Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Too Cool for School (NOT!)

As a mom, I'm always curious to know what my kids are "into". (Or maybe I'm just an obnoxiously nosy person...nah, let's go with "healthily interested in my sons' lives" and leave it at that, shall we?) Sometimes this is easy, of course, when I can directly observe their evolving tastes in such areas as video games, books, and clothes. (Although some might argue--with good reason--that "taste" is a mighty strong word for the outfits my boys throw on..) Then we have a murkier realm--I'm talking about that whole "other life" that occurs when they leave the house each morning and journey to their respective schools for 7 hours or so. Sure, I see the homework, the test scores, and the resulting grades...but what actually transpires all day long in those unassuming brick buildings? Quite mysterious to the outsider...um "parent".

However, for just one rare and special day every academic year (also known as...Columbus Day) the hallowed halls of learning fling their doors wide and invite us in to spy on our beloved offspring--I mean "watch our students hard at work". If I'm being completely honest, I have to admit couldn't work up much enthusiasm about attending. All I could think about was "I have soooo much to do...and I don't wanna sit in class!" (Yes, I was absolutely whining...in my head...) But I suspected that at least Riley would be disappointed if I didn't show (the teenager I wasn't sure about--could have been totally indifferent, or could have secretly wanted a visit from mom...who knows what goes on in the adolescent brain?), so I resolved to make an appearance at both schools. As luck would have it, I was running super-late getting myself out-of-the-house-presentable this morning, so I sent Riley off to the bus stop with a promise of "I'll see you soon!" (His response wasn't altogether encouraging as he practically sprinted out the door: "Ooh, I get to walk by myself? Okay! Bye, Mom!" Hmmm, perhaps he's more independent than I thought, these days...)

First I showed up at the Middle School, where Derek had told me he'd be in Algebra. And whattya know, I actually enjoyed the lesson. (Although this is no great shock to anyone, right?) I found the teacher to be engaging and entertaining...and of course it didn't hurt that I was familiar with the topic they were working on at the moment, either. (Incidentally, at dinner time Derek asked me if I understood his teacher. "Oh yeah, definitely," I assured him. "Because he usually says a lot of nonsense...and makes jokes about the '80s that none of us get," he explained. "But," he continued with more enthusiasm, "he gives people nicknames. He calls me D-Dubs!" Yep, I'd probably get a big kick out of this guy, if I got to listen to him every day...) Then, the most shocking thing happened right in the middle of a group activity, when I'd been quietly watching from my spot near the the wall for ten minutes or so: suddenly Derek looked up from his paper, waved both arms in the air with an enormous, goofy grin on his face and called, "Hi, Mom!" What the? Who is this child who so closely resembles my son...acknowledging me...without coercion...in public?

But that wasn't the end of it, believe it or not. When the bell rang signaling the end of the period, I was permitted to (wait for it) accompany Derek to his next class! Down the stairs, through multiples hallways...including a stop at his locker! Wonders never cease, I tell ya. As we negotiated our way (with me being completely dwarfed by the 8th graders--I'm not kidding, I felt like a grown-up...pixie...in a land of...child giants, or something), we happened to pass a number of his soccer teammates, who looked either amused or nervous (or both) to spot me invading their turf. (Did I relish their discomfort? You betcha--mwah hah hah!) There was one more surprise in store. At the door to his next classroom, Derek said goodbye...and hugged me. (Again--in front of his peers! Either this signifies an end to the era that shall be known as: "My Mother's Very Existence on This Planet Mortifies Me"...or it's merely an interlude of tolerance. I suppose only time will tell...)

With a successful junior high experience under my belt, I headed to Elementary School to get a glimpse of whatever (hopefully) fascinating stuff the 5th graders were accomplishing today. I joined the "program already in progress" during Math instruction, when Riley was in the midst of a group assignment. I couldn't really see much of what he was actually doing, but that didn't bother me, since several other moms I know were there at the same time, and we chatted quietly while our kids toiled away. However, Riley paused to come over and get me, proclaiming that he wanted to introduce me to his classmates. (One of them was his good buddy and soccer teammate, so I figure Riley just wanted some attention, but whatever.) When I had politely greeted all of the...math-letes...Riley breezily informed me that I could "go back and talk to my posse." (Sigh... my youngest son, with the slight flair for the dramatic...)

I did also get to see an awesomely neat demonstration of technology, though. Mrs. B used her smart-board to display a multiple-choice decimal problem, as well as a timer that counted down 30-seconds. Each student had on their desk a calculator-like device, with which they entered their selection during the allotted time. On the screen, a separate grid showed when each individual kid had typed in the letter they wanted. After all of the students had been recorded, the computer instantly compiled a graph of how many kids had opted for each possible answer, and therefore how many had picked the correct one. The teacher also said--for the parents' benefit, I believe--that the program would capture data on how quickly each person responded and how many they got right. Holy Space Age Arithmetic, Batman, that's just crazy cool! From there, we segued into Social Studies, in which we are apparently studying the events leading up to the American Revolution. I am not ashamed to say right now that I didn't remember ever hearing about the Proclamation of 1763 before today...but thanks to an articulate 10-year old, I now know what it means. And my own delightful child raised his hand and was called upon to describe "why the Patriots were upset with Britain". In his reply he was able to work in the phrase "Taxation Without Representation". Sniffle. Bless my little nerdling...

So, having received my fill of education for the day, I said my farewells and snuck out. All in all, I'm very glad I made the effort to get at least a little peek into my kids' scholastic world. It was just one more way to show them I care about what goes on when they're off with their noses-to-the-grindstone. And it was honestly stimulating--and fun--for me as well. Win...win! (Plus, I don't get any homework out of the deal...B-O-N-U-S, Mom!)

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