A few nights ago, I was attending a ‘back to school’ evening at my son’s new school. I had been assigned this glorious task by my lovely wife, who firmly believed that attending this evening would be very beneficial for the family. What on earth was she talking about?
Going by experience, open school nights are something most families dread, and have to play ‘rock-scissor-paper’ to decide who should go. It’s just going to be a small gathering of tired parents anyway, surrounded by overly enthusiastic teachers, doing some sewage propaganda of how brilliant their teachings are.
But, to my surprise, these events are very well attended in US schools. It is brilliant to see that so many parents come out to participate and support their school. Not only are they well attended, but there’s NOWHERE to park within a mile of the school, making it difficult to be on time for somebody like me.
I like to be on time, but just a few minutes early, in order to avoid the front row and smiling looks from the teaching staff. Never liked sitting in front when I went to school as a charming (sarcastic) adorable kid.
Beside the fact that most of the wise words spoken by the various speakers would have been considered propaganda some decades ago, but now they seemed to be common and acceptable …
- we are teaching your kids to behave correctly in society
- we need your kids to observe and obey 3 rules; listen, behave and share
- the books used in our school tell the kids what they need to learn
- our methods gets the best out of your kids
- we become your child’s substitute family for half their childhood
- we love and cherish them
It’s probably just me having a wicked or suspicious thoughts, given our previous experiences with our school back in Ireland. Surely these super-friendly teachers were pretending to care about our kids. In reality they were probably scheming on how to indoctrinate them into a new way of thinking – slowly turning them into mindless drones, who might end up occupying some strange wildlife park in Ohio.
Anyway, since I was fashionably late, I was forced to stand in the packed hallway. The wall of parents attempting to force their way into the assembly hall, was completely impregnable, reminding me of the Great Wall. Not that I’ve ever been there, but imagine standing in front of this tall wall, trying to hear what they are saying on the other side – not happening. Same here. So, I played Solitaire on my iPhone.
When people started to applaud, I knew it was time to head to my son’s classroom. I was the first one there and was greeted by his teacher, and all the assistant teachers.
It was a pretty impressive set-up they have, considering they are only Pre-K. Again, by Irish standards this would be unheard of, unless there were 35+ kids in the class.
This class room had more toys than FAO Schwarz, computers, art area, teacher area and even a storage area. The class size is only 9 kids, but they have a whopping 4 assistant teachers and 1 head teacher. In Ireland we had (and parents still do) struggle with schools just to get special needs assistances for a few hours per day.
The class presentation was good. I really got a sense that the teachers were looking after my son, especially when the head teacher got emotional when talking about how much the kids are developing. I almost broke down too.
Remember, my son was refused entry to mainstream school in Ireland, he would not have received an SNA and the support received from the public health system would’ve been restricted to 10-12 hours speech a year. Now he’s getting 3 hours of speech a week, not to mention all the other development classes he receives.
I left the school 2 hours later, with a sense of hope and weird happiness. Happiness that he was finally getting the support he needed, even if I had been reassured several times by his school here (in the US) that he would.
On the way home, I pulled in at the local Starbucks drive-thrue and got myself a pumpkin spiced late, with super wipe cream and three extra shots of expresso. It was late, and I needed the shot straight into my vein to stay awake. In fairness, it was a 25 minute drive alone, and Urban Legend (the movie) was based on true events.
That’s me, a happy parent signing off. I’m overly amazed with the school system here in the US, and hope kids in Ireland (and other countries) will be able to get the same level of support as they do here. For this reason alone, the move to the US was worth it.