Back to School: Parents’ Edition

Story by Taylor Rudman, Staff Writer

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Everything is spotless. English teacher Lily Bolig’s desks have been pushed into symmetry, the window sills have been cleared of their typical smattering of books and students. The windows themselves smell faintly of lemons. She is ready.

The restrooms’ cream-colored tiles sparkle. Every stall has been wiped down and filled with fresh rolls of toilet paper. In an unusual turn of events, a small pink plastic bin was filled to the brim with helpful feminine hygiene products. It is ready.

English teacher Keith Whitmer sits back and strums his guitar to the tune of Bad Religion’s “21st Century.” Let’s go.

In flood the parents. The traditional confusion commences as they find their way from the parking lot, carrying in tote bags of Kleenex as their sacrificial offerings. Some clench color-coded maps of the school, others search in desperation for a student or teacher to lead the way.

A mother asks, “Where is P-14?” She is walking towards the 120s.

This is Back to School Night.

Teachers and parents gathered together for Back to School Night on Feb. 15 to familiarize themselves with second semester classes. Three optional seminars occurred beforehand from 5 p.m. to 5:45 p.m. and the main event went from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. to eight. Each teacher had 10 minutes to talk to the parents.

Neither an introduction from the principal nor a period for homeroom was present for the second semester Back to School Night. “We don’t need to be repetitive,” said Principal Bjorn Paige. “What they want to see is they want to get out and meet four new teachers. And so that’s what we do.”

Paige believed that Back to School Night was important for both the parents and the teachers. “I think they just want to know that the teachers are there for their kid,” Paige said. Not only were parents able to get a sense of who was educating their children, the teachers were also able to get a sense of who the parents were.

Some teachers found the time restraint of 10 minutes unfortunate. “There is always a lack of time at Back to School Night, but that is always true in teaching,” said Ryan Cardenas, science and AVID teacher.

With the time they had, teachers focused on trying to familiarize the parents with the class dynamic and reassure them. History teacher Eli Cameron said, “Parents come in and they’re looking for the teachers to be accessible and enthusiastic, and knowledgeable.”

Math teacher Brittany Ifergan said, “I want to convey that I’m open for any communication and that I’m available for contact. I want to let parents know how to help their kids.”

Teachers took a laid back approach in preparation since they only needed to get the basics across. Many went unscripted or with only a few talking points written down. Cameron said, “There’s not really a lot of preparation I put into it aside from being well fed and not jittery.”

Although passionate about their work, teachers can have difficulty summoning enthusiasm after a long day. Chemistry teacher Russ Davidson said, “It’s not stressful, [but] it’s not usually as enjoyable as it could be because we’re all really tired. I mean, Back to School Night never starts sooner than my twelfth hour here at school.”

Parents and teachers seemed to be on the same page with their expectations for the night. Davidson said, “It lets them know what the teachers look like. What classes they’re in, whether the person is friendly or, or not.”

Under the circumstances, most parents don’t expect any sort of heart-to-hearts, but they do hope to see the teachers’ passion and spirit. Justine Moe said, “It was nice to be able to put a teacher’s name to a face. It was great to see teacher’s enthusiasm for classes and students.”

Another parent, Marti Eisenberg, said, “I really loved all the different teachers. They were very clear on their approaches and on what they want their kids to learn.” Many attendees had similar feedback.

Cardenas saw Back to School Night as a special opportunity to connect with parents. It was a way to talk to them in a concern free environment and let them know about himself and the class their children are taking.

Parent Terry Sando summed up her feelings from the night: “I want a do-over, I want to come to this school.”

Although Back to School Night received a positive response, many teachers and parents alike yearned for the elementary days of parent teacher conferences. Although desired, both parties understand that dream is vastly unrealistic for such a large school.

One parent said, “I think Back to School Night is more appropriate for high schoolers, but it’s also hard. If my child needs something, I like to do the one on one conferences.” Many teachers agreed, saying that although conferences would be ideal it simply wouldn’t be manageable.

Students Alexandra Joelson, Shayna Glazer, Joice He, Kamryn Romley, Lena Mau, Drew Atkins, Simmone Stearn, and Jordan Guillory contributed to this story.

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