Back to School Night: the promise of what’s to come
School began in San Francisco just 2 weeks ago. The first two exciting and exhausting weeks are over. Photographs have been exchanged between family and friends, between teachers and parents, and between parents of children who have just started school together. My granddaughter’s teacher sends out pictures of the classroom, and short but meaningful reports of how the children are doing. My daughter finds herself the room parent. She describes this in shock and surprise. I see it is not surprising, but predictable given her lineage. What is surprising is the realization that time passed so quickly. And I do not mean the last two weeks.
What I have found being a grandmother is that unlike being a parent, I am constantly reminded of what it was like both to be young myself and to be a young parent. From the time my daughter, holding her new baby began asking, “what did you do about this when I was a baby,” I have been dealing with the realization of the rapid passage of time. While our children do not want us interfering in their lives, they would like to know how we handled situations and conditions in the past. When I was a young mother, I was carrying a full-time load at University, working, and helping give the school started for my daughter. My own daughter is working full-time, working on her professional development, and seeking to enjoy as much of her daughter’s ‘s life as possible. When we were all researching and trying to find out as much as we could about the San Francisco schools, we were all somewhat apprehensive, wanting to find nurturing, safe, and an enjoyable place for my granddaughter.
The first two weeks of school have been pretty exciting. No matter how much you prepare ahead of time, the reality of the situation is always different than what you expect. Watching our new kindergarten adjusting to being in the classroom with 18 other children, five days a week has been interesting. At the end of the first week I received a photograph of my granddaughter fast asleep in the car seat on the way home from school. Another report from my granddaughter was full of description about conversations about friendship and getting along. She wanted to share with me some of the challenges which she was just beginning to experience and beginning to learn to deal with.
When you hear a 5-year-old describe “what the teacher said,” it takes on a somewhat strange interpretation. What a 5-year-old understands of the experience and what an adult perceives of that same experience are quite different. And thus the complexities of conversation, communication, and understanding broaden and grow. For parents and grandparents when our children leave our close scrutiny and observation, we begin to lose not only control but also clarity of what is actually going on in their lives. How we deal with this is important to keeping communication and understanding of one another as clear as possible.
This week San Francisco schools will be hosting Back-to-School Night. If you think back, you will remember how exciting it was to get the classroom ready for your parents for your own back-to-school night. From all reports and photographs, that is exactly what the kindergartners have been doing. Each grade level has been preparing their classrooms for their parents’ visit to the classroom, and posting the first assignments of the new school year. Back to School Night is meant to be a time to introduce families to their children’s classrooms and and their children’s teachers. It is also a time to find out more about the classroom curriculum and expectations (of both children and parental participation). It is also a time to see the kinds of work the children have been engaged in so far, and you will have the opportunity to talk with the teacher and ask questions that are of importance to you.
At my granddaughter’s school, parents have already been made to feel very welcome. Families were invited to activities and meetings ahead of time. On the first day of school, parents stayed at the school with the children, getting oriented and providing a smooth transition for both students and parents. Our kindergartner’s teacher, knowing how hard it is for parents to let go of their children into a new experience, kept parents updated throughout the entire first two weeks of school. For grandparents like myself, it is exciting to be reminded of the continuity of traditions that can help create bonds and good experiences for our children and our families as they enter the years of education.
When I look at the photographs of the beautiful children who are in my daughter’s classroom, I am so happy to see the changes that have taken place in the classroom since I was in elementary school. She goes to school with people from a variety of religious, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds. Living in San Francisco provides our family with such a richness of cultural diversity. Attending school here provides us all with opportunities others can only dream of. Enjoy getting to know your children’s schools, and find out how you can participate and become a part of the San Francisco Schools community. Everyone has something to offer (time, talent, service), so go to Back to School Night, and find out how you can help out. Help create memories for your children and grandchildren so they can pass the good traditions connected with the joy of learning along to their children and grandchildren as well. Take an active role in the life of your family.