On a daily basis in my position of Dean of Students at Minnesota Virtual High School, I complete enrollment verification forms for my students. These forms are for a variety of reasons such as Social Security, county funding, or child support. The forms ask two important questions: 1) is the student enrolled in school? 2) is the student in full-time attendance.
Most of the time, I can answer the first question positively; however, I often have answer negatively to the second. Thankfully, the Social Security Administration is about to define full-time attendance for online schools, and this will give me something to lean on. Right now, I have my own definition (I wrote the policy).
When I have to answer negatively to the second question, I make a phone call or send an email to the student or the parents to let them know exactly why I will not be able to complete the form for them. This usually results in the student going to a different school that will allow them to receive their funding. Sometimes, though, the student or parents try to negotiate with me. In fact, they frequently beg me to “just sign the form.” I do not think they realize that I can’t “just sign the form.” When I sign my name to something, it needs to mean something.
I have been in email conversation with an eighteen year old student who has spent so much time emailing me that I’m close to saying,”The amount of time you have spent emailing me could have been spent on a class!” This student’s most recent email promised that, if I would just sign the form, she would do some schoolwork this weekend. In her mind, simply saying that she is going to do work equals doing work. What she doesn’t realize is that there is a difference between present truth and future truth. The forms are not asking me if the student will be in attendance. The forms ask if the student has been or is in attendance.
There is a huge difference!
I literally complete twenty of these forms each week. I devote an entire day to the forms many weeks. And I bemoan the fact that I am doing them. I rant and rave about students who are simply enrolled in school to get their funding but who have no intention of ever completing their high school diploma. I throw verbal fits about how these students need to get a clue, to wake up and smell the coffee, and to realize what life is all about.
Tonight I informed this student that I could sign her form only when what she promised to do became what she actually did. As I hit send I realized that these students are just like me.
I, too, have many “future truth” moments. I will lose weight – in the future. I will go to the gym – in the future. I will quit drinking Coca-Cola – in the future. I will get more rest – in the future. And each of those future truths seems like a present truth. If I could just convince everyone else around me that this is true, maybe it would happen!
When I put aside my judgmental hat, I reallize that I am not that different than they are. The only difference is just that I am better at pretending to be good at life than they are. I truly do have “my act” together…and they do not. Their flaws are simply more visible than my flaws are.