Fear and Loathing at Back to School Night

I guess it is my previous blogs about Chuck E. Cheese and amusement parks that have got me in the mind set of reflecting on what other heinous rights of passage one must partake in as a parent. I think probably chief among these would be school functions. Just the mention of the words PTA meeting, school orientation, back to school night, or open house is enough to send me into an apoplectic fit wherein I may go to such lengths as hiding under the sink or even denying that I have children. But it never seems to work. So, off I go to yet another loathsome affair all the while thinking of why I don’t want to be there.

1. I have to leave my house. I hate to admit it, but as a working mother of two children, I really need two solid hours a night of sitting on the couch and watching sitcoms in a vegetative state. If I am deprived of these two hours, it better be for a damned compelling reason. I guess there’s not much question in your mind as to whether I find these functions compelling but if there’s any question in your mind as to why I feel this way, read on.

2. Attendance is mandatory? Okay, it’s not really mandatory, it’s just kind of highly recommended in that this is a preventative measure for teacher’s to take so that they are not assaulted by a barrage of questions later in the year. Therefore, it is upon pain of death that you don’t attend. Punishment could possibly result in being the mother responsible for there not being a pizza party at the end of the month, loss of an extra credit point for your child, or being spoken about in the following way:

“I heard Mrs. Bergen did not attend Back to School Night last Thursday. Do you know that she also serves her children frozen dinners and doesn’t recycle her soup cans??”

Well I am here to tell you that I have missed an occasional Back to School function and it is not the end of the world. You bring them to school on time, you have them do their homework, the report cards come, you figure it out.

3…. And we’re back at school. I don’t know what it is, maybe the fact that I am now seated in a tiny chair wherein my knees are positioned somewhere close to my ear lobes, but I suddenly feel as if I am now the world’s oldest kindergartener. This in turn makes me feel very rebellious towards the teacher, so watch out for the various circumstances in which…

4. The teacher pisses me off. This could, and has included teachers using improper grammar such as the misuse of the word ‘like’ as in “I was like…” Please, if you can not use proper grammar when meeting your student’s parents, you should not be teaching my child. Also, the use of the collective we, as in’ “How are we doing today” begs the answer, “I don’t know about you but I feel like killing someone”. And any hint that you are going to be a hard ass on my kid may give me the idea that we are not going to be buddies.

5. We’re all in the together. Now parents, I know that we are all here for our children, learning about their education, with one common goal in mind…to get the hell out of here as quickly as possible. This is why I dread the time when the teacher is done talking and I am hopeful that I will get maybe one hour of couch potato time, when 50 hands spring into the air. I know you may have questions. Even I may have had one or two in my time. But let’s try to eliminate the obvious, (If my child is sick should I keep her at home? what if it’s just a cold?) are relevant only to your child (Little Lucinda gets a little stuffy if the temperature is over 73.5 degrees, is it possible to adjust the school thermostats accordingly?) and the downright stupid (So the kids have to be on time every day??).

Okay, so now that we’ve laid the ground rules, please tune in for my next blog, “Why You Really Don’t Want Me To Join the PTA”.

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Waving the White Flag?

Well it’s been a long hard road, but I may have finally come to an impasse in my battle with homework, teachers, and all things related. I would like to be able to conclude, to seal things off with a nice little bow, where there is, if not a victory, then maybe a sense of closure. But instead of this nice neat little bow, I’m afraid it’s more of a fraying cable and my neat little package is, in fact kind of bulging all over the place, it’s contents threatening to come tumbling out everywhere.

I did have a meeting with the Principal, the Showdown at High Noon which was more of a “What do you want me to do about it? Talk to the teachers.” I explained to him that the teachers were no longer returning my emails and he did, at least, open a line of communication, I think…

Anyway, I should give him some credit because he did actually meet with the teachers who did nothing more than blame my son and his habits, most of which he has since corrected, for their own shortcomings. It is sad that they feel the need to defend themselves at the expense of their students. I think it is appropriate here for me to include the letter I sent to my son’s math teacher last night:

Dear Ms. Teacher,

I believe the last time we communicated was when you made a recommendation that Jesse leave your class to take Math 6. (her answer to my complaint of over-homeworking – take a simpler math class-Ed.) I was grateful for your communication. It made me realize that perhaps Jesse was weak when it came to his multiplication tables and that he was taking a challenging class.

 

I asked Jesse at that point if he wanted to continue on in your class and he did. This meant that Jesse, with the help of myself and his father, needed to concentrate more on what he was being taught. I grilled Jesse on his multiplication tables and he got out of math boot camp and his grades have come up in your class and I hope they will continue to do so.

 

Jesse also needed to hunker down more as far as his work habits go. He is now beginning his assignments in class when given the opportunity to do so and I know this because I see the work he has done. (This in response to a false accusation she made about my son.-Ed.)

 

I do want you to know that although Jesse’s work habits have improved along with his comprehension, the homework assignments continue to take him a minimum of 45 minutes, and often an hour. When I check his homework, although I use a calculator, and have Jesse’s homework for reference, it can take me anywhere from 20 minutes to a half an hour.

 

Thank you for your time.

This letter, by the way, is a completely watered down version of what I would have liked to say, but I felt the need to hold my ‘tongue’. It is, after all, a long hard road that leads to end of my son’s semester. And, by the way, I did not get a response from Ms. Math Teacher, so perhaps the roads of communication are still hopelessly blocked. But then again, what was she supposed to say?

I’ll tell you what she was supposed to say! How about “I’m so sorry Mrs, Bergen, that I love to torture 11 year olds with an inappropriate amount of homework and potentially ruin their young lives and I’ll never do it again!!” But she did not. So I guess we will just agree to disagree. #peoplesuck