If this is how we treat parents — no wonder they are so frustrated with us!

Frustrating is not the word for it….more like blood curdling mad!  Such a simple task —  all I had to do was transfer a title and registration on a boat. I started at the license bureau thinking of course that title transfers and licenses would be in one location — that of course would make too much sense — right?  — No — title work is done downtown the license bureau employee told me with a fake smile.   No big deal I thought — as I left the license bureau, I did ask if they take a personal check and they said “yes” but warned me that the title agency is cash only.  I thanked her and headed downtown for what I thought would be a simple transaction.

Once I arrived downtown,  it was packed with people and only a few “public” windows most of the employees were dedicated to “dealers” who were selling cars, motorcycles, boats etc….to customers. I was a little frustrated — but understood they would process much more than one lowly title.  I finally got to the window and the women looked at my title and said — we cannot accept this — I looked at her dismayed and asked why — she said the co-owner signed in the wrong spot!  The lady behind the counter looked at me and said in a condescending tone “well you should have paid more attention to the directions!”   To add to my insult — I had the wrong amount on my cashiers check because I did not account for title transfer!  I was fuming at this point……I had to get the person I bought the boat from to redo the title and start all over!

That was day 1 — day 2 and 3 don’t go over well either — once I secured the title — paid my taxes and had it in hand I returned to the license bureau ready to transfer the registration into my name. Easy — the transfer price was only 10 bucks and I thought great!  I took out my check and began to write a check for 10 bucks remembering that they take checks — when the women behind the counter looked at me and said — “we don’t take checks on watercraft only for cars and motorcycles!”

This is likely where if you read Comic strips I sounded like this —  ” $%%!#~ and (*&^%&!

I was so frustrated that under my breath I wondered is this 2015 — every other place takes a debit or credit card but not this government agency?  How is one supposed to know all these little archaic mundane rules?  I should not have to read a manual to transfer a title and registration.

This is truly ridiculous……..  BUT ……

That’s when it occurred to me that we in schools do this to parents all the time!  I was frustrated with the process because I don’t do it everyday — in fact I seldom ever do it — but the people who work behind the counter do it day in and day out. So they know the rules and are almost indignant you on the other side of the counter do not — this is so similar to a school.

I saw so many frustrated parents who are trying to complete simple task like registering their child for school or making sure they get their medication on time or filling out a simple form for a field trip or attempting to schedule classes for a 9th grader.  We school people know the rules, we do this everyday — but we often forget that the people on the other side of our desk or counter do not do this everyday and are often frustrated at the procedures or paperwork.

We have a tendency to send them all over the place without much explanation — like to the board office or some particular school for central intake or ask them to print some paper online as they stand in front of us.  We — myself included — can be insensitive to their frustration especially when we have lots of people asking us the same questions over and over again.

This experience has prompted me to review our procedures and talk to my staff about how we approach parents as we prepare to take student registrations and help them navigate schools archaic and mundane rules to try to at least alleviate some stress and anger by the parents who have to navigate our complex system.  Wish the title and license bureau would do the same thing….


About James Herrholtz

Consultant, Teacher, Coach, Administrator for over 23 years. I have been a superintendent of schools, College Instructor, and worked at the Ohio Department of Education heading up the Division of Learning.
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