Monday, January 27, 2014

Adventures in tour guiding...

So, yesterday was my big day of finally volunteering at Henry's school to help out at the open house. I've been wanting to do this for years, but never had worked up the initiative. Anything that requires me to socialize with people I don't see all that often is something that makes my introverted personality want to run and hide. But our experience at the open house when we were looking to switch Henry to Catholic school was SO positive, and we have liked the school so much, that I wanted to give back a bit. The open house is a part of a larger "Catholic Schools Week," wherein Catholic education is promoted in the media, and fun activities are planned for the kids. It's a lovely thing to be a part of.

A form was sent home that you could write your name on if you wanted to volunteer for the open house. It helped that it was so easy, because I don't remember this form going home in the past. I just wrote my name down, and tucked the form into Henry's backpack. I figured I could be put to good use handing out brochures or welcoming people into the school. Pointing the way to the juice and cookies, perhaps.

Sunday morning dawns, and I dressed cutely and professionally, wanting to make a positive impression for the school. I head out, arriving a few minutes early, like a good eager beaver should. I look around for a few minutes, trying to find the room where the volunteers are slated to meet up. The problem, you see, is that I don't know my way around the school terribly well. I'm not involved in the Home School Association, and any other time I'm at the school for events Henry is a part of or for teacher conferences, I have Henry or Mike to guide me.

I see a few other people and tag along behind them. One of the women is clearly In Charge.

"Tour guides? Yes, right in here."

Uh oh.

Obviously, there must be another room where all of the NON-tour guides will go. The people who are fairly clueless and want to point to the cookies. I mill around for a bit, doing what I do best: listening in.

I discover nothing. Nobody else looks concerned about this turn of events. The form said nothing about volunteering to be a tour guide specifically. It just said, "if you'd like to volunteer for the open house, please sign this form and return it with your child." But there doesn't appear to be any other volunteer opportunities available. I wondered if everyone else knew about this tour guide thing. I casually sidle up to a lady who looks nice:

"Have you volunteered at the open house before?"

"No." Her eyes widen. Clearly, a kindred spirit.

"I don't know my way around very well, so I didn't realize they only needed tour guides..."

"Oh my gosh, ME NEITHER!"

I love this lady.

We talk for a bit, and I recognize a few mothers of children in Henry's class. Some clearly are part of the HSA and are "in the know." The others move over to our group.

"You know, I don't know my way around very well, I'm a little nervous about being a tour guide..."

Whew! It's not just me. However, we're all in a bit of a predicament. There are "tour guide information" announcements being made, and I'm feeling my palms sweat. Clearly, the people in charge need and expect us to be tour guides. I finally get an opportunity to corner the head lady:

"Do you need people to do other things besides being a tour guide? I don't know my way around the building very well."

"Well, no."

At least she's honest.

"Don't worry. Every parent is paired with a middle school student who has received formal training. The kids will do everything in terms of leading the way. We are in desperate need of adults to be a part of the tours. All you need to do is talk to the parents."

Well, she did phrase it in such a way that made me *somewhat* less anxious.  And sort of like I couldn't say no. So I obsessively read the sheet they had given us, wiping my damp palms on my pants. Keeping it classy.

Next thing you knew, I was placed with an 8th grader named Cassie and we were herded off to greet a set of parents with their 3rd grader in tow. The husband works for the diocese. Fabulous. No pressure there.

But honestly, it went very well. Their son is currently enrolled in public school (the same one Henry went to for kindergarten, so nice conversation fodder there) and would be going into 4th grade in the fall, also the same as Henry. I could tell that they definitely wanted to make the switch to Catholic school, it was just a matter of whether it would be this one or one other. The other one we considered for Henry, actually. Cassie led the way, and I made introductions, answered their questions, and inserted my experience as best I could.

They spent a lot of time at the school, so I'm hoping that they will enroll their son, we will see. I actually didn't have time to give another tour, since I was with them for the majority of the 2 hour open house. There was a HUGE turnout, with 10 local Catholic schools closing and parents scrambling to find new schools for their kids.

Thus, overall I had a very nice time. The initial anxiety notwithstanding, I'm so, so glad that I did this and really enjoyed participating. Since we toured the 4th grade room, I got a sneak peek at Henry's next room and teacher, which was a huge bonus. Everything just reinforced why we chose this school for Henry - I fell in love with the warmth, the sense of family and community, the Catholic statuary and prayers in every classroom. Another good open house experience.

Is it Catholic Schools Week in your diocese as well? Are you thinking about Catholic education? Leave me a comment!

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