School Days, School Forms

I pulled this one out from last year. You can’t praise the first day packet enough.

Chris Campillo

The beginning of the school year is full of traditions. Buying new pens and folders. Waking up the kids at 5 am instead of noon. Establishing after-school routines that will end all homework stresses. Throwing those out after day one, when you learn your son had a book project he was supposed to complete over the summer but hasn’t started.

But my favorite tradition is the “First Day Packet.” Maybe it’s called something else in your town, but I guarantee, if you’re child attends a public school, you will receive the large envelope of forms that are so vital, they must be completed before your child will be assigned a locker or even allowed in the cafeteria.

There are the basics – immunization records, emergency contacts, the fifty-page district policy book that you’re required to read and sign, acknowledging you’ve done so. Right.

And then there are the guilt forms. The ones that…

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School Days, School Forms

The beginning of the school year is full of traditions. Buying new pens and folders. Waking up the kids at 5 am instead of noon. Establishing after-school routines that will end all homework stresses. Throwing those out after day one, when you learn your son had a book project he was supposed to complete over the summer but hasn’t started.

But my favorite tradition is the “First Day Packet.” Maybe it’s called something else in your town, but I guarantee, if you’re child attends a public school, you will receive the large envelope of forms that are so vital, they must be completed before your child will be assigned a locker or even allowed in the cafeteria.

There are the basics – immunization records, emergency contacts, the fifty-page district policy book that you’re required to read and sign, acknowledging you’ve done so. Right.

And then there are the guilt forms. The ones that claim you can improve students’ educational experience by heading up cookie sales or chairing the horticulture committee (which means you’ll be pulling weeds in front of the school). Of course, you’ll want to support the science department by buying a science-class-spirit shirt. They’re not required, but strongly encouraged to support the science department – which happens to be chaired by the teacher who will be determining your child’s grade, thus GPA, thus future college.

But the ones that really blow my mind are the ever-growing “liability” forms:

“I acknowledge that if I do not sign and return this form by ___ date, my child’s photo will be published in the yearbook even if her bangs did look ‘OMG, horrible’ that day.”

“I give permission for my child to use the internet while at school and will not hold the district liable if he/she should use the medium to hook up with a sixty-year-old pervert from Ohio.”

“I understand that the use of any sports-enhancing biophysical substance will result in the automatic disqualification from all UIL events.” That’s cool. I support that. But my daughter’s in choir. Is blood doping a big problem in the show choir circuit?

And the forms go on and on. It’s enough to make you consider homeschooling.

Whooooa! Hold-up. Nothing could be that bad.

Are You Kidding Me?

This week, I crossed one more milestone on my path of parenting. The last-minute project. The project that’s worth 60% of the grade. The project that was assigned three weeks prior and is due in two days. The project that hasn’t been touched.

So last weekend was spent riding my son’s . . . tail. It was traumatic for both of us. You know there are seven steps of grief. Well, I found there are also seven steps to this phenomenon.

Shock: “What the hell do you mean, you haven’t started?”

Anger: “I hope you’re happy. If you flunk this class, you’ll have to go to summer school.” Of course, I don’t know if that’s the case, but it catches his attention.

Hope: “You can do this. I’ll help you.” In my son’s case, that involves me typing.

Frustration: It kills the writer in me to simply take dictation. I can’t resist the occasional prompt: “If your hero is an adventurer, how could you reveal his personality? Maybe you could provide some actions that show what he’s feeling.” My son’s response: “Nah.”

Another Round of Anger: “I can’t believe I have to hold your hand through this process. Do you realize how much of my time I’ve wasted helping you? You’re grounded for the whole summer!”

Acceptance: This is not my project. It’s a huge undertaking, so at this point, I’m just hoping he can pull off a “C.” That’s what keeps my mouth shut while I type narrative that switches between past and present tense on every other page.

Joy: My son actually gets excited about the project. I leave for a much-needed Girls Night Out, and upon my return, he proudly shares his project that he’s finished on his own. He’s even included some impressive symbolism. There’s hope he won’t end up living in my basement after all.

In the end, he received an “A” on the project. So much for learning a lesson. Is he that talented? Is our school system that mucked up? At this point, I don’t care. I won’t have to haul his . . . tail to summer school.

I know, I know. I should have let him suffer the consequences of his choices. So consider this blog a gift from me to you. As long as I’m raising kids, you’ll always feel better about your parenting skills.

 

 

Can We Be Honest?

Confessions of a Burned-Out Concert Mom

For any of you with school-aged children, you know that May is the busiest time of year – school parties, field trips and concerts for every program out there. Our kids are in band, theater, choir and dance, and we average about two shows every week. You’d think we’d love it. You’d think.

But here’s the awful truth: I don’t care for the shows…except for my children’s parts. Oh, let me tell you, when they’re on stage, I can’t keep the grin off my face or the tears from forming (the latter being from pride, not lack of talent). And yes, there are some students who are so gifted, they get my undivided attention (unless they’re sharing the stage with my child). But then there’s all the rest. And there’s a LOOOOOOOT of all the rest. These two-and-a-half hour concerts make a Jerry Lewis telethon (showing my age) look like a 30-second commercial.

Who decided that students need to sing EVERY verse in a song? Hasn’t anyone ever heard of, “Leave them wanting more.” And don’t think I’m the only hater. Case in point: Last night, as the singer was going into verse three, I heard the sighs, the shifting, the very quiet moans from the people behind me. I was in the first row, so I pasted on a smile and gave the girl encouraging nods. When the fifth verse started, I turned my gaze to the accompanist and burned her with telepathic messages begging her to stop.

To make matters worse, my kids are first-year students. This means their classes usually play/dance/ sing one or two songs at most, while the rest of the program pays tribute to all the other classes, usually focusing on the graduating students. That’s fine. They deserve it. But can’t you just let my kid go first? Do I have to sit for an hour and a half to wait for one song, and then wait another hour to hear the second one? Couldn’t they come up with some kind of fast-pass?

“Your child is scheduled to perform between 8:02 and 8:12. Please report to the auditorium doors by 7:50.”

Oh well, it is what it is. We have three more events in the next eight days. I’ll have my camera, bottle of water, and a shawl. It gets cold in those auditoriums. And I can hide my iPad while I read my book.

I know. So rude. But you know I’m not alone.

Look Out, They’re Coming

And I couldn’t be happier. I’m talking about future writers. I was working in a third-grade class today. They were reading a story, and the teacher stopped and asked the class to describe how the author was showing, not telling. No Way! We buy books and attend courses to learn this stuff. Third-graders are taking it in along with their multiplication facts and reading comprehension.

Now some of you younger ones may be thinking, “Poor old thing. They’ve been teaching that for years.” Maybe. I just know in 1974, in Decatur, Illinois, we were learning about subjects and predicates. I think Haiku was as creative as we got. Today, classroom walls are covered with laminated “bubbles” that describe point of view, tense, alliteration, symbolism, and on and on. Writing journals are as common as glue sticks and scissors.

And folks, it’s starting way before third. Kids are publishing books in first grade. The subject matter is often “What I Did This Summer,” but they storyboard, write a draft, go through revisions with an editor (their teacher) and then publish, which means they put their story in a construction paper jacket and get to color the pages. The best part—they get to read it to the class.

Now that’s not to say everyone will be a writer. It’s just like reading, some kids love it, others don’t. The lovers of the word are the ones that fill up four pages in their writing journals when they were only required to write one. They’re the ones that ask, “When I get my work done, can I write in my journal?”

Then there are those who haven’t yet discovered the magic of writing. They’re the ones that moan when I tell them to get out their journals. They come up to me repeatedly and ask if they have to fill the whole page. So on those occasions, like any good sub, I pull something out of my hat.

“Okay class, you and your family just moved into an old house. On the first night, you hear a strange sound coming from the basement. You sneak downstairs and walk to the basement door. Now what do you do?” I hear the “oohs” and “cools” and know there’s hope. My little writers sweep their pencils across the page. Even the students who were whining just minutes before lift their pencils and put them to the paper. Ah, success.

A few minutes later, a girl raises her hand and tells me she’s done. I walk over to read what she’s written. The page is empty except for one line:

“I would go back to bed.”

Oh well, the world will always need accountants.