Tuesday, September 25, 2007


Back to School Night is a twelve year running annual ritual that conjures up all sorts of sensations. Sounds and smells, most especially the smells, send me back to my own school days. When my first born ventured off on the big yellow bus for the first time, Back to School Night was like getting to know him from a different angle. His new world, separate from mine, was filled with mystery. Cubbies with his belongings stuffed wildly in haphazard fashion, drawings of his family and the world as he saw it and collections of his “work” allowed me a peek into the window of his day that did not include me.

Needless to say, with my first born now a high school junior, Back to School Night has evolved dramatically. After a warm up by the new principal in the auditorium, I follow my son’s schedule: eight periods broken down into 10 minute sessions with two minutes to move between classes. A swarming school of adults, swimming rapidly through the waters of days gone by with maps and room numbers, attempt a mini version of their child’s experience. By now, three quarters of these parents are known to me, but little time for socializing as we maneuver the school, still searching for a peek into the window of our offspring’s world. The intensity of high school has been raised to a new, high tech level that makes it easier and more difficult at the same time.

My youngest is in her last year of elementary school. It is this school that I know best, as I have had a student here for twelve years. I know almost every brick of the building as well as every teacher, specialist and administrator. Part of me feels very much ‘done’ with room parent, book fairs and field trip chaperones. I have chaired more than my share of committees, events and talent shows. The other part of me is sad to be coming to the end of this chapter.

But it is the middle Back to School Night where I am most intrigued. Eighth grade is a special balance of independence and nurture. The format is similar to the high school; principal lecture followed by the Team 8-1 teachers displaying their power point presentations to illustrate their programs. Hallways swimming with parents attempting to maneuver the corridors in two minutes to follow eight ten minute periods. But sitting in these classrooms, I am energized. I listen to the verbal syllabus and my fingers begin twitching; wishing I had a freshly cracked notebook and pencil.

How much I would love to sit through these classes, relearning about our country and its history, about our constitution, about the planets. I am tingling in sixth period reading class at the thought of working through the classics and by a teacher who is conducting a book club atmosphere with food and drinks and conversation for her budding adult class. I am giddy by the time I am in English, sitting before a teacher who aims to teach grammar by making it come alive, and at the same time, rekindling the tools of understanding the Latin roots to be able to figure out any word.

There is a passion among these teachers that somehow blends the adult expectations and responsibilities of high school, with that maternal nurture embodied in elementary school. Fledglings on the edge of the nest, students can aim to soar in any direction they choose; the sky’s the limit.

As Back to School Night comes to an end, I think what a thrill it would be to do eighth grade over again; a fresh notebook, a sharp pencil and hindsight. Do-over… Team 8-1 please… I wonder if my eighth grader would mind.


Carrie Wilson Link said...

Excellent writing, Nancy! Full of yummy details! I can relate, too, as I have an 8th grader! I would match her 8th grade education against my 12th grade one any day, kids know so much more these days, both good and bad.

Carrie Wilson Link said...

Wonderful, wonderful writing, Nancy, and such a good example how this one story of Sky, tells so many other stories. By going big with it, cracking it wide open, we see so much of you, Cadence and your husband, and the way your family operates, what you value, etc. By giving us all these wonderful details in this story, you've "earned" our investment in your family and your bigger story. Take an A.