Is This Trip Really Necessary? – Back to School Night

I grew up watching Warner Bros. cartoons. One bit I always loved was when Bugs Bunny was in a plane, nose-diving to the ground, and he’s screaming and trying to get the plane to pull up. He’s hauling back on the stick, punching buttons, all to no avail. Suddenly, a little sign pops up, “Is this trip really necessary?”

It always cracked me up. And, that thought popped into my head tonight. Now, don’t get me wrong. I have fun at Back to School Night. I love meeting the parents and getting to show off the class. But, why are we still doing this?

Back to School Night at an elementary school is straight up, tripping hard, psychotic nightmares of parents totally into the whole thing. If you go to B2SN at an elementary school, you better get there early or you will park a half mile away. And, wear comfortable clothes because it will be crowded and hot. And, don’t go if you can’t deal with crowds.

But, B2SN at a high school, that’s a much more laid back affair. You can totally show up late. You’ll still get a good seat and parking spot. Don’t worry. At this point, high school parents barely care. They’re like, “Hey, my kid’s been in school for ten years. We got this. Handle your business, teach. It’s all good.”

So, why do we still hold a traditional B2SN? I agree with having an opportunity to meet the parents but it seems like it’s time for a new format.

Anyway, before I go to sleep here, I have to say I totally enjoyed yapping with the parents and telling them about my classes. One more time, as I described what I do, how I do it, and my philosophy of teaching I got those looks back of, “Oh, yeah, that makes sense!”

Speaking of, this is the second day of truly turning the kids loose on the learning and letting them choose. I think it might be working. Now, granted, there are a few kids making poor choices and wasting time. But, there are also kids choosing to work and learn. My favorite story today came in 6th period. I have student, let’s call him Bob (for you, NG), and Bob has shown up tardy three times. And when he does he just slinks to the back of the room. So, I’ve mentioned a couple times to him that he needs to show up on time. But, I know this kid already, in a way. He’s failed before and he just knows he’s going to fail my class too. And, he doesn’t care. Or thinks he doesn’t.

So, today, he was tardy again. I got the class working and headed over to see what he was working on. He quickly slid his paper under his notebook but not before I saw that he was diligently crafting his name in tagging script. Sigh. So, I said to Bob that this was not going to work. I told him he need to show up on time and he needed to work. I pointed out to him that he may choose to blow off the work but that I, as a teacher, would hassle and annoy him until it was just easier to do the work.

I said to him, how about we avoid all of that unpleasantness and he do some work instead? I asked him if he needed any help and he said he didn’t. But, I knew that wasn’t true. So, I told him just think about it and I would check back.

I know that if I come at him and get crazy that he will have no choice but to get crazy, too. And, I will lose him, if not for good, then for a long time. So, I’m laying back a little. I want to win him for the year, not the day.

About ten minutes later, I can see he was doing actual work. So, I cruised back again and checked. This time, he had a question. So, we talked about the work. Then, I moved off again. Later, I came back and he showed me a couple sentences he’d written.

I know, a couple sentence, right? Hold me back! But, you know what? I think he was testing me. I think he wanted to see if I would ridicule him or make him feel dumb. I didn’t. I took it seriously and gave him some feed back. And, he took it and went back to work. As he left, I called his name and he looked over and I said, “Thank you,” and he nodded.

It’s only one day. But, today I won him. Today, student directed learning won. He chose to learn. We still have many days to go and Bob will probably have some bad days, too. But, not today.



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