Notes From the High School Underground

by Keith Yancy

Ah, September.  Labor Day, cooler weather, and the fascination of Parent Orientation Night at my daughter’s high school.

It sure feels strange to be the parent in this situation, to be honest.  Somewhere in my brain, I’m still not quite resigned to the fact that the tables have turned, and I’m no longer the student.  Here’s a few observations from my recent “parent” experience…

  • That high school is HUGE.  Actually, it’s three high schools, located on a single campus… which makes it feel larger than the university I attended.  Just getting to Parent Orientation was like coming late to a rock concert — I had to park on the dirt surrounding the soccer field, at perhaps the farthest possible point away from the building.  Cars parked EVERYWHERE.  Guess that’s the price you pay for getting there late.
  • I passed a note to my wife at high school!  For the first time, I could actually send my wife a note (okay, text) telling her what classroom at which we could meet.  (We did not attend the same high school.)  Seemed kind of neat, though I don’t think she ever got the message.  Felt for a brief second like a high school date.
  • I felt really, really out of place.  Those other parents (and there were a lot of parents there) all seemed much older than us.  Really.  I felt younger than everybody else.  Unfortunately, this feeling steadily faded as I realized that I didn’t look any younger than most of those other parents.  Coming straight from work (and wearing a suit and tie) didn’t help, either. 
  • I want to take my daughter’s English class.  The classroom was nice.  Teacher was enthusiastic, articulate and engaging.  Course requirements (it’s an AP English class) were challenging but interesting.  THIS is the kind of class that was not appreciated by 16-year old Keith, but 44-year-old Keith is now absolutely rarin’ to go!  Even the assignments and term papers sound cool.  It’s hard to believe people feel obligated to take this class. 
  • Some parents can’t seem to see the forest for the trees.  Call me elitist, but I felt a vague sense of depression when, after discussing the value of analytical thinking, consideration of deeper philosophical questions and the power of literature as a window to one’s self-knowledge, the only question asked of the English teacher was “How long do the kids have to complete the term paper?”.  Sigh.  Kind of like getting handed a diamond ring and asking, “is this box water-resistant?”.
  • I want to take Graphic Arts class too.  Seriously.  This class isn’t even a class — it’s fun.  Working with Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign… I would love this class.  In fairness, my daughter is pretty excited about this class too.  They’re even going to upgrade to CS5.5… which leads me to my next point.
  • Bigger may not be better, but it sure seems to imply “better equipped.”  I now have the fulfillment of knowing where some of my tax dollars are going — this place is like a palace.  40+ Macintosh computers in Graphic Arts class.  Couches in the classrooms (for humanities classes, at least).  A campus larger than some colleges.  Pools… three gymnasiums… a radio station (?!?!)… a cafeteria that has more choices than a shopping mall food court… this place seems to have everything.  I loved my high school, but I have to admit, I might have loved it even more if we had some of this stuff.
  • I will privately admit that my daughter has it sort of hard.  One of her classes (Graphic Arts, in fact) seems to be about 4 miles and two buildings away from her other classes, and takes a LONG walk (at a pretty fast pace) to get there and back.  Challenging on September 8… an epic journey on December 8.  Even worse on January 8.  Guess I better cut her a bit of slack on the “be tough” speech.
  • I’m still intimidated by foreign language class.  In this case, my daughter’s “Spanish II” class.  Nice teacher — very nice, in fact — but sitting through her orientation session brought back all the old memories of my two-year (failed) attempt to learn French.  And that was after two years of failing to learn Latin, which should have helped in French class but didn’t.  That’s four collective years, my friends, of sitting in a class with only a very, very vague idea of what the hell was going on.  (Hmm… wonder if some of our elected officials in Congress feel the same way….)  My attempt to learn a foreign language ended exactly one day after the announcement that French class would in fact be taught in French instead of English.  But that’s another blog post for another time.
  • All things considered, I think my daughter’s pretty lucky.  She has some really good classes, and she’ll have access to facilities, equipment and software that a lot of kids don’t get.  And the teachers, at least the ones I had a chance to meet, seemed genuinely committed to — and enthusiastic about — helping their students to learn and grow.  (Incidentally, I also think that anyone who believes that teaching is somehow “easy” should actually spend some time with a real professional teacher before they complain about how “easy” they have it.  Again, another blog post for another time.)
  • Getting in was tough… getting out was way, way worse.  Remember the comment about parking in Ohio to get to this thing?  Well, when you let approx. 9,000 people out of Parent Orientation Night at precisely the same time, better be prepared to wait awhile.  For those of you who think the 9,000 number is an exaggeration, I beg to differ — there is approx. 7,000 students, and a lot of parents showed up… many as couples.  And when everyone is trying to leave at once, it’s like LEAVING a rock concert, complete with people getting cut off, not letting each other in, cars mysteriously facing the wrong way, people stuck in the grass, etc., etc.  It took me 45 minutes to travel the 1.2 miles from my daughter’s high school home.  43 of those minutes were spent in the parking lot, and for about 39 of those minutes, my car never moved. 
  • BUT… there’s always a silver lining.  The only saving grace for the long wait to leave was getting angry (but very funny)texts from my brother, who was having a historically awful night of bowling.  Somehow, the sting of sitting motionless in traffic for 40 or so minutes was greatly reduced by the knowledge that, not far away, my brother was bowling a 357 series. 

Ah, September.  You always seem to arrive too soon, but you’re always interesting.

Until next time… 🙂

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2 comments so far

  1. Bill W on

    One of my favorite moments from “capsule night” was when my wife and I attended one of my son’s classes. And she immediately took a seat in the first row while I immediately took a seat in the last row. And we shared a sudden, “Oh, my god, you’re one of THOSE people? All these years and I never knew?”

    I can never get over the overwhelming desire to goof around and say funny things to the person next to me as soon as the formality of “class” begins. Guess that’s how we end up in marketing.

    • kdyancy on

      I laughed out loud reading this, Bill… I think my wife and I would behave EXACTLY the same way. I never, ever shook the need to be irreverent, even now… sometimes, I think it’s the only way I can get through the day. What a great story — I’m going to share it with my wife. Thanks for the note. Reminds me of when we made fun of stuff at work together. 🙂

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