Monday, August 31, 2015


I attended back to school night on Thursday at my daughter's high school. I sat nervously in the auditorium with the other ninth grade parents, wondering what the experience would be like. I thought of how old my mother was when I began high school. I tried to imagine sitting there in the auditorium with her as a peer, chatting about having our youngest begin high school. Everything felt very new.

The ninth grade team leader began her presentation. I began to notice something unusual. Her talk did not include any educational buzzwords. There was no grit, no rigor, no testing, no data, no ed-reform talking points.

It was thrilling.

The team leader talked about what high school is like, what ninth graders are like, and what we, as parents, can do to support our kids as they evolve from children to young adults. She was clear that over-helping prevents students from learning independence and self-reliance. It was a good message to hear.

After being dismissed from the ninth grade parent meeting, I traveled from class to class meeting my daughter's teachers. After a few of the brief presentations, I began to cross my fingers--would I get through the entire evening without any educational propaganda whatsoever? Was it possible?

It was. The teachers talked about their course of study, over-arching goals, basic expectations. They answered general questions. I felt their enthusiasm for their subject matter, their love of teaching and enjoyment of the high school age group they teach. It was clear that they were there because they chose to be there.

By the end of the evening I was almost in tears. With gratitude. What a joy it was to be in a school that was about teaching and learning, the development of students as human beings, about supporting the relationships between teacher and student, parent and student. I wonder if this is what back to school night was like, when my mother came--about actual learning.

Of course,when my mother came there were no Power Point Presentations, no discussion of Bring Your Own Device, and no description of how Canvas is going to work. But, technology aside, the core message is pretty consistent:

  • They are your kids, and our students
  • Let them grow
  • Let them learn how to fail and recover
  • Support learning
  • Be involved
  • Work with the school
  • Communicate
  • Don't ever stop loving them.

I'd have to give this back to school night visit at River Hill High School a five-star rating. It far excelled my expectations for official school events. And it gave me hope that all is not lost in the world of education.


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