.
What is it about prom that can bring out the worst in some? Why does one night hold so much power? And shouldn’t we have outgrown our adolescent aggrandizement of a dance? I will be the first to admit I’m not particularly sympathetic to those for whom this night means more. I know many see the prom as a night of beauty, romance, sophistication. I realize that for many people, young and old, it is the one time in your life you look red-carpet ready. Maybe because Prom was neither the magical night to conclude my high school years nor the only time I have looked fabulous, I simply don’t understand. While I have enjoyed the many proms I have organized and/or chaperoned, I wasn’t disappointed when my new boss said our school wouldn’t have a prom. I have endured many an insult and outburst over prom; imagine my chagrin when I realized this year would be no different. Telekinesis would have come in handy this week.
Despite the occasional drama at work, I’m not against prom. As the parent of a little girl, I now see this event differently and I look ahead to the days when I can help my M get ready. In my heart, I know that to give anything, whether it is an event, a person, or an object, so much importance can backfire. In real life, it is a dance, one that requires organization, attention to detail,and the involvement of big bad administrators. Better that I be the target of the negative emotions than the poor kids endure some Stephen King moment.
So I will act professional, look nice, and compliment the kids. And I will look up at the ceiling just in case.
Not like a TV soap at all
Television, that great American medium, has made society unrealistic about relationships, sexuality, family life, work, practically every human sociological experience. Even the most ardent cultural critics(the great bell hooks comes to mind) have been influenced and inspired by the images portrayed on the magic box of dreams. I, like most people in the First World, have a mind full of meaningless TV trivia but also, more impactfully, images and motifs that have shaped and/or struck a chord with my real life. It didn’t take long for me to see that my new job is more real than any reality show and more dramatic than any soap opera.
Adolescents, like most subgroups of society, have been portrayed superficially on television. From All-American boy Wally Cleaver to cutesy girl from the block Moesha, teens are seen in that problematic angel/devil paradigm that plagues most media. The bad kids are drug-dealing gangsters from New York Undercover, lovestarved prostitutes on Boston Public, or promiscuous brats on The OC. Even the kids on Degrassi the Next Generation, which comes closest to reality, in my opinion, are still light years away from the youngsters I speak to in my office every day. Television has yet to truly capture the heartache of adolescence in the 21st century: absent parents, the long-term emotional and physical consequences of parental drug and alcohol use, harsh poverty, twisted sexuality, and the volatile allure of violence and crime. Television cannot adequately portray the many-layered difficulty of parenting this new generation which is technologically savvy but educationally underprivileged. As a rookie administrator, I have no fictional role models to follow. School leaders are powerful buffoons, like Degrassi’s Mr. Raditch, who did nothing to help bullying victim Rick from orchestrating a tragic school shooting, or sharp-suited meanies like Ms. Musso from Parker Lewis Can’t Lose. On television, administrators are mostly irrelevant keepers of the law, often relegated to bit parts. This is why I actively seek out mentors and value the living leaders around me.
|Ms. Hatzilakos from DNG: not quite a role model|
In real life, high school has storylines that won’t wrap up in thirty minutes or an hour. There is no catchy theme music or sweeps season cliffhangers. Still, it is something worth watching and living.