Timken Roller Bearing Co., calendar, September 1950, teacher at desk

Photo by George Eastman House

Last night was our first real school experience (or at least mine) with Matthew starting Kindergarten this year. Sure we’ve been at programs in preschool before, and his riding the bus for the first time was a big deal, but Back to School Night sealed the deal for me. It felt like Homecoming weekend from college but with smaller seats. I’m happy to report that his teachers, the principal and the overall school seem to be top notch and if I had any reservations (which I really didn’t), they’re completely calmed.

Despite its informative nature and overall positive experience, there were moments that deserved a little commentary…here’s a quick recap:

 6:43 – Babysitter arrives. Mommy looks very pretty, daddy still shaving and generally not moving fast enough. Realization that hitherto little-considered evening needs to be thought about now and could have a few challenges

6:48 – Scramble down stairs and meet Mommy waiting in the car with motor running and speed down the street to the big event

6:53 – Police directing cars in the parking lot – hmm, I guess a few other parents decided to be interested in their K-2nd graders’ first month as well

6:58 – Walk into the school (first time ever – wahoo!) and immediately recognize several other parents from around town (preschool, soccer, t-ball, pool) – realize my plan of anonymously blending in and listening from rear won’t work. Turn on happy face.

7:00 – Find son in his class picture in the school foyer – relieved to have confirmation that he has, in fact, been arriving here each day after boarding that yellow bus.

7:03 – Meander down brightly colored hallways with many cheery pictures on walls until we find son’s classroom.

7:04 – Scan wall outside classroom for his artwork – not an easy task given that 97% of school seems to be named Matthew – seriously, how did that happen? (example – soccer team of 7 boys – 4 named Matthew, plus one dad. “Nice kick…Matthew!”)

7:05 – Look at pictures of what each kid “likes…”, ok, pizza, baseball, pokemon…oh, here’s Matthew’s…he likes – the neighbor girl next door…great– is that weird? I start looking around to dodge the neighbor girl’s dad (state trooper)

7:07 – Mommy signs up for nearly every one of the volunteer committees and positions. Daddy browses through book pile

7:09 – Mommy discusses Class Parent issues with other ladies who are extremely excited and enthusiastic about the amazing things going on in kindergarten this year. Daddy leafs through the green folder they gave us with son’s name on it. Keeps having to pick up the label sticker that is falling off of it.

7:15 – Make small talk with next door neighbor father. Try to strategically position myself opposite wall containing my son’s declaration of love for his daughter

7:16 – Casually lean in to see if he’s packing. Looks safe, but you never know.

7:18 – Discuss challenges of kindergarten homework instructions with other dads

7:20 – Teacher introduces herself – says she’s enjoyed having Matthew in her class. Wondering if she really has any idea which of the Matthew’s fathers I am.

7:23 – Wife points out Matthew’s drawing to neighbor dad – brace myself for the impact – wait, he seems to think it’s funny

7:24 – Head down halls to find gym for principal’s talk

7:25 – Neighbor dad calls after me down the hall. Uh-oh. What’s that? His daughter put on her drawing that she likes Matthew? Whew. I think that gives me some wiggle room, unless he thinks we’re corrupting her…

7:28 – Find a seat in the packed gym. All these people have K-2nd graders? Seems like half the town

7:29 – These metal folding chairs are not very comfortable…

7:30 – Things are different than they were when I went to school. Observation #1 – principal’s using a PowerPoint presentation

7:33 – Think about what kind of person it takes to be a primary school principal…

7:45 – All the teachers are introduced. Why aren’t there any men teachers? Perhaps they all became principals…

7:46 – I don’t remember my first grade teacher being that hot … (Censored by wife)

7:47 – Looking forward to first grade

7:50 – Principal has good news – this year all the different specialty teachers will get up and tell us what they do. Bad news – there seem to be 189 of them…

7:52 – Gym teacher’s been there 42 years and clearly lords that over everyone’s head. But she’s actually pretty funny.

7:55 – Computer lady talking – she’s going to teach kids about chat rooms, netiquette (what?), PowerPoint, blogging (that’s never good). I don’t remember this talk in my school…

8:15 – Still listening to the specialty teachers…librarian, speech, guidance counselor, nurse…waiting for janitor, lunch lady and bus drivers to roll out.

8:30 – It’s over. No wait, now we have to move up and listen to the kindergarten teachers talk about their new curriculum.  Seriously…?

8:40 – Student teacher is VERY excited to be here. I think they’re putting Red Bull in the Rutgers water

8:45 – These chairs really suck

8:50 – Let’s see if I have any email…

9:00 – All the teachers are very close friends

9:05 – Merciful God please help this to end soon.

9:10 – Heading out…my poor back…

9:12 – Wait – not so fast, we have to stop by the book fair. Of course – we don’t have enough books

9:13 – My son has made a list of what he wants to buy. Probably not a good idea. Oh but honey, they’re books…

9:15 – My son seems to have only chosen action comic stories that surely were made for 13 year olds…no we’re not buying those.

9:16 – The teacher has made a list of books she’d like to have in the classroom. Ok, we’ll buy her one too. Can I make a list? How about the bus driver, did she leave one too?

9:18 – Retreat into the cool night air of the parking lot. Head home to pay the babysitter $25. A good night.

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