Thursday, December 4, 2008

What does terpsichorean mean again?

I plagiarized. Well, not sure if counts as plagiarism if one is given carte blanche approval to use it, verbatim if appropriate. My friend, Zebadiah Beaugard wrote a fake "excuse letter" in his blog, for aid in getting Irish stepdancers excused out of school for competitions. Being my child's name isn't Bridget, and she doesn't attend Piscayune School, I did modify it some.

Z&B's sample focused more on a feis, which isn't so applicable for M as hers are primarily more local. She also didn't require one in previous years for attending the Southern Region Oireachtas (SRO). Two years ago, the SRO was held in Arlington, Virginia, closer to us than her dance studio is. Alright, awards run really late Sunday night so I think I let her sleep in and miss some of class that Monday. Last year, when SRO was in Atlanta, she didn't miss much school, either, as we mostly flew down and back. Hmmmm, she was in her wonderful private Montessori school back then, where an absence is assumed excused just don't take too many and please do inform the teacher in advance whenever possible. Perhaps we should have taken more time of last year.

This year, M is attending school at a local county high school. Montgomery County, Maryland, is a county with an overly strict attendance policy, with few things counting towards excusable absences. Like a death in the immediate family, or illness of the student him or herself (doctor's note can be required), or college visits. Even horrid traffic does not count (for being tardy), like it does in another Maryland county. I figured that with M being a freshman, and us not actually visiting any college campuses on this trip (SeaWorld doesn't really count as a college no matter how career-oriented the visit truly is for M, and goddaughter, LEL, will come up from her Miami college campus to visit us, not us visiting her), I couldn't quite say it's a college visit. If traveling with a sports team representing the school, that's an excused absence. Um, not workable for M. The choreography for an Irish stepdancer is specific to his or her particular Irish stepdance school. Even other Irish stepdancers, if any, in her high school, couldn't be on a team with M unless they attended the same Irish dance school. Unfortunately, any unexcused absence means a teacher does not need to allow a student to make up any work missed (ouza on the grade drop potential in THAT), and too many unexcused absences also means a loss of credit. Too many times walking in at the last bell counts as tardy and can also mean a loss of credit. Sigh, as M's dad continues to get her to school late from his home, different issue in a way, but I can't risk M's attending this year's SRO have her unexcused absences add up to, yikes, loss of credit.

I'm not faking a doctor's note, nope, no way, besides, M wanted to be upfront. Seems many others in MCPS will say they're sick, eh, let's try honesty and hope it works. Our first time trying this, I pulled out all the stops, just in case. I heard after the fact that M's GPA alone will likely give her a fully-excused pass. That's good for M, but I wish that others with, say, a C average, would get an excused absence for their well-rounding experience, too.

Seems the attendance officer didn't care to read it, just took my word that it's for a sports competition out of town, and gave M an excused pass to leave school early this Friday. However, the principal, who'd been away, was to review my letter this a.m., and hopefully, give her stamp of approvel, and get it passed to each teacher to sign off on M's assignments or something. Think the principal'll think I'm laying it on a mite thick? It IS all true......

Note I happened to fail to mention the 2 extra days, for SeaWorld, and Disney. Yep, this is our Christmas, and our summer vacation, it's our one big time all year I've been saving and scrimping for...... but I don't need to relay that.

"Dear [principal name]:

This is to inform you, and whomever else it may concern, that 9th grader, [name, should have included student #] will be absent from school from (time) this Friday, December 5th, through Wednesday, December 10th, 2008. She will be traveling to compete at the Southern Region Oireachtas in Orlando, Florida.

An Oireachtas is, essentially, regionals for Irish stepdancing. The Southern Region includes Mexico and Texas, to Florida, and north to Maryland. It's an ethno-cultural, educational event for the highest level of competitive Irish stepdancers. It is a great honor for her to be chosen to represent Maryland, and of course our county and high school, while carrying on and experiencing her cultural heritage.

The primary purpose of this event is to advance the understanding and appreciation of Irish cultural identity, heritage, and traditions, through the use of various media. There will be enrichment-based activities such as art displays, live musicians playing traditional Irish music, foreign language, costumed dance, and drama competitions.

M[name] herself will be competing in traditional costumes to hornpipes, and reels, and a traditional handed-down-for-centures set dance [decided not to say her set is called Drunken Gauger]. She is also scheduled to compete on three teams; two teams are to dance to very traditional choreography, and the third team competition is a dance drams. They will use traditional steps and music to dance out a story related to a traditional Irish theme. M[name] will be demonstrating her competency and interpretation of certain terpsichorean aspects of Irish folk traditions. A panel of adjudicators (usually three at a time), will evaluate these presentations and provide guidance and feedback to our [name], as regards to her demonstrated expertise and proficiency.

our aim is that this absence from class does not affect [name]'s academic performance (which currently is at the 4.0 GPA [name of honors program] level). We also hope it'll expand her knowledge and what she can bring to her involvement in the [name of International club at her high school which sponsors the diversity show] at [HS name]. Please let me know if she will need to complete any assignments before she leaves. I'll make every effort to ensure that [name] completes her schoolwork while she's away, and as appropriate, after her return.

Please e-mail me at [two e-mails given for me], with any of [name]'s assignments, or with any other information. Thank you for your cooperation and understanding.

[my name and signature]"

It really is, primarily, an athletic competition, a "major," as the Irish stepdance world refers to it as. But, it is also an educational and cultural experience. Some people don't see dance as a sport, somehow, but this is the only sport M's ever done, other than running, which requires her to use her inhaler when she's working really hard. It's dance, it's cultural, it's heritage and ethnic, it's beautiful, and it's a sport.

Of course, she has a performance tonight, as she auditioned for and yeah got in to her high school's Show Choir. They'll dance and sing to "Circle of Life" for the Winter Choral Concert. Very lovely, just, gosh. At least she's kept up her grades, and rehearsals and practices (she's worked really hard), and other than an illness earlier this week that she's re-gaining her strength from, that I now have (ironically, I share symptons with both M, and with E's ex-wife, um, did we catch it from his adorable 1-year old grandson?), her tailbone isn't too much of a bother even after having kicked it again, she could use more sleep, but I think she'll be okay. Just wish her first competition wasn't at check-in 7:00 a.m. Saturday!

I'm hoping it's a really good time:) and hope to get computer access for updates on my Irish dance blog, i.e., Yeah, okay, so her particular solo costume is not as traditional any more, her new school dress still is!

p.s.: terpsichorean means of or related/relating to dance.


  1. Well done on the letter for getting M out of school. I hope you guys have a wonderful trip, be safe & have a great time!!!!

    I would have never thought a Maryland school would be so strict in their attendance.

  2. best of luck to M. how exciting for her and you...and surely the school will be proud, too.

    thanks for your words, Robin. They were appreciated.

    p.s. My cousin owns a dance studio here. She named it Terpsichore.

  3. A very good letter, plagiarized or not!It's a shame that the school doesn't distinguish between educational and cultural enrichment experiences and just being absent to go shopping. As a former educator, I think that M's involvement in dance is as much an educational experience as learning Algebra and a heck of a lot more fun! Hope that your trip is/was wonderful!