Back to School Night

I went to Back to School Night for my sophomore tonight. It is always fascinating to sit on the other side of the teacher's podium. My son has some great teachers this year. And a lot of them did a nice job telling us what to expect from the year ahead.

My favorite bit was a teacher who talked about 2 requirements. He suggested two things that kids can't forgive you for if you're missing them.

*Be enthusiastic for your subject.

*Be enthusiastic about enjoying your students.

That's the truth. If you have those 2 things, not much else matters. That's basically my goal at Back to School Night, although I saw no one who approached the night quite like I do (perhaps more on that in another post.)

There is a bit of crazy on this night. For one, there's lots of talk about point collection. Many teachers talk about difficult tests, but then reassuringly add that there are ways to offset low test scores. Apparently none of the parents are concerned that their child will demonstrate incompetence on tests as long as there are other ways to fix this loss of points. But this is not the place for an SBG lesson.

The oddest thing about a Back to School evening (especially as an Honors parent) is all the serious warnings. 

"This class is rigorous!"

"Deadlines are important!"

"The pace is really fast and we have a lot of material to cover!"

These all important warnings are inserted randomly through the evening. Sometimes in a serious tone. Sometimes apologetically. Other times defensively. And while I'm tempted to feel that the teachers need to calm down a notch (or two), I noticed that it is the parents who are feeding this beast.

Indeed, the parents seem to want this. Many take copious notes. (Although the mom dressed to the nines and surfing her phone during the entire chemistry chat was nothing but hilarious. How much you want to bet her student is LESS addicted to his/her phone than she is?) The parents are attentive to every detail. They take down information like "Reading quiz every Friday!" and "Tutoring after school Mondays and Wednesdays!". They've got a 15 year-old honors student who apparently they don't trust to remember these words. Even though they're in the syllabus, on the board, and have already been played out for 4 weeks, parents are concerned that their child needs to receive this information. Again.

In short, parents like this game. It is familiar--their school memories are probably about rigor and pace. And they want a competitive college for their child. So they don't actually want to hear that this is too easy.

Hopefully this post might encourage a few to step back and look at some of the peculiar practices that are part of American education. Every culture has them. And I'm very thankful for the hard-working people who teach my kids.