Today I started volunteering at Elli's school. I am a Milk Monitor, which basically means I sell milk to all the kids and keep my eyes open for ways to help them as necessary. At the outset this seems extremely simple. As my printout describing my job says though, the ways in which I can help are limited. I cannot clean up spills. I cannot stack chairs at the end of lunch. I cannot dismiss the kids, discipline the kids, or really do anything with the kids except take their 50 cents and hand them a chocolate milk. (They can choose regular milk instead! Which happens approximately never.) In theory I am not even supposed to be reminding the children of the lunchroom policies because doing so is the job of a teacher or other qualified professional - just the act of mentioning the rules is prohibited to me.
The best part is the set of reasons I can't do any of the things described above: Union rules and liability. I can't clean up a spill because that is a designated union job. I can't pick up a chair because that is a designated union job. Of course the school doesn't have anyone performing these tasks because they simply can't find someone to work for 1.5 hours at lunchtime at normal hourly rates. I can't interact with the kids in any meaningful way because of the liability issues involved for the parent's council. If I were to tell a kid to stop doing something then the spectre of liability would rise up and blot out the sun causing some untold harm when the parents council or the school would have to pay a million dollar settlement to somebody or other.
This stuff makes me IN SANE. Thing is, the school and parent's council is probably not even at fault here. I bet it is the case that in fact if I told a kid to stop misbehaving and parents got involved that some kind of serious problem would arise, whether it be a political mess or a court appearance. The thing that really makes me sad at the end of the day is that I have the choice of being an asshole or violating the rules. If a kid needs help or is causing a problem I need to do something about it. The school can't hire the people it needs so somebody or other needs to step up and lend a hand - so I really need to do it knowing that I am breaking the rules and might get myself slapped back into place. I can't just stand there ignoring the world, I would go nuts. Instead I must sneakily pitch in in ways that seem like they won't lead to admonishment from those who need my help in the first place.
We need help!
But don't actually help.
[whisper] Well, actually help, but be sneaky about it and lie if questioned directly.
What a ridiculous mess. It feels like I am in some sort of secret agent movie where my actions will be disavowed if I should be caught doing what I am supposed to be doing. Unfortunately instead of a gun and an endless string of gorgeous models to sleep with I get a plastic name tag and a gaggle of thirsty schoolchildren.