Matter of Laugh or Death
By Bill Dunn
Interesting observations on this thing we call life
Parent-Teacher Night is always a treat. Each teacher stands in front of a room filled with 30 to 40 parents and has a grand total of four minutes to explain the following: who they are, how long they’ve been teaching, and why they love to work with young people; their goals for the coming year; homework and exam policies; how grades will be determined; make-up tests; how parents can reach them; extra credit; special projects; fund-raisers; and field trips. Each teacher holds a stack of carefully prepared 3 x 5 note cards so they won’t forget anything.
As the teacher begins to speak, he or she is interrupted at least six times by stray parents who sheepishly enter the room after flunking the “Where is room number 231 located?” quiz. (The correct answer: Not even in the same zip code as room number 230. Apparently, school building architects now employ the “new math” when assigning room numbers, which means they let a computer program generate random numbers. It’s the same technique used by the Board of Education to set the annual budget.)
Because of these interruptions, the teacher is only able to say, “Hi, my name is Mrs. McGuillicuddy—” before the bell rings, alerting the parents that it is now time for the “Where is room number 307 located?” quiz. (Correct answer: Right next to room number 1184-B.)
The parents dutifully shuffle out while the teacher yells, “I teach history, by the way! Call me if you have any questions!” As the last parent exits, the teacher flings the stack of carefully prepared 3 x 5 note cards at the waste basket and mutters a word which her students are not allowed to say.
When the night is over, parents compare impressions as they drive home. “Well, I thought Jimmy’s English teacher looked OK,” one parent says. “Yes, but his science teacher looked very strict,” the other responds. They can only go by visual appearances since the teachers never had an opportunity to communicate verbally.
Parent-Teacher Night would be so much easier if the teachers simply lined up in front of the school, holding signs with their names, while the parents drive by and take a quick peek. “There’s Jimmy’s Spanish teacher, Mr. Farkle. He looks pretty good.” This would be beneficial for everyone involved. Parents would take home the same amount of useful information without having to wander up and down the halls flunking room number quizzes, and the teachers would not have to waste time preparing 3 x 5 note cards, nor injure their shoulders while flinging the stack of cards at the waste basket.
I noticed a major difference this year at Parent-Teacher Night compared to previous years. When my daughters were in elementary school, it seemed most of the parents were close to my age: late 20s or early 30s. However, now that I have been doing P-T Nights for a dozen years and am now well into my 40s, it seems that many of the parents are now noticeably much younger than I am. At first I thought some high school students had volunteered to assist parents in finding the rooms. (“Room number 14? Right down this hall, next to room number 6345-R. You can’t miss it.”) But then one young lady who looked like she might be on, say, the volleyball team, said to the teacher, “I’m Brittany’s mom. She says she likes your class.”
There were also a fair number of nose rings and tattoos present that night, which made my wife and I wonder if we had missed out on a new parent-child bonding technique whereby mommy and daughter get matching pierced eyebrows, and dad and junior get matching naked lady tattoos running down the entire length of their arms.
The worst was when one young lad who looked like he might be running for, say, junior class president, stepped to the front of the room and said, “Hi, I’m Mr. Grimhauser, the geometry teacher.” Of course, the bell rang at that moment, so I didn’t get a chance to ask him any important academic questions, such as whether he has started shaving yet.
Well, only a few more years to go and I’ll be done with Parent-Teacher Nights forever. Even though I complain now, I bet I’ll miss P-T Nights, especially those one piece desk-chairs which are impossible to get into and even more impossible to get out of. The sight of a few dozen middle aged parents squirming in and out of those chairs is worth the price of admission.
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