Playing the Bureaucratic Game

Playing the Bureacratic Game

One year at Macdonald Consolidated a rather troubled middle school student arrived. He had been expelled from his school in the city and was now in a group home in our area. He was quite disruptive and had a number of academic deficiencies. He proved to be quite a handful.

We worked hard at trying to accommodate him and to design a program with which he would be successful, but we achieved only mild gains. His classroom behaviours proved to be too much. It wasn’t fair to the students in his class or his teachers.

The message that seems to be delivered to teachers and schools is, Be all things to all people. While we try to live up to that unrealistic expectation, we often fall short. Occasionally, we need to reach out beyond our building for help. Sometimes it is readily available, sometimes it is not, but I always proceeded with the understanding that every problem had a solution.

For this particular student we found it necessary to hold another case conference. The school was well represented as was the group home. We also had his social worker present and a person from the District Office. The goal of the meeting was to figure out how to create an environment for success for this fellow.

It was acknowledged that he responded well to one-on-one time with teachers. His behaviours really only became an issue when in the company of his peers. It was agreed that if we could somehow teach him in a separate room while working towards a plan of re-integrating him into his regular class then this might be the best course of action. But where to find the personnel to make this happen?

The social worker said, “You know, I have access to tutoring funds and could arrange for money to be available to provide four hours of tutoring a day.”

I explained that there were substitute teachers in the area who might be willing to take advantage of that opportunity. We certainly had space in the building in which the tutoring could take place. The teachers could check in regularly and the Methods and Resource teacher could coordinate the tutoring. It was agreed that this could go a long way towards solving our dilemma.

“But there is a problem”, said the social worker. “If the tutoring takes place during the school day it cannot be inside of the building.”

“Why is that?”, I asked.

She explained that that was the policy and included the appropriate amount of bureaucratic blah blah blah.

“But that’s not in the best interest of the student. It would be so much easier if all interested parties were under the same roof.”

She didn’t disagree but again stated that that was the government policy. The meeting ended with me saying that I would contact the nearby church hall and see if arrangements could be made.

A unique feature of Macdonald Consolidated School is the fact that the local historical society has a museum in the basement. It is open during tourist season and focuses on the history and settlement of our area. It is a neat spot and employs two students during the summer months.

That night I had an idea.

The next day I called the social worker (remember, the museum is in the basement of the school).

“Good news. I have arranged a space for the tutoring. We can have the use of a room above the local museum.”

“Well, that’s great news.”

“And get this, we are not going to be charged anything.”

“That’s really good. Can you access it during the day?”

“That’s not a problem. I have a key.”

“OK then. I’ll get the paperwork in order. Let me know when you have a tutor in place and we can get started.”

The arrangements worked splendidly; unfortunately, some time later the student was put out of the foster home and ended up moving back to the city. At least we came up with a plan that worked, and the student was able to experience some success while with us.

That was seventeen years ago. I wonder if that social worker has since visited the museum?

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2 thoughts on “Playing the Bureaucratic Game

  1. Too bad the government forced us to constantly think of ways to think outside the box to thwart their dumb rules. I got to be an expert at this as did most principals. Too bad there isn’t a university course designed for this….

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