The worst was the “A, B, C, D, E, and F” days. I was in homeroom, so, obliged to follow the teacher’s rules of raising my hand before speaking, I dutifully raised my hand as she, in the robotically- cheerful-but-could-turn-on-you-any-moment-way that only teachers have, was chirping, “Now, today, I think, is a B-day that you’ll be following on your child’s schedule.”
I’d examined the schedule. Arm beginning to ache, the lovely, midway pregnant, still graceful, no makeup, about my age teacher (whom I’m sure had never been in the real world, but rather instead had simply never left school—just moved to the power side of the desk) — at last acknowledged me.
“If B, D, and F days are the same,” I asked, “and C and E days are the same, why don’t they just have A and B days?”
Then again, I’d worked for a time as Management in Real World Big Business, where the Bottom Line was an Important Thing. Also, so were Budgets, where you Cut to the Chase, and Axed Everything that was Unnecessary. Including people, which was one reason why it had sucked, and I now prefer my life as a starving artist.
The teacher was patient with me, the ignorant parent. She shrugged at first. “It’s just how they do it,” and turned, apparently thinking I’d be satisfied with such a ridiculous answer.
“Why do they do it that way?” I asked her back, at the same time thinking to myself: it is SO not fair that she doesn’t even LOOK pregnant from the back. When I was pregnant, being only five-foot-one, with all my height in my legs, from about three months in, I look like I swallowed a torpedo. And that’s about the nicest thing you can say about how I look pregnant. She WAS one of those gorgeous, glowy girls, I had to hand it to her.
She turned around, surprised I still existed, and gave me another Colgate grin, and another shrug. “It’s just their system. It’s just the way they do the days here at this school.”
As if slightly different wording would make me go: “Ooooh, I get it. Shut up, Ms. Bushey.”
Echoes from my own school experiences came flooding back. This little Open House adventure, concocted by who knows whom, was for parents of my daughter’s middle school classes to live through a truncated “Day In The Life” of their own kid.
Ask me no questions, I’ll tell you no lies, I thought. Better still: ask me no questions. I’m the teacher.
“I’m sorry, I still don’t understand,” I tried once more — in all seriousness, not to be annoying, but because I really didn’t get it, and I never WAS one to sit there, unsatisfied. I had no problem bringing the entire classroom to a dead halt while I stubbornly would attempt, although often fail, to make the teacher stop, and go over my question until I got it. After all, if I didn’t get the binomial theorem, there were likely others who didn’t and simply didn’t have the nerve to speak up. “Why?”
This time I got a terse: “It’s just the way they do it. I don’t know why.
Okay, I thought, at least that’s an answer. At least you admit you don’t know. As she turned her back on me again, I silently mouthed to the parents in the seats one row back: “I wouldn’t last a day here,” and they started to giggle.
This WAS turning out to be just like real school for me.
I felt a little hornswaggled by the whole deal, to tell you the truth. The paper had only said: Open House, 6:30 p.m. – not “Go to School for Three Hours, and no Smoking.”
Because the law says you can’t smoke on school grounds, although I am buddies with the cop on duty at the school, who TOTALLY would not bust me – I know this, because during “lunch” – I came over to her. “Hey, Officer Boss! Be my friend, okay, cuz I have no one to sit with.”
She laughed. “Not one of the popular kids yet, huh?”
“Well, that, and you can protect me.”
“True. I’m the only one here with a gun. At least, I should be. Let me know if you see anyone else with one, okay?”
“I’ll be sure to let you know, Starsky.”
Officer Boss – besides having the absolute best cop name in the universe – is a drop-dead beautiful but tough as nails (on the outside) police officer stationed at the middle school. She knows every kid by name, including mine, and keeps tabs on them all. While not by nature a police lover, I do like her a lot – and a few others on our town’s force. They happen to be quite cool.
I tried calling Peter during class switches, but the cell service was spotty, and besides, the teacher made me put my cell phone away when he walked in. Poor Peter, who couldn’t really hear what I was saying, wasn’t sure if I was calling for help, letting him know I’d be home soon, or reciting the multiplication tables.
That teacher I actually liked a lot – he, like myself, does not believe in homework. I wanted to jump out of desk and high-five him. One other teacher, when I asked her, told me she thought homework should take no less than thirty minutes.
The kid has seven classes. If every teacher gives thirty minutes of homework (see how much I learned?) that’s three and a half hours of homework – on top of a full day of school.
How many grownups have to keep working almost four hours after they get home? It’s outrageous, really. No wonder middle-schoolers have such terrible attitudes. I know by the time I left, I had a pretty rotten attitude myself. (Plus, I was dying for a cigarette.)
It was an excellent idea they had – making us live our kids’ lives for a few hours. It was illuminating to meet their teachers, walk the halls of the school, smell that school smell that takes us back to our old, powerless days. When teachers walked the earth like giants, and principals were kings and queens.
I addressed every teacher by his or her first name. Ha ha.
By the same token, I made sure to offer my volunteer services whenever I could – in an attempt to be part of a solution, not just a needling prod. For instance, in my daughter’s English class, I sympathized with her teacher who was obviously frustrated at having to “teach for the test” – the obnoxious standardized test the state administers.
One aspect is determining “fact from opinion.” As a former journalist, I offered to be a guest speaker. She nearly cried out with delight. Points for my kid.
Points for my kid from me, too, for keeping her chin up in an oppressive environment. Kids ask me all the time if I’d rather be a kid or a grownup. I don’t have to think about it.
Grownup, hands-down. I can do all the kids’ stuff I want to – plus, I don’t have to go to school, and I can eat frosting out of the can.
Unless there’s another open house where they make me go to school again, the sneaks. But I think it did me some good.