September 24, 2010

Back to the Future

Posted in Life's Little Moments tagged , , at 6:14 am by autismmommytherapist

Last night I had the opportunity to attend my youngest son’s Back to School Night, which used to be a source of fairly high anxiety for me and my co-workers back in the day, but now pretty much constitutes a night out for me. It was on school grounds so no alcohol was served, but Zach’s teacher was wise enough to offer us chocolate, and I know enough people now to make it somewhat of a social event. That, coupled with the fact that I just had to sit there and listen and not actually orchestrate it, made it a fun evening.

Sad, but true.

As I sat there and surveyed the room, realizing this teacher’s organizational skills rival mine but her bulletin boards were far more attractive than anything I ever put together, my mind began to wander back to my teaching days, when I was young(er) and had quite a few career ambitions of my own. I recalled my own Back to School Nights, where myself and my fellow educators, generally childless with prodigious amounts of time on our hands, would create entire Power Point presentations to present to all the parents at our grade level (since it was a huge school, that was sometimes over 300 people). Afterwards, we’d do an individual speech back in our classrooms as well, complete with hand-outs and a tour of the classroom. We were all in equal parts both dreading and excited about the evening, eager to impress, happy to have it concluded.

As I sat there and reminisced I felt a slight pang of nostalgia for those days, both for the connections with the kids, and sometimes with their parents as well. Then I forced myself to remember the other side of the coin, the parts of the profession that were so difficult to deal with at times. For example, when I did my five-year stint for the DC public schools, there were entire years I wouldn’t get paid for weeks at a time. Supplies were not abundant, and we spent a great deal of the salary we did receive on the kids, which made making rent a bit interesting. In addition, teaching thirty to thirty-five students, often with limited English skills, was never a simple task.

Working in the suburbs wasn’t always perfect either. I can recall getting screamed at by one parent because her daughter left one of her new magic markers in another teacher’s classroom, because of course, even though she was ten, her writing implements and those of her twenty-eight other peers were clearly my responsibility. I remember once being thoroughly chastised because one of my students was selected for the Gifted and Talented pull-out program, and the parent hadn’t received prior notice by the professional conducting it (I recall thinking, we should all have such problems). This mother, who had been outraged at the omission,  later refused to attend an early morning conference with her daughter so that a child who had ridiculed her could apologize to her in front of his own parents (that one I still don’t get to this day). I’ve even been called to court for a custody battle, which perhaps was the single most uncomfortable moment of my career, as I adored the student, liked all the parents and step-parents, and really had no idea what was best for the child involved.

And people complain we get paid too much.

As I sat back, popped perhaps my tenth Hershey’s kiss into my mouth and returned my thoughts back to the educator about to commence her “welcome to my classroom spiel”, I realized two things. That this part of my career is over, really over, at least in any full-time, captain of the ship way, and that I am completely at peace with that. I also took the moment to revel in the fact that both my kids are in appropriate placements, flourishing in schools which will fully meet their needs. Both have teachers I really respect, and like. Both boys are thriving, and I’ve done little more that sign a few (okay, voluminous) papers and pack Justin a lunch every night. At the moment, at least for my part, their education is mostly effortless, which means I’ll have more time for my interests, my pursuits.

Hell, I’ll just have time.

And as I subtly break into the chocolate stash of the unwitting parent sitting next to me, I send a silent shout out to the universe in thanks for good teachers and good administrators, those who listen and respond to the people who know their kids’ needs best.

Thank you.

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10 Comments »

  1. misifusa said,

    Well said…and she had chocolate! Win-win!

  2. Amy said,

    Oh, the old days – the panic, wolfed-down ‘dinner’, scramble to copy materials, change into nicer clothes – then the spiel to the grown people sitting in the little kid chairs!

  3. LZ said,

    As I waited for the rest of our parents at Back to School Night last night, my son’s teacher looked directly at me and said “I am so happy to have that little boy in my class, he is so sweet and I just love him!” I knew she meant it, and I know that she is the perfect teacher for my son. I have had phenominal luck with all of my boys’ elementary teachers…they have all been interested, engaged with my sons, and willing to partner with me in whatever I have needed, and I truly treasure all of them. I know myself well enough to accept that I do not have the temperament or patience to teach a classroom full of bubbling, busy children, so I am tremendously thankful for those blessed souls that do!

    • Truly, we don’t say those things unless we mean it! So happy they’re all with the right people!

  4. Debbie said,

    You are a parent of a child I would LOVE to have in my classroom! You would be so supportive and woudl be so helpful! Just remember, you were an AMAZING teacher. My two kids were so fortunate to have you as one of their teachers. Both of which respected you so much – even one is a FaceBook friend of yours! To this day, she still talks about you! Teaching is not the easiest job, but we do make an impact on our students. What we need to remember is that the MAJORITY of our parents appreciate us, but unfortunately we don’t always hear from them. We just hear the complaints!! Love the chocolate idea!! I might have to remember that for next year! I real bonus and one they won’t forget!! We need all the “brownie points” we can get!! 🙂

    • You don’t need any brownie points. I would have loved for Zach to have had you for a teacher (and I don’t say that lightly!). Thanks for the sweet words! Speaking of brownies, can you email me your lovely daughter’s mailing address for this year? I find the kids forget to do that… Thanks!

  5. Carolyn said,

    Ahhh, I remember you on your first Back To School Night — the first in FC? You were really nervous, and clearly wishing we all were 10 yrs old instead a range 30+ to @ 50 ish people too big for the chairs with judgments being made with each word you uttered. Did you go home to red wine and chocolate after it was all over? I hope so.

    • Can’t remember that far back, but I was nervous. We didn’t have BTSN in DC, that was my first one! I’m sure both wine and chocolate were involved later, however..


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