by Julia Buckley
My husband and I attended the high school's "Back to School Night" so that we could go through our son's schedule and meet all of his teachers. When did I ever have the energy that high school requires?
For one thing, the school is huge--about four thousand students. We wore our gym shoes in preparation for the crazy running between classes, but I was exhausted just making the jaunt from our car to the school (we had to park several blocks away).
Once inside we began the journey: honors world history first period, honors English second period. Ian's English teacher was striking and impressive. "I will never accept a hand-written assignment from your child," she warned us grandly. "And I will never give a bathroom pass to your child." She wore a red suit and high heels and spoke of things like diction and annotation with appropriate passion.
Jeff and I were distracted by the desks. When did they get so small? They dug into our stomachs and we grimaced at each other as we tried to take notes.
The bell sounded and we darted down the stairs to gym class. There the coach had to compete with all of the other coaches, whom the event planners had inauspiciously stuck in the cafeteria together so that their talks all wove together in a cacophany of sound. "Your child is currently taking Life Fitness," shouted the coach. "In nine weeks he will either switch to swimming, dance, or an anti-bullying course called Step Back." We squinted, trying to hear him, smirking slightly when he mentioned dance (our son refuses to dance or sing, ever. School will be so good for him).
The bell, and we were off to Art. The loveable Sandy Duncan look-alike said she had finally "treated" herself to a vacation in the South of France that summer, where she had painted the scenery and felt serene. I doubt we concealed our envy well, but we did admire the things she had the students doing in the impressive studio, which had, according to her, a better kiln than the local universities.
Then (was there more?) we went to German class. I wondered if, at this point in the day, my son's stomach was growling loudly enough for everyone to hear, since I can rarely get him to eat breakfast. I know, I know. Such an important start to the day, and yet both of my sons claim nausea when I show them morning food.
The German teacher was sweet and energetic. She greeted us by saying "Wie gehts?" and told us in a brief English speech that she mainly talked to the students in German. Then she spoke in German.
My eyes drifted to the wall, where pictures of all the students' heads were attached to homemade paper "T-shirts" which sported German slogans. Ian's said "Ich habe drei Katze" (I have three cats) and "Ich habe ein hunt" (I have one dog). Not bad for the first week of school, I thought.
FINALLY we had a break. Jeff and I beelined for the bathroom and then called our littlest boy, who was home alone, manfully playing computer games.
And then there were MORE classes! Did we go to high school, Jeff and I wondered, and did we really learn this many things?
Ian's algebra teacher told us that he had motivated the students to bring in the parent form by promising to do a back flip if they all brought it back. 26 out of
27 students brought it back, so he didn't do the flip, but he made a separate deal with them that they won, and he did the flip in class a few days later.
Oh, did I mention? He's twenty-four.
If I told my students I was going to do a back flip they would A)laugh and B)dial 9-1-1 on their cell phones and keep a finger hovering over the "send" button. Plus I can't do a back flip OR a front flip. I can't even do a cartwheel. I suppose I could offer to jog in place or jump rope, but it doesn't have the same glamour.
When we finally got home, Ian asked what we thought. We said that we'd been quite impressed, for starters, that he could even navigate his way around that Noah's Ark of a school.
He shrugged. "Yeah, I'm great."
In this modern era we can keep track of his grades online, so we'll be able to give him a nudge whenever he ceases to be great.
But I must tell you: hurrah for high school students. I am one adult who is not sure she could--or would--go back.