Ahh, the first day of school in Corning-Painted Post … For so many parents, a day of mixed emotions … the conflicting feelings that come just after drop-off … like “how quickly can I get to my office for my first real, blessed work day in months?” and “how early is too early for bourbon?”
I don’t know who was more hyped up this morning, me or my sixth-grader, over starting a new chapter at the middle school. I’m not one of the crier moms. Puh-lease. I’m not overwhelmed by emotion and reverie over the growth and progression of my children. I just feel excitement at new beginnings, new friends, new experiences and opportunities.
Until this morning. I felt something different. My heart almost broke after drop-off, exploded actually.
I glanced down at my phone to find my friend Mrs. Robarge, a library media specialist at the middle and high schools, had already found my daughter and snapped a selfie with her and texted it to me. The ice water in my veins almost came to room temp. I almost squeezed out a tear.
This was after social studies teacher Mr. Wukovitz saw us in the drop-off line and banged on his window to greet my daughter as she hopped out of the car, and Mrs. Wukovitz, an art teacher, flew out of the doors to call out a greeting to my kid.
The mushy emotions came from knowing that there is a whole building of grown-ups ready to embarrass my child in my absence.
And also, a whole network of people invested in my childrens’ education, well-being and personal growth. It takes a village, people. I could never bring my children all the lessons, opportunity and, yes, love, that their teachers provide them with.
After my girl was well inside the building, I rolled down my windows and yelled out to the small group of teachers gathered by the door, “Woo hoo! Middle school! Party time! Excellent! Yeaaaaah!”
My second-grader scrunched down in his seat and tried to disappear. “Really, Mom? Embarrassing.”
My husband is an administrator in the district. He doesn’t talk much about details of school business at home, but I am privy to this insider information … The teachers and administrators in C-PP are so freaking excited at the start of a new school year. As much as we all need a break in June, they are as antsy to get back as the parents and the kids.
Our public schools here offer our children so MUCH. It boggles my mind. I grew up in a bigger town, in much larger schools, and have lived in cities with seemingly infinite school resources. And I am blown away at what our schools offer, along with a dedication to and plan for creating a small-school feel.
Here are my tips for how you can feel this way about your kid’s school:
• Get invested, your money already is.
You own this place. For reals. You might not pay tuition, but you pay taxes. Go to school board meetings. Develop your opinions based on fact, not hearsay. Know your superintendent and your school board members. They work for YOU, and your kid. You didn’t even realize you had employees, did you?
• Be present.
I have a more flexible schedule than most; I know that. But be there at school as much as you can. At elementary drop-off, if you can walk your kid to the door every now and then instead of going through the drive-up line, do it. I am a firm believer that kids need to learn how to separate and do this on their own, but walking up to school is a parent’s opportunity to learn how things work. Often, you can see the principal in action greeting kids, you see the kids interact, you get a sense of the personalities of the faculty and staff. And, they know you are one of those parents who are THERE. That means a lot when you need to advocate for your child.
Join your PTA. Don’t “yeah, yeah” me. This is your ticket to the inside scoop. Want to “judge” the teachers and principals for yourself? Want to know what other parents are thinking about testing and curriculum and transportation? Spend an hour a month in a PTA meeting.
•Obey the parking and drop-off rules.
Seriously, don’t be a jerk. We all have our days when we are running behind, and who doesn’t want to do things in our own personal “most efficient manner?” But there is a well-contemplated system at your kid’s school, and blowing it off makes things operate less smoothly for everyone else. And other parents and staff notice who the repeat offenders are! Don’t stigmatize yourself and your kids by being “that” parent.
•Understand that your kid’s teachers love teaching your kid.
In many ways, it’s harder than ever to JUST TEACH. But that’s what most teachers are striving to do. Listen, we all want to think we are tuned in to our kids, but our kids’ teachers know our kids better than we do in many ways. They see how our kids handle character-building situations that we never see our kids in. Trust your school to choose the right teacher for your child. Trust your teacher to keep your kids in the right situations. Since you’ve now been present and invested at your school, you have built a relationship to advocate for your child along WITH your teacher when difficulties arise. Do not build situations where you feel it is you versus your teacher; it should be the both of you versus your child. Just kidding.
•Most importantly, have fun with your kid’s education.
Let yourself take it all in. Don’t let the stress of schedules and homework kill the buzz. Swing on the swings at your neighborhood school. Hang out there when you can. Your school is your child’s second home. It should feel like yours, too.
Cheers to a new school year! It’s now past 10 a.m. I can have that cocktail now, right?