Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Brain Freeze

This week, I attended two inappropriately-named "Back To School" nights. I say inappropriately-named because as soon as the teachers started talking, I realized that what happens in my children's schools is no where near what happened in the schools of my youth.

Rubrics and spirals, formulas and labs...as I sat in my 5th grader's classroom, my head spun listening to what my child does all day. The teacher danced around the room picking up various math tools, puzzles and books, then jogged back to the head of the class where he poked at a 'Smart Board', the new blackboard. I cursed myself for sitting in the back, making all the other parents turn around to look at me every time I had a question. And I had a lot of questions.

Since the teacher is young and dynamic, I tried to tell myself that the fact that he's a grad student is what's confusing me about all this. He's talking about everything he's learning and employing in the classroom, and trying to do it in a short period of time. The truth is, the job of educating our youth is a much more complex and nuanced undertaking than I ever realized. Not that I ever thought teachers had it easy (OK, maybe that whole 'summers off' thing upsets me a bit), but this shined a new light on a teacher's day for me. And it was pretty glaring.

The revelation of my ignorance didn't stop there. In the middle school, I met six of my 8th grader's teachers and learned how hard my older son works, moves and juggles all day. And that's aside from tennis, Boy Scouts, fife and drum, newspaper club and chorus. Now I didn't just feel stupid, I felt exhausted.

These two nights of glimpsing into my children's days taught me several things: today's kids work incredibly hard in school, no matter how young; teachers are phenomenal balls of energy who exude both patience and passion in the job they do every day. Sadly, I also learned that, no matter how much I try to deny it, I am old. Not only don't I have what it takes to be a teacher, or even a middle school student, I don't have what it takes to be a fifth grader. Let's look at the facts: I can't remember what I had for breakfast, what I did this weekend or the name of that mom I ran into at back to school night, although I've known her for years (thankfully, this last one came to me about 10:30 that night). At first, I was worried I had some form of early-onset Alzheimer's. But on further reflection, I think my mind was just overwhelmed by everything I was learning in those short hours at school. All that enlightenment gave me brain freeze.

My respect for my children has grown, and my faith in their chances in the world post-schooling has increased exponentially. As long as I can get them do their homework,  and even if they just retain a portion of what they're being taught, they'll be just fine. But just in case, I'm going to up the frequency of brain foods like salmon and avocado servings in our house, for all our sakes. It's the least I can do and, very possibly, the most.

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