Friday, June 15, 2012

Information consumption

At some point earlier this month it occurred to me that I have a Field of Dreams attitude toward our school system’s occasional “information nights.”

Just as in the motto of that baseball movie, If they hold it, I will come. Whether the topic is kindergarten preparedness or the sixth grade outdoor education retreat or transitioning to middle school or the seventh grade play, if I receive an email about it and if I have a child in the relevant grade, I put it on my calendar.

The reason I was thinking about this is that fifth grade information night fell a few days ago, in the middle of one of the busiest weeks of the school year, and as I hurried through dinner, it crossed my mind that just because fifth grade information night existed didn’t actually mean I had to attend it. My elder child was in fifth grade just two years ago, and even then I didn’t find it all that complicated to comprehend. Each kid has one teacher for language arts and social studies and another teacher for math and science. One of those two teachers is the child’s homeroom teacher as well. The bus comes an hour earlier – since we’re a K-8 school, there’s an earlier schedule for grades 5-8 and a school day that begins an hour later for the younger grades. Other than that, it wasn’t too different from fourth grade. Or third. Or any of these preceding three grades we’d already gone through.

It’s not as if these sessions are required. They’re proof of the school administration’s benevolence, to assuage parents’ concerns and probably also to protect the teachers and administrators from receiving a deluge of phone calls and emails over the summer about parents with questions. Although really, I’m not sure just what those questions would be. It’s all pretty straightforward.

So I had to ask myself as I drove to the school on Tuesday evening why exactly I was going. Did I really think I was going to learn something terribly important about fifth grade that I didn’t already know, couldn’t deduce or wouldn’t be aware of by the end of Holly’s first day of school in September?

Admittedly, no. It’s really little more than a Pavlovian response at this point. I’m eager for any and every nugget of information from the school, even though hardly any of it changes anything I or my children will do before, during or after the school year.

And as I sat there and listened to the fifth grade teaching team explain in detail what the kids’ daily schedule was like, I realized that at heart, it’s a matter of reassurance. It makes me feel so comforted to be sat down and told what my child’s day will be like. The time for these experiences is running out so quickly. Tim is going into eighth grade, for which there is no information night, but by this time next year we will have attended at least one or two sessions to prepare us for the high school experience, and my friends with kids already in high school are always talking about college information night, AP coursework information night, even driver’s ed information night (mandatory for any parent whose child hopes to learn to drive!). And then if my kids are lucky enough to go off to college, there will probably be one more event, the grand finale of information sessions, when we parents are gathered by the dean once we’ve all arrived on campus with our new freshmen for one huge dispensation of details about college life.

My kids, at ages 9 and 13, still seem a long way even from driver’s ed, let alone college orientation. So I’m not really worried about it. And yet it’s so clear to me that these days pass by quickly, and pretty soon there will be no professional eager to give me information about what to expect in the upcoming year of my child’s life.

Of course, nothing ever goes exactly as expected. Everything about fifth grade, as it’s described during this particular information session, sounds both logical and familiar to me, but the upcoming school year will inevitably throw us some curve balls, as it always does.

So really, I’m here to feel like the unknown can be made familiar. In this case, it can; future opportunities for the kids will be much different in that respect. Someday they’ll be off on challenges or adventures I can’t learn anything about ahead of time. So for now, I’ll take all the information I can get – and be happy that it’s still so readily available.

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