I can distinctly remember how excited I was in 4th grade for my parents to visit Ms. Thane’s class for Back to School Night. It wasn’t just because I was proud of how neat the inside of my desk was (do you remember those elementary school desks where you would store all of your supplies and belongings?) and the things I had left for them to see; I was excited because I loved Ms. Thane’s class and couldn’t wait for my parents to see why I felt that way.
I remember feeling the same way in 10th grade when I knew my parents would be meeting Sponz, my art teacher (Mr. Sponzerelli). Even then, I couldn’t say I loved his class because he was a master teacher, but the vibe he created in his room made me want to create. And he was just cool. You couldn’t quantify it, but everyone wanted to take his class and you were one of the lucky ones to have gotten in it. I was fortunate to have him for the next two years as well.
But in 12th grade, I couldn’t wait for my parents to meet Mr. Oldenwald (or Mr. Old and Bald as we used to joke with him). He made me love English. I already had a love for reading since I was a toddler, but he made me love the discipline of English. A fine nuance. I still have my journal from his class and still remember how we all read The World According Garp by John Irving as independent reading because that text was not on the approved curriculum list. I loved reading it (but still recommend Owen Meany over that to people when they ask what my favorite book is) and the discussions that ensued from it which is a huge reason I loved that class.
The point is that as excited as I was, Back to School Night was a merging of worlds for me just as it is now for our students. That can be a little nerve-wracking. There is a fair amount of anxiety that exists when we know that different parts of our lives are going to collide—especially when we won’t be present for it. For example, I remember in 5th grade wondering what Mr. Van Delden would say to my parents because he was so strict. I remember my younger brother having the same worries two years later which were compounded by the fact that he was my sibling.
But all in all, for every BTSN, whether it was excitement or whether it was anxiety, the reality was that it was both: I simultaneously loved and feared that my parents would have a glimpse into a world that they didn’t know and possibly didn’t understand.
And so all of those feelings always flood me when I see a host of freshmen parents entering the school for the first time or senior parents at their last BTSN. And so this past Monday night was no different for me. And I suspect that it was no different for your students. Or for you. But the point I hope you take away from this is that deep down, even when students might feel embarrassed by their parents or worried about what their parents might discover, they ultimately want their parents to be involved, to show that they care, that they have your attention. Attending eight classes for five minute intervals is a small way that this can be demonstrated, so if you were able to do so, I thank you.
But having done this for over 20 years, I also understand that things come up—both in work and in life, so perhaps you weren’t able to attend. That’s fine. There’s still other ways to show your commitment and your care. If you have concerns, arrange a parent-teacher conference. Monitor progress in ParentVue. Reach out to your student’s teachers. Your gesture doesn’t have to be grand, but your student will appreciate even a small one. S/he might deny it or push back against it, but think back to when you were in school and how you felt: deep down, we all want affirmation, confirmation, and appreciation, so validate this with some level of involvement with their classes.
If you couldn’t attend BTSN, please mark your calendar for 11/8 for Champe Check-in from 8:30-10:30. This is our next formal event for meeting with teachers, so before you vote or on your way home from voting, swing by Champe and touch base with your student’s teachers to see how things are going but to also show how much you care.