Dear Next Year's Teacher,
Thank you for the lovely letter we received this week welcoming my girl to her new classroom. I promise I will go out and procure the 15 eraser caps, three boxes of pencils, and various other accessories that apparently she has to have in order to learn. I promise I will do everything within my power to stay on top of things more assiduously than I managed to do last year. In return, I'd like to ask a few things from you:
I promise I actually will pay attention to the flyers sent home about spirit days, special occasions and whatnot if you promise to choose occasions for which preparation can be kept to a minimum. PJ Day? No sweat. Crazy Hat Day? In the bag! Dress Up As Your Favorite Historical Figure/Fairy Tale Character/Element of the Periodic Table In the Next 48 Hours? You have got to be hallucinating, because there ain't no way I can turn it around in that time frame. Not to mention, the more elaborate and involved the preparations, the more stress said occasions add to our house. You haven't lived until you've confronted a perfectionist in a sobbing mess on the floor because "I can't use half my Halloween costume over one of dad's shirts because ev-er-y-bod-y will kno-oo-ooo-o-w it's not reallllllllll." The introvert, on the other hand, just point-blank refuses to wear anything that might draw undue attention to herself and won't participate. Either way, it's a huge bundle of fun for yours truly, since my love and helpmeet has claimed incompetence at anything involving costuming and has ceded the floor since 2004. And while we're on the subject of class activities, is there any way you can see your way clear to letting those of us who are organizationally deficient just pay $20 into a kitty for class party-related expenses? No matter how many reminders, emails, post-it notes, or other messages I get, the likelihood of my remembering to get recyclable plastic tablecloths color-coordinated to the national flags of the seventeen nations represented in the Foods of the World class party is somewhere between none and not a snowball's chance in hell. It's not that I don't want to make a contribution to my child's learning environment, it's that my reach exceeds my overscheduled and oft-forgetful grasp.
I promise I will do all I can to facilitate and expedite the creation of various curriculum-related exercises (a.k.a. "projects") if you promise to make it clear exactly which elements of said project should be completed at home and what you expect in the execution of those elements. Let me put it another way, when I ask The Perfectionist what she's supposed to do and the sole response I get between sobs is, "make a poster," that is supremely unhelpful. Do you want a 1:12 scale reproduction of the Sistine Chapel done freehand in colored pencil, or can we slap a picture cut from a magazine on a piece of construction paper and call it good? I'm just warning you, in the past I've erred toward the former, but this year, if you don't make it crystal clear what you want, I'm taking the latter approach. Then I'm using all the time and money I used to spend on these projects on something more valuable, like a pedicure.
I promise I will create a dedicated time and place for my kids to do homework if you promise not to go overboard. C'mon, I'm a fellow teacher; you think I don't know that you know homework is primarily a system of sorting the haves from the have-nots? In a week, you're going to know exactly which kids have support to get their work done and which kids don't. The biggest gap in our educational system is between those haves and have-nots, not necessarily in terms of money but definitely in terms of parental support, and that's not a slam on the parents necessarily - many of them just don't have the wherewithal to do it. So if you load up my kid with an hour of homework a night, even though she's just an elementary student, I may gripe and complain, but I'm going to make her do it. Then what happens to the kid who doesn't do it and isn't ready for class, not just one day, but day after day after day?
In addition to that, I'd like our conversations at home to focus on what my girls are learning and experiencing, not on "Did you do your homework? Gotta do your homework! Get started on your work! You can have that as soon as you do your homework," ad infinitum, ad nauseam. My kids are nine and six - they need to play, they need to pursue activities they like, they need to have time with us, they need to read and daydream and unwind a bit at the end of the day.... as do I. Take pity on a fellow sufferer and keep it to a minimum.
Finally, I promise to attend and support all fundraising, community-building, and school-morale-boosting events I can if you promise not to have seven of them in close succession. Keep in mind I have two darling angels roaming the halls of two separate schools, and the laws of nature dictate that childhood expenses grow geometrically, not arithmetically, with each child. In other words, if one school has a book fair, somehow I wind up at the book fair buying a book for BOTH girls - then the book fair moves to the other school, and hey, wouldn't ya know, it happens to be the same night as the concert or the open house or some other function to which I have to bring both girls again and then I've bought enough books, bookmarks, blendy pens, and other assorted crap to open a small library dedicated exclusively to elementary-aged girls. Last year I handed out $20 bills like an ATM - PTO, book fair, Square One art, you name it. That is not going to happen this year, so when you manage to winkle some cash out of my wallet, pace yourself before you go back to the well again.
If we can agree on these few simple ground rules, I promise I will be your biggest fan and cheerleader. I will clip box tops, buy tissues, and throw a Hamiton or two into the aforementioned kitty faster than you can say "elementary".