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Back-To-School Night Blues

September 20, 2010

Now that our kids are safely ensconced in their classes, let’s all take a moment to thank the courageous Springfield teaching professionals who risk life, limb and sanity every day in order to give our children an education. These people welcome our children into their lives, open their eyes to different ways of thinking and, most importantly, give us adults roughly six, child-free hours each day in which we can have a coherent thought.  I work from home, so for my money, that alone is worth my property tax bill.

And don’t think for a second that the kids aren’t benefitting.  On the very first day my son, D., came home with this important Life Lesson:

“My Comm. Arts teacher read us a story today.”

“That’s wonderful. What was the gist of the story?”

“Always be nice.”

“Was that it? Nothing else?”

He thought for a second. “Always be nice or you’ll get Detention.”

So don’t tell me the kids aren’t learning.

The only thing I have a complaint about is the exercise in masochism called Back-To-School Night. Every year like clockwork, I get an e-mail from D.’s school, cheerfully informing me that his school would be happy to introduce me to his teachers and show me all of the exciting adventures he has as he makes his way through his day at school.

“All you need is a copy of your son and/or daughter’s schedule, and we will do the rest.  What fun you will have, as you breeze through your child’s classes and chat with his and/or her teachers!” the e-mail cheerfully informs me.

On the surface, Back-To-School Night is a cheerful, P.T.A.-pastry-filled event that is supposed to give us parents a thrilling glimpse into the daily lives of our little students. In reality, I suspect that the teachers use Back-To-School Night as a way to have fun with us. What they don’t tell you is that the schedules are abbreviated to about one nanosecond of their normal length, the classrooms are at different ends of the school, the crowds of confused parents in the hallways requires more agile parents to surf the hallways like a mosh pit, the teachers, just for fun, have decided to all trade classrooms for the night, and all of the bathrooms are closed.  I don’t know about you, but I’m thinking that this might be a form of retribution for the fact that they have suffered a stunning loss in funding over the past few years and are apparently at the point where they are selling their plasma to buy classroom supplies. With everything they’ve gone through, I frankly wouldn’t blame them if they set booby traps. It’s not a profession for the faint-of-heart, and if it makes them feel better to play this annual prank on us, well, I say go for it. We’re ready.

I can always tell which parents are at Back-To-School Night for the first time, because they are the ones who show up with just a copy of their child’s schedule and hopeful plans to meet every single one of the adults their child interacts with during the day, including the janitorial staff.

But the first rule of Back-To-School Night, as they say, is that we don’t talk about Back-To-School Night. The second rule is that we bring the proper survival equipment, like a reliable GPS system for locating the classrooms which appear to be numbered randomly; comfortable running shoes for getting to each class on time; high-protein snacks for endurance; and the Xanax-tipped blow darts for slowing down the occasional reluctant teacher who might be edging his and/or her way toward the door.

The veteran Back-To-School Night parents among us know that the first-timers haven’t got a chance, but we’re not going to help them out. Let them learn like we did: in the mosh pits of Back-To-School Night.

(Reprinted with permission from my column, “Next Exit” on, ©2010)

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