"Words are a form of action, capable of producing change."
I realized several years ago that word can produce change. From letters written to my employer, my state legislator, the governor, even the president - I feel like at least one or two of my ideas make a difference.
This past August, I had problems with my daughter's high school, and it finally took a letter to the editor of our local newspaper to finally get any action. My 16 year old is an honor student with plans to attend college when she graduates in two years. However, when her class schedule came in the mail ten days before school started, I came home to a child who was broken hearted and crying.
My honor roll student - who had requested all honors and AP classes - had been put into all the "regular," lower requirement classes. I don't mean to make assumptions about other children in the lower level classes, but wouldn't you think an honor roll student with a 3.7 GPA, ranking number 36 out of 274 students, deserves to be in the honor classes?
I immediately got on the phone with the school system, only to be hindered by the rudest receptionist I think I've talked to in a long time. I'm a Church secretary, so I think I know a little about phone etiquette, but obviously the school receptionist and I were not on the same page. In her condescending tone, she informed me that juniors could not make changes to their schedules until next Friday (this was exactly one week away, and three days before school was scheduled to begin). I tried in vain to tell her this was more than a simple schedule change, but she became hostile and said there was nothing she could do. When I asked to speak to someone else, she said there was no one else there and then hung up on me. I tried several more times to call the school that afternoon, but all I kept getting was a busy signal. I also tried calling the board of education, but they weren't answering the phone either.
Over the weekend, I had phone calls from numerous parents who were also upset with the school system. Apparently, ALL of the class schedules had been screwed up, not just a few. The parents I talked with decided to band together and go to the high school on Monday. We had planned to meet at school at 10 AM.
When we got to the school, the parent lines were outside the door with people waiting to get in and change schedules. I waited patiently in line from 9:45 until 12, inching ever so slowly to the guidance counselors office. Then low and behold, at 12 o'clock sharp, BOTH of the guidance counselors locked their offices and said they would be back at 1; it was lunch time. There was practically a riot! We asked why both of them had to go at the same time, but we never received a satisfactorily reason.
I was so upset, I finally left the school - there was no way they would be able to get to all the parents waiting in line that day. I had already missed three hours of work, and I couldn't afford to miss any more that day. So, I went back to work and decided to try calling the school again. This time I got a different receptionist, but she explained that nothing could be done over the phone. I asked her how long the line was (this was maybe an hour after I left) and she said there was still many people waiting.
My next plan was to go to school the next morning and be there when the doors opened. So I arrived at 7 and waiting about 20 minutes before the first person arrived. Then I waited and waited and waited, as more and more parents began to arrive. By 9:30, no guidance counselors had shown up. When I asked to speak with the principal, I was told he was not in the building. What the hell was going on?
Upset and angry, I left the school and went in to work. By this time I had already lost 6 hours of pay for the week! I decided to write a letter to the editor of our local newspaper. If the principal, guidance counselors or school board were not going to help, maybe a public plea in the newspaper would do the trick. So I wrote, had several people read it to make sure it wasn't too angry and only contained the facts.
The letter appeared the following day in the paper, and by 6 o'clock that night, the principal was calling me at home. Hmmmmm ... he's too busy to talk to parents in person or on the phone, but shed negative light on his actions and he's riding to the rescue. He told me he didn't appreciate the letter I wrote, and that's when I let him have it. How dare he call MY home and lecture me, when I'd been trying to take care of this problem for three days? He wanted to know why I didn't call him at home, and I told him my reasons: 1.) School was not even in session, so I did not feel right interrupting his family time; 2.) I hate when my hubby's boss calls him at home, so I hate bothering someone else on their time off; 3.) I thought it was more appropriate to take care of the matter at school were all the student's records are kept.
Needless to say, my daughter's schedule was fixed the very next day. So, all in all, my little letter to the editor did more to change the situation that three days of phone calls and standing in line. It's amazing how the written word had more power than the spoken word. Since the Principal's phone call, I have received numerous phone calls from teachers at the high school - all praising me for writing the letter. They were all upset with the management of the school, but feared for their jobs, so they never spoke up.
It's nice to know that in this day and age of the world wide web, letters in local papers can still promote action in every day lives.