Parents' night at the high school -- 10/10/01
Self-referential (or, recursive online journaling) -- I turned to Google in search of a link to Riverside Drive Nursery School in Binghamton -- and without reading too closely I clicked on the first link on the list and found myself at one of my own entries -- one I wrote last year when Jennifer graduated from high school.

Parents' night at the high school... you know, where the parents get to come into school and follow your child's schedule, sitting through ten minute presentations by each teacher. These things start in elementary school, adults awkwardly attempting to balance on chairs designed for six year olds and continue each year... PTA and booster club signups, coffee and cookies, meet the teachers and the administrators, meet other parents, attempt to find out something about these people who have possession of your child for several hours each day... What are they like? What are they attempting to teach?

And the teachers are wondering about the parents... Who are these people who are sending their little angel/monsters in to school each day? What can I possibly tell them in ten minutes about what I'm attempting to teach this year? (Yes, I have been on that end of the classroom... but not recently.... not since the 1974-75 school year.)

I've been in the parental position for a long time, many years... goodness, must be almost thirty years if I count Adam's nursery school. He started nursery school when he was three years old -- actually two or three weeks before his third birthday -- so that would have been thirty years ago, back in the fall of 1971 [!] -- at the Broome County Jewish Community Center (the same organization, although in a new building, to which Rod (Twilight Zone) Serling had belonged when he was a kid growing up in Binghamton) -- although I don't recall a Parents' Night, just daytime parent-teacher conferences. At those sessions I learned that Adam was very bright and very creative, also had an extremely long attention span but was also quite stubborn. (Okay, now tell me something I don't already know *grin*) -- it seems that the staff quickly learned that if Adam were deeply involved in some activity, such as drawing or building with blocks, it was futile to attempt to redirect his attention when it was time to move the class on to a new activity, so they would just let him continue happily with crayons or blocks or whatever while they occupied the rest of the kids with the next task. [That kind of independent streak didn't change much over the years -- Did I ever tell you how he almost didn't graduate from high school because he cut too many physical education classes to spend time in the darkroom working on projects for his photography class? Yeah, and this was a kid who was an athlete as well as an artist, four years of cross-country, three years of swim, four years of track. But he was born stubborn and independent. Okay, I know, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.] The next year he began the first of three years at The Susquehanna School -- a private school based on using the natural curiosity of children in what they call a "child-centered/teacher-directed" curriculum, integrating science and math and art and music and literature, etc. This was a non-graded school, instead of single-year divisions they had multi-year groupings named by colors (the reds, the blues, the greens, etc.)... Since they didn't use traditional grade labels, we just labelled what was really advanced nursery school or pre-kindergarten as "kindergarten" and he became able to take a school bus to school. (I can still remember him walking out to the street to catch his school bus -- four weeks short of being four years old when the school year began -- and having to hide to watch him because he was "a big kid" and didn't need a parent to wait for the bus with him. Yeah, as I said, a bit of an independent streak.

On through elementary school and junior high school and high school and then college and by then I had been through a lot of parent's nights -- although at college it seemed to be limited to transportation to freshman moving into the dorms day followed very quickly by attendance at graduation. Yeah, time flies! -- and by then I was deep into parent's nights for "the little guys" -- there was the year when if asked if I had kids I would answer "One in college, one in kindergarten, one in Pampers" -- I think in the fall of 1985 Nancy and I got to attend functions at Seans' day-care center and Jennifers's nursery school and Adam's high school.

Sean and Jennifer both attended St. Thomas Aquinas School for kindergarten -- Jennifer went on to public school(Horace Mann Elementary School) but Sean hated public school and after two or three unhappy weeks in first grade we moved him back to St. Thomas through third grade.... Jennifer switched to St. Patrick's Middle School for fifth grade and Sean went there for grade four... Jennifer got interested in running and wanted to attend public school for eighth grade because of cross country. That was the fall that we moved to Rhode Island -- Sean and I moved here in October, living with Nancy's mom, so I could start my new job and he could start fifth grade and I could search for a house to buy or rent while Nancy and Jennifer stayed behind in Binghamton so she could attempt to sell our house and Jennifer could run on the cross-country team, finally moving to join us in Rhode Island in December.

When you have more than one child it is easier doing parent nights when the kids attend different schools. In 1999 when Sean was a freshman and Jennifer was a senior Nancy and I could not both see both sets of teachers; Nancy followed Sean's schedule and I followed Jennifer's.

I think I have only missed three parent's nights in all of these thirty years -- In 1974 I was more than 100 miles away from Adam's school and could not attend his 2nd grade parents' night -- In 1995 I was here in Rhode Island and so I could not attend Jennifer's 8th grade parents' night in Binghamton (but I had gone on a tour of the school with her in August) -- and in 2000 I missed Sean's sophomore year open house because I was teaching a class in Norway.

By the way, this was the kind of parents' night for us that parents dream of -- we did not get to hear variations on he could be a good student if only he would [multiple choice; choose one or several] pay attention - apply himself - do his homework - not sleep in class - not fool around in class - hand in work on time... etc . This time we got to hear things like "He's doing so well I'd like to recommend him for the advanced placement course next year." Ahhhhh, thank you Sean...

My baby is a high school junior -- that means I only have one more parents' night to attend -- the fall of 2002 will be my last opportunity.

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