Friday, August 20, 2010

We Blew Off Meet-the-Teacher

I thought Meet-the-Teacher was to accommodate weary children who needed the reassurance of seeing their desk and locker ahead of time, in order to go to school the first day without a humiliating attack of separation anxiety in front of the other kids. Obviously, my blog wouldn't be much fun if I got things like that right, now would it?

Turns out Meet-the-Teacher is actually about parent volunteerism. Your child's teacher doesn't want to spend the first ten minutes of the first day of school helping the kids put their school supplies away. Instead, they want you to give up two precious hours of your now-dwindling summer vacation to drag your kids into school and put the supplies away for them. It is not enough that you have to drop $50 every August on glue sticks and markers that they are just going to send back home to you next spring, feeding a marker drawer that most seriously does not need one more marker in it. No, you also need to deliver those supplies and place them around the classroom in the designated locations, as described on the prepared sheet you are presented with at the door (often your only actual interaction with the teacher at Meet-the-Teacher).

Because of my serious misunderstanding about the purpose of this event, I thought little of it when we spent our Monday night doing our usual things, and didn't realize until Tuesday afternoon that we'd missed it. My kids did not seem upset, and were comfortable with our assurance that we would get there early for the first day.

When we arrived at school well ahead of time on Wednesday, we were met at the door with a stern admonishment from the office staff that when I ordered our pre-packaged supplies from the PTO, I had put down the wrong grade for my older daughter. Fortunately, my daughter's scholastic career was salvaged by a kid in the proper grade who had moved out of town, so we could switch the boxes. No mention of a refund for the two bucks I overpaid by ordering wrong.  I guess I could just take it out of the money we'll bring in selling wrapping paper next month.

Oh, hush, they're not nervous, they just didn't like the sun in their eyes.
When we arrived in the classrooms, we were chided that our two were the only children out of the whole school who had failed to come to Meet-the-Teacher and then handed our to-do list. We set to work righting our wrong, assembling their supply boxes, and finding the glue stick bin. We tried to be unobtrusive, working quickly and quietly so the teacher could finish her prep without having to actually meet us.

My husband was quite chagrined by the whole experience. He worries about the pressure our kids must be under, going to a school that takes itself so seriously. I used to feel that way too, back when I cared what the teachers thought of us. I learned that they get to know us through our kids. And we have two sweet, smart, attentive kids, who follow the rules and are good leaders in their classes. They may think we're schlumps today, but by conference time, they will be eating out of our hands.

I won't teach my kids to blow off the school's expectations with complete disregard, but I will try to give them enough self-assurance not to obey just anyone who claims authority over them, or stress out, feeling like everything they do is always wrong, because there's someone with a wagging finger around every corner. We aren't going to raise lemmings just to make things convenient for their teachers.

And, although it was an accident this year, I might just skip Meet-the-Teacher next year. I'd rather give up an extra half hour the first day of school than battle the crowds for two hours on a nice summer night. Eventually the teachers will start warning each other ahead of time about us, and they won't seem so surprised.

Don't you know that you are slaves of anyone you obey? You can be slaves of sin and die, or you can be obedient slaves of God and be acceptable to him. Romans 6:16


  1. Love this. When Aubry was still in Public School she once asked a teacher if she could not have so much homework(in 3rd grade mind you) on Tuesday nights, since it was family dinner night.
    The teacher replied" Aubry Family dinner night is not EVERYTHING")
    I said to Aubry, isnt it sad, she must not have a nice family, because the TRUTH is, Family dinner night IS everything!!

  2. Family dinner night trumps ALL!!!

    I suffered teacher recriminations because Mom and Dad missed my Parents' Nights. Some made nasty remarks about family planning when I replied that they had too many children to see all our teachers on the same night. I so understand.

    Corinne and Gwyneth's school should change the event name to "Put Your Stuff Away or You'll Be Sorry" night.

  3. Very Well Said Emily! You rock~ K

  4. Oops: we got the times wrong and missed one of the three "parents' night" presentations, too. We may never fully understand the new 1st Grade reading curriculum...