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Back-to-School in Three Acts: Act One - The Parent Information Meeting

Act One: The Parent Information Meeting

(INT. Elementary School - Evening)

Over the years I have renamed the Parent Information Meeting the “Scold & Spank.” This is where parents congregate according to grade level in the Commons, Multi-Purpose Room, Gym or Cafetorium. Whatever the name you know you’ve arrived in the right place when the smell of feet, pencil shavings and not so quite clean mop water reach an odor crescendo. You then take a seat in, hopefully, adult size chairs and get ready to listen to your child’s teacher(s) deliver the parental marching orders for the school year. At my child’s school it’s the three grade level teachers and the principal that conduct the meeting. The teachers usually like to loosen up the parents with a few sentences about how after just three days of school they can already tell “what a great group of kids are in their class.” That is usually where the positive affirmation ends. After that it’s off to the scold & spank portion of the evening where the teachers tell you all the things you need to be doing to ensure that your child has a successful school experience. In the past two years that information has been presented to a lot of parents (me) via the Smart or Interactive White Board. Yes, the thousands upon thousands of dollars that you as a PTO, PTA whatever member, fundraised your butt off to buy for the school, the new “must have,” the holy grail for 21st century teaching is being used is all it’s high tech glory to show you how your failings as a parent may impact your child’s future.

As one of the teacher is going over our directives for the year she’s using the smart board pen as if it’s a WMD circling words, underlining and drawing arrows to demonstrate the long-term impact of what will happen to your child’s cumulative test scores if you don’t adhere to the list of parental instructions or as the teachers handout puts it “School - Home Interacting Together.” ( Yes, it’s acronym is s.h.i.t.) Now, every year I sit there, my legs crossed, with a little notebook and a pen, dutifully staring at the screen while taking notes and nodding my head as the teacher scolds on and on. This year I did not do that. After two kids and almost 13 Parent Information Meetings under my belt I decided it was time to offer the teachers I little feed back. I have really become to feel that these meetings have been designed as a preemptive strike against us, the parents. A spanking that we don’t need. In this cafeteria sits a pack of parents that are way beyond helicopter parents. We’re Apache AH-64 parents. The Apache is the fastest moving, lowest flying, most lethal combat helicopter in the world. If were guilty of any parental crime it’s being overly immersed in every facet of our kids lives. We are consumed with our children. We're childrenaholics. All in desperate need of a 12 step program. I was going to give them some parental action - Apache style. All I had to do was wait for the Q and A portion of the evening.

And wait I did. After one parent after another asked what I would call “Look at me, look at me! I’m a great parent and my kid is a genius” questions. Some examples: “My child has been reading twice as long as your reading log suggests to do every night and she’s also reading 30 minutes a night in Japanese is that okay? Or “My son is already doing high school math is okay to let him continue on with his algebraic equations or do we still really need to stick with those multiplication tables. I mean he knew those in kindergarten.” Ugh. Finally, I was called on to ask my question. I went for it. “Enough about us, the parents, what’s going to happen in the classroom to help our kids be the best and brightest. What are, you, the teachers, going to do and how can we, as parents, measure your success this year? “

Now, if this had been a movie the crowd of parents would have jumped to their feet in enthusiastic applause. But, it wasn’t a movie, it was parents, tired parents, well-mannered parents, so cue the sound of silence. The teachers just stared back at me and the principal did an impressive throat clearing and then reluctantly stood up and said, “I’ll take that question.” He then began to drone on about academic testing and theories. I raised my hand again and sweetly thanked him for his “answer.” Then I turned around and addressed the parents in my best Southwest flight attendant voice, “Hey we’ve gotten our To Do list from the teachers why don’t we give the teachers a To Do list from us. We can call it the To Do List for a Great School Year and the principal can write our suggestions down on the wonderful smart board the PTO paid for.” Well, that opened the flood gates, alright. The principal scowled and even stomped a little bit and finally took the smart board pen and begin chicken scrawling the suggestions as parent after parents raised their hand to offer up their teacher “To Do list” suggestion. After all, everybody absolutely loves to tell somebody else how to do their job. At first the teachers tried to address every To Do list entry or nay-say it, but eventually they gave up and let the parents suggest away. They wanted more parental involvement they got it - sometimes you really do need to be very careful what you wish for.

Next Up: Act II - The Mom Coffee - Battle of the Designer Handbags

*Thanks for reading Snarky and if you're a teacher please know that I love you and I'm having some guilt issues saying even one negative thing about any teacher. 99.9% of all teachers rock. Also, to stay up-to-date on new Snarky postings you can go to Facebook type in Snarky and the Suburbs and then click on like. And I seem to be twittering more @snarkynthesuburbs. Cheers!

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