Welcome to the KingZoo and Funny Farm, where we learn to live, laugh, and love together. Here you'll find snippets of life in our zoo, parenting tips we've learned along the way, reflections on shining God's light in this world, passions in the realm of orphan care, and our journey as parents of a visually impaired child with sensory processing disorder. Have fun!
Thursday, September 16, 2010
Back-to-School Night Blues
I did not like Back-to-School Night when I was a teacher. Parents made me nervous. I preferred my students to be shorter than me and in teaching first graders I succeeded in that goal with all but one student. I liked him anyway. But parents are a different story. As a rule, they are larger than first graders. They don't fit so well in first grade seats. So I tried to make it fun, make then laugh. Be creative. Sure made me feel better. And by making them sit in those little seats, no one seemed to want to stick around for long afterward. Pity.
So when my first son, the test-everything-for-the-other-kids child rejoined the world of real school, I was excited for Back-to-School Night. I couldn't wait. I was thinking I'd get to meet his teachers and find out what they're really like.
I'd like to say I enjoyed that first Back-to-School night. But I can't. It was boring. All they did was hand out the same papers that came home with my child on the first day of school. The same papers that I was told to read and to sign on the "Sign here if you have read these policies with your child" line. I did all that. I am very conscientious about these things. So I'm not sure why these teachers find it necessary to pass the same paper out on Back-to-School Night. Not only do they give these papers out a second time but they also find it necessary to read them to me. If, on the first evening of school, I signed the paper stating that I did indeed read and agree with the classroom rules, I believe these same teachers should be able to assume that I can still read and do still agree with those same rules. They do not have to read them to me again. If I had signed with an "X" then maybe it could be assumed that I did not read it and I need to have it spoonfed to me. But that's not the case. Save a tree. Keep your hand-outs. Use words. Be personal. Tell me your life's history and why you think you're the right person to be teaching my child. These are things I want to know; need to know. Yes, your life history, or as much of it as you can fit into the 7 minutes you have before the next bell rings sending me off to my next class. The second year wasn't much better. Nor the third.
I know there are few teachers who actually want to spend a few extra hours at school on a school night so why not try to make it fun for all? I think the characteristic most lacking on these nights is creativity. Didn't these folks go to school so they could creatively inject a love of their speciality into their students? What happened to that spark? Where are all those great ideas? Where's the humor? Make me laugh. Make me cry. Make me do something. If you teach music, why not introduce a song and get the parents to sing it. You'll soon be able to tell which woman is tone-deaf Johnny's mother. If you teach math, give the parents a test. You'll be able to tell by the looks on their faces which man belongs to the kid who can't seem to get anything higher than a 50%. Collect the papers afterward and tomorrow you could ask the students to grade their parent's papers. English teachers, give 'em a story starter and have them write a paragraph. Now there's a good one. Creativity. It's a great benefit in the classroom, when in front of students or their parents.
Speaking of math, surprisingly it has been the math teachers through the years who have made me most proud to say that I was once an educator. In the past two years of Back-to-School Night nights, it has been the math teachers who have made me sit up in my hard, straight-backed chair and smile. Maybe even laugh at times. Yes, humor in math class! Go figure. These are the kind of people who should be teaching my child. And they were personable. I learned where he went to school, who he married, how many kids he has and what they are up to these days. I know what she does after school. I even know her first name. Now that's an important bit of information. It can tell you how old the person is if I know his name. Ideally my child's teachers should be older than me, with names like Lisa and Karen, Bill and Tom. They should not be named Savannah and Ainsley, Aiden and Brayden. These folks are way too young to be out of high school, let alone teaching my child. Anyway, if math teachers can conjure up a bit of creativity and pizzazz, just think what the rest of the education world could do!
Maybe the building principal should make it into some sort of contest whereby parents can judge each teacher and rate them according to some pre-appointed scale. These are educators. They like evaluations and grading scales. If a grading scale was involved, they'd step up to the plate. If their salaries were involved . . . Never mind. There's a union for that. Anyway, if anyone is listening, I'd like to propose a presentation scale for Back-to-School Night. For example:
Using a scale of 1 - 10, 1 being least effective and 10 being most effective, please rate your child's teacher on his/her Back-to-School Night presentation.
Believability (Does your child's teacher love his/her job, this subject and most importantly, your child?):
Use of technology (Did he/she utilize more than paper hand-outs and were there any typos?):
Creativity (Was there anything to set this presentation apart from others?):
Conciseness (Was this teacher able to fit his/her speech into the time allowed or did he/she need to ramble during and beyond the dismissal bell?):
Personality (Would you want to come back to hear this teacher tomorrow and the next day?):
Yes, I believe a little feedback might just do the trick. It works for our students, doesn't it? Let me just add that this one night out of the year in no way mars my view of the Mechanicsburg schools. From someone whose own public school career ended abrubtly in first grade when the teachers decided to go on strike well into Oct., I was personally leery about God's suggestion to send my children into the proverbial pit. However, we have been more than pleased with the school system, teachers, and academics in the school district. Andrew and Jesse have both made excellent transitions and have done well in every area of their schooling. And all this, despite the fact that their teachers don't know how to run a Back-to-School Night. I think they can be forgiven. And see it as a challenge for improvement. Maybe it'll be better next year. It better be 'cause I'm comin' armed with my pen and paper and my presentation scale.