Tonight was Back to School Night at my former school. Tonight, at about the time of this writing, a group of very exhausted educators is hobbling outside after putting on a two-hour show, smiling and nodding and trying to be their best after a full teaching day, and needed preparation for the night, and perhaps picking up children and getting everyone settled and having a bite to eat along the way.
Tonight, teachers are going over their programs, and their expectations, and the places homework can be found, and their grading policies, and somehow trying to get in there some sense of who they are as teachers, yes, but also as human beings.
Tonight, parents have gotten lost in winding hallways, and met friends and neighbors, and the parents of their children’s friends, in those same hallways, and given (mostly) positive eye contact, and nods, to the teachers who will help their children make it through another year, and asked some good questions that didn’t, hopefully, put those teachers on the spot. Tonight, parents have gotten a sense of what these teachers look like, and sound like, and act like. They’ve looked around the room, squeezed into teen-sized desks, marveled at new flexible seating, and written their names on sign-in sheets. They’ve taken notes to bring back to their children, though they may never share them. And, once in a while, they’ve texted through the entire presentation.
Tonight, teachers have tried to match face to name, and also have noticed which faces aren’t there, which class periods are most full – or most empty – and how that fits into what they have begun to see during the school day. Tonight, parents have tried to have impromptu parent-teacher conferences with these teachers, and they have – almost always – been thwarted with a sile, except for in those rare cases when you already know that this is an amazing kid, and you want to let the parent know that you know, or in those cases where you now have the youngest child of a family of four, and you taught all of them, and these parents are something like friends.
Over many years, my school has held Back to School Night on a Thursday whenever possible, which is a true kindness. With that, let me wish my friends and colleagues a good night and a welcome tomorrow, the end of Back to School Night for another year – and the end of the first full week of school.