Back-to-School Night is an evening of glimpses. Parents get a glimpse of what their children are learning. Teachers get a glimpse of where their students come from. Last night was my 31st Back-to-School Night, and I got a glimpse of my past and my future.
When I started teaching, I was just three years older than my students. As the parents entered my classroom, it felt like my parents had just walked into the room. It was anxiety-producing at first, though it got easier as the years went by.
Parents can be anxious too. For some, there is an interesting role reversal, and a return to a way of being. We call it back to school. Not forward to school. Not school now. Not parents’ night. What’s it like for adults to go back to high school? Some parents start to act like kids again. They chat with their neighbors. When you ask them to write something, and they ask, “Do you want us to write in full sentences?” It’s fascinating.
Even more interesting was that year after year, parents sat in their own children’s seats. There were no name tags, but somehow they intuited the location. Sometimes the parent/student similarities went beyond the chairs: kids who participated had parents who were participators.
In one quick evening, parents can begin to see the depth and breadth of their kids’ experiences. So much of the day is spent here. To have a window into the content, the transitions, the demands and the opportunities of school is a gift, especially when teenagers might be pushing their parents away from their lives. Kids thrive even more when they know that their parents are involved and connected to the school. Teachers thrive too.
Much of my time last night was spent in the library, chatting with parents, looking at the library book drive, and enjoying the flow of people. Before I know it, I’ll be sitting in the parent role again. In four years, my sons will start kindergarten, and I will be sitting in their tiny chairs, perhaps chatting with my neighbors and asking if I should write full sentences.