There are three primary reasons I go to the high school back-to-school night.
The main one is for visual evidence of what the school personnel looks like. So, when a child starts describing their teacher as the devil I can interject that I saw neither horns, cloven hooves nor a tail when I sat in their classroom for 10 minutes.
Another reason is to get an overview of what their day is like. I want to be able to look at my watch and know at 11 o’clock my daughter is in Spanish in the classroom with a view of a courtyard that needs a mega weed and feed application. I’m sure somewhere, in all those abundant and varied school fees I paid for my child to have the privilege of attending a public school, there was a line item for landscape beautification. At the very least the Booster Club should make a trip to Lowe’s.
The lesser, I’ll call it, reason, I go is to people watch. My first order of business is to enjoy the beauty that is the administrative staff. I know, I have mentioned before that the principal at the high school my children attended and attend is gorgeous and the assistant principal is just as easy on the eyes. Were they GQ models before pursing a career in education? I’m thinking probably.
You should have seen the line of moms circling these two as they held court in the underclassman locker area. I, not wanting to be that obvious, (because, you know, talking about it in a newspaper column is totally covert) stood back and took it all in from across the hall.
After that, I proceeded to my daughter’s first class and was given a reality check that the more things change the more they stay the same. I went to sit down and was told by two women that the seat I was lowering myself into was being “saved for a friend.” Seriously, grown women are still “saving seats”? Say hello to me time traveling back 30 years and getting told to move from the cool kids lunch table. I, having taken a pledge, administered by my daughter, to “not embarrass her at back to school night” kept my mouth shut and found another seat, but I did give them an audible sigh and what I thought was a most impressive eye roll.
As the evening progressed I was amused by the parents that still hadn’t learned that back-to-school night is all about sitting down, shutting up, gazing at the wonder that is the teacher’s PowerPoint and then continuing on to the next class. This is not the forum to approach the teacher and sing the praises of your “gifted cherub” or — and this may be my favorite moment of the evening — talk to the Spanish teacher in Spanish about your talented “Niño.” Can you say, “show off”?
No, I take that back, that wasn’t my favorite moment. My most favorite thing about back-to-school night is the mixed message you receive from almost every teacher. While they’re churning through their presentation they will tell you that your child must learn to “self-advocate” and be “independent.” They said “self-advocate” so much I began to believe they were getting paid by some sort of for-profit self-advocate alliance to shill for them.
Now, here’s where the mixed message comes in. As you are being told to let kids fend for themselves, to grow, to embrace emerging adulthood, you are also given cutting-edge tools to stalk their every move. There’s Parent Vue on the school website where you can find out everything from what your kid had for lunch down to the sodium consumption (OK, that’s a very slight exaggeration) to the grade they got on a PE homework assignment. Then there’s Edmodo, which I’m almost certain was set up by a joint task force of Homeland Security, the FBI and the CIA. Here, you can creep on everything your kid does in class, so much so, it’s almost like you’re right there with them in Honors English, minus the smell wafting in from the cafeteria.
I have no doubt by next semester they’ll have kids wearing heart rate monitors throughout the school day so from home, work, even the grocery store, we can go online and check and see if our darlings seem stressed or if their vital signs are in the normal range.
So, if I may raise my hand and ask a question to the schools out there: Which is it? Do you want us to let our kids make mistakes, figure it out on their own and grow in the process, or do you want us virtually in the classroom?
This mom needs an answer.