Saturday, September 15, 2012

The Education Continues...

Aah, the beginning of another school year--the excitement of fresh pencils and notebooks (Hello, nice to meet you, you may call me "Office Supply Nerd"), the joy of new Fall fashions (oh wait, I have sons, who will continue to wear their Summer shorts and tees until Thanksgiving. Never mind...), the torture--I mean "enlightenment and entertainment" of Back to School Night(s). I've been dutifully attending these shindigs for 7 years now, and I have to admit that this year I thought to myself "Again? Really? Don't I know enough about Elementary and Middle School by this point to at least fake my way through? But the deeply ingrained Type-A Academic in me (you know, the one who always did her homework, never turned in an assignment late, and memorized her notes before tests) just wouldn't let me skip it. What if I missed something crucially important to my child's educational success? What if all the other parents got more brownie points with my kid's teacher by showing up? Ooh, and speaking of brownies: what if there were extra-stupendous snacks the one year I failed to put in an appearance? Clearly, I couldn't let this happen. So I heaved an inner sigh and resigned myself to nodding, smiling, and attempting to listen attentively to the spiel once more.

First up: Riley's BTS Night. And I must say, it went much better than I had expected or even hoped it would. You see, over the years I've picked up some valuable shortcuts...or sneaky tricks...hmm, let's just go with "Elementary School Insider Information". The first of these is: plan your arrival after the introductory PTA meeting. (Shh, you did NOT hear me say that!) During this time, the building is packed wall-to-wall with parental bodies waiting to visit classrooms. It's loud. It's overly-warm. It's simply too much of an up-close-and-personal crush of humanity for me to be dealing with. Secondly, now that Riley is my one child in this particular school, I need only sit through a single half-hour presentation instead of sticking around for both sessions. Thus by checking the schedule, I can ensure that I smoothly slide into my chair for the very last portion of the evening. Many people have vacated the premises by this point, so navigating both the miniscule parking lot and the narrow hallways becomes a breeze rather than a logistical nightmare. In short, my self-devised "BTS Night Surgical-Strike Operation" makes the whole process painless and pleasant. (And now I've given away all my secrets...drat!) Oh, and lest I forget: the actual meet-and-greet with Riley's teacher was informative and interesting as well! He should have a fun year.

Then there's Middle School. BTS Night for Derek's grade involves the delightful process of following a condensed version of your child's schedule. You find their classrooms, get introduced to each of their seven instructors, and hear a brief-but-fact-filled summary of "what they'll be learning/how they'll be graded/what I expect of them". Last year was my first shot at this, and I failed miserably at figuring out where the heck anything was located in that school. (Except the Gym, which was obvious.) I left at the end of the evening swearing (literally!) that the place was designed by...sugared-up gremlins...or something. C-Hall?  B-Hall? They all ran together in a great big circle. Fortunately the wise administrators, anticipating parents'...ineptitude? Helplessness? Confusion?...placed minions (I mean "students") at intervals throughout the school, calling out "Can I help you? What are you looking for?" Although it lent somewhat of a carnival atmosphere to the proceedings, I would never have found even one of Derek's classes without them. But that was last year. And although Derek continued to mock me for having such a hard time, and predicted I'd perform just as pathetically this year, I was determined to prove him wrong.

So, armed with the course list he'd written out for me, including the order of his subjects and the classroom numbers, I bravely set out into the wild, dangerous...Middle School jungle. Derek had also warned me that this year he had classes both upstairs and downstairs, potentially adding to the...challenge...adventure...recipe for disaster? But--shockingly--I managed to go straight to the first four periods without a hitch (one was PE in the aforementioned Gym, but it still counts). Meanwhile I was treated to a Lab Demonstration in Science, in which the teacher gleefully showed us how to operate a Bunsen torching a soap bubble as it floated toward the ceiling. Awesomely cool, yes...but this indicated two things to me: 1) that lady might enjoy her job a little too much and 2) our precious darlings are evidently authorized to play with fire this year. Let's see...twelve-year old boys--start with lack of impulse control, couple it with an excess of energetic goofiness...add open flames...does anyone else feel jittery about this?

Nevertheless, I was cruising along, gaining confidence as I tromped up and down the stairs with the thronging masses of Moms and Dads...until Math time. I knew exactly where I was going, sped calmly and surely to the correct hallway, looked up and down at the numbers...211, 213, 214,, my paper says "212"....which doesn't seem to exist. Now, that's disconcerting. (Maybe I should be looking for Platform 9 3/4?) Even more alarming, when I did finally spot a small sign on the wall with the correct room number, it was a (wait for it) depository for unused books. That's right, my beloved son wrote down that he studies equations and graphing and set a Storage Closet. Fortunately for me, the Principal happened to be standing there and noticed my confounded expression, so she snagged a Student Helper to guide me to the right place. As this girl and I chatted and walked, I found out that she knows Derek. When I told her about the schedule snafu, she laughed and commented, "He was joking about writing down the wrong classrooms this morning in homeroom!" That's it, he's officially grounded for life! But when I arrived home and confronted him about it, he sheepishly owned being careless. "Yeah, I wasn't paying attention when I filled that out--so, sorry about that!" Okay you're forgiven...but still grounded!

The rest of the evening continued without embarrassing or confusing incident, thank goodness. But when it was over, even though I'd only been in each of his classes for a mere 9 minutes, I was as exhausted as if I'd slogged through an entire school day. Middle School, apparently, is not for the weary...or faint of heart...or directionally challenged! Oh, and Team Seventh Grade seems enthusiastic, bright, and wonderful, so Derek should have a nice year as well. Whew! I'm glad that's over for another year!

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