In Her Shell
Friday, September 28, 2007
  Back To School Night
I am the only teacher in my department who likes Back to School night. Everyone bitches and moans in the days leading up to it (actually, we have two, because our student body is so big they split the alphabet) about how we have to stay there so late and they hate getting dressed up and talking to parents and what a colossal pain in the ass it all is.

But I think (secretly--they'd scorn me if they knew) that Back to School Night is like a first date--you get all dressed up and feel a little nervous anticipation, you hope you'll make a good impression and that the other person won't be a jerk.

And like a first date, no one has had a chance to screw up yet. I get some insight into my students by meeting their parents, and we can smile at each other and be glad to meet. Soon enough I'll be meeting some of them in a guidance counselor's office, both of us feeling anxious or pissed off.

It's untainted, and hopeful.

But leaving this week's Back to School Night, I couldn't wait to escape the building and it's not just because it was the hottest September night any of us could remember. It just felt so heavy with so much emotion, and need--parents came up to me or wrote notes saying, "Jessi has epilepsy," "John was just mainstreamed last year," "Kara needs to work on her writing," "Andrew loves to read; he has books everywhere," and I shook their hands and answered their questions and waved to parents of students I've had before and it all just felt so... thick. The air was thick with the hope and the fear and in that building were child abusers and enablers and worriers and hearts overflowing with what they want for their children. It was oppressive, all that feeling concentrated in one place.

How can I possibly do this? It's too much for me sometimes.
drink more.
You have a fairly awesome responsibiltity. In this day of moving images and instant answers, you have to find a way to make these kids slow down and not just read, but get some meaning from their reading. If you assign them books that don't catch their imagination, they will become Cliff Notes charter customers and will never read much out of school. It's a tough job and you have my complete respect for doing it.
Man, that was vivid. I think that the fact you felt that is the best indicator of how good you are at what you do. Bless you.
WT- I would venture that in times of high social stress parents invest even more in their children than normal.

Flash to Back to School Night, Fall of 2007; what with war, high gas prices, high food prices, health insurance worries, the cost of a college education, folks are stressed.

And when they feel this way, they pin even more of their hopes and dreams on their children's generation. They look to "the future" to save us from this mess.

I imagine this creates the vast weight (of expectations and hopes) you're feeling. Fair enough.

The good news is as a teacher you do have an opportunity to uniquely influence all of our futures. Every life you change, even a little bit for the better, has exponential effects on the world and the society we live in. Beats the heck out of pushing paper across the cubicle.
I don't have any kids, but most of my friends are teachers. One of them confided to me that she hates the kids and the parents even more. I make fun of her for it and we have a laugh, but it's actually quite sad.

I used to teach adults, so no messy parents to deal with but I understand what you mean about hopefulness. It's what has always kept me going - in any job I've had.
Dale: Given our past interactions, I'll take that as support, and not incredulity at my cynicism.

Lu: Ha! Even from the other side of the world you make me laugh.

Just Dave: Thanks for stopping by and commenting. Even though your comment has managed to make me feel both better and more anxious at the same time.

Bubs: Thanks. I hope you're right.

Aaron: See my response to Just Dave.

Lady: It is truly amazing how bitter so many teachers are. There are the ones who pretend to be bitter when we are frustrated, and then there are the ones who are just plain bitter.
At least at the end of the day, you're making a difference. Congratulations!
I have lots of worries about my kids. Many of them medically diagnosed. I avoid these evenings because it does nothing for me and my kids and it's pretty clear it's fairly horrifying for those of you on the other end. The only thing I can say is "thank you" for tyring to have a good attitude about this. Imagine being in charge of other human lifeforms. It's kind of frightening. Really. Parenting is not for the faint of heart. Everyone else gets to go home.
CP: Thanks, but I'm not sure if I'm sending a mixed message: fight against injustice! Unless you're a teacher working for an unjust system! Then just take a paycheck from it!

TenS: Parenting absolutely blows my mind.
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