I never intended to write anything like this here now that I’ve changed my blog up to supporting stories, but sometimes I need this to be my platform.
My oldest child started Kindergarten at the end of last month. It’s been a big month of changes, from having to get up earlier to having to go to school earlier to having to eat lunch with peers instead of mom and sister to missing out on his much loved quiet time. It’s been a big adjustment for me, too. I’m used to having my babies with me almost all the time. I’m used to being the one to be there for them every step of their young lives. Of course I’ve always known I would have to let him go sooner rather than later. Of course I knew I would have to hand over his care into the hands of teachers I might be lucky to get to know, but likely not know well. I’m thankful to the teacher he has, the teacher he says he likes. After all, she’s teaching him things I wouldn’t even begin to know where to start with.
This year, my son’s school was given a generous donation. To celebrate and recognize the organization, the school planned a big event. As parents, my husband and I were thrilled that his school was so blessed, especially since it meant they could update their science lab.
A few weeks ago, at Back to School, everyone was hinting about a big event, about a big donation. It seemed like a big deal. We got fliers and calls and emails about it. We were invited to attend this big event. I lost track of how many times we were told about it. Yes, yes, it’s a big deal. It’s an awesome thing for the school.
About a week and a half before the event, I heard singing in the Kindergarten yard. How cute, I thought. A week later, I saw them all gathered in the shade, practicing the same song. I also heard one teacher say they had one more day to practice before their performance. Huh? My son never mentioned a performance. The teacher never mentioned anything. The school never said anything. Maybe they were just singing a song for another classroom or something. The next day, the day before the event, in the afternoon, the teacher finally sent a message asking us to dress our kids in school colors, telling us our kids would be performing at the big event, and letting us know they would be celebrating Johnny Appleseed on Friday.
I get that teachers are busy. I understand they’re there to teach our kids and don’t need a bevy of parents buzzing around them. I understand they need us to trust them. I get that they are human and sometimes things fall through the cracks. I GET IT.
But parents are also practically begged to help out, to get involved, to show their kids they care about their education. We’re told students do better if their parents are involved. But it seems that involvement is limited to what the school deems necessary. Of course we can’t interfere with the students’ education while they’re actively trying to learn in the classroom. Of course there must be limits on what parents can do in the classroom. Of course we can’t make teachers teach our kids the way we want them to; there are simply too many students in one classroom to do that. But cutting, gluing, and sorting papers far from the classrooms just doesn’t cut it. We can get involved in our children’s education at home through more than just homework. We can help them get excited and feel supported and encouraged about the big things going on in their education.
My husband and I spoke with some of the other parents the morning of the event. Some of them hadn’t even know their child was about to perform. Many hadn’t known until the message the previous day. Many were working parents who didn’t have enough notice so they could arrange to be there. Some of them were heartbroken. Some were sad. Some were disappointed. Some were angry. As a stay at home mom, it’s easy for me to rearrange my schedule. I got lucky my husband is part of the PTA and had already committed to attending the event. Otherwise our son’s dad wouldn’t have been able to attend his very first school performance. I can only imagine how the other parents who couldn’t have gone felt.
For some of the parents, this was the first time their child was in school. It was their very first performance. If I were a working mom, it would have broken my heart to not be there for my son.
I don’t know whose fault it was that we weren’t told sooner. I just know it sounds like none of the parents in any of the Kindergarten classes had been told until the last minute. I know of at least one mom who was left in tears because she couldn’t be there. I heard other parents wonder how many kids there were who didn’t have someone there for them.
Someone on the school staff mentioned to my husband and me before the event started that, originally, it was just going to be confined to the school until they knew they had enough seats. Originally, parents weren’t even going to be invited. From that perspective, I get why we weren’t told sooner. But, from another, I still don’t understand why we weren’t told our kids were going to be performing.
Even if we weren’t going to be invited, didn’t we still deserve to know our little 5 years olds were going to be performing on a stage? Didn’t we get to know they had learned to sing a song in Hindi? I just don’t understand why we weren’t told. Someone mentioned it was possible it was because the teachers didn’t know if they could even pull it off, if the kids were even going to perform. Sure, I get it. Teaching a song and getting 5 year olds to perform is a huge, daunting task.
But the school wants us to be involved. There are so many ways to be involved. They could have told us about the performance and warned there was a chance we weren’t going to be invited. They could have sent the lyrics home so we could practice with our child. By letting us just know, we could have been excited about it with our kids. We could have asked them at pick up how it went. We could have been in the loop, in the know. Did they expect a bunch of 5 year olds with the attention span of a fly to tell us? My son would rather tell me who was being naughty that day.
And, as soon as they knew parents were going to be invited, they should have told us. They did know. They sent home a flier inviting us almost a week before (with no mention of our kids performing). As for the not enough seats? I don’t know about you, but I would have gladly stood at the back.
So, please, schools and teachers and administrators, please let us know. Tell us our kids are going to do something special even though we might not get to witness it. It would give us a chance to get excited for our kids, to encourage them, to support them. It’s a different way of being involved, but it’s how we can get more involved with our kids when we must turn their care over to someone else for several hours 5 days a week.
Maybe I’m just complaining. Maybe I’m just still so emotionally hurt and scarred. Maybe I’m still carrying around all the hurt that bled off all the parents I heard. Maybe this is just fully isolated to my son’s school and something like this has never happened before anywhere else and will never happen anywhere else. But I’m a mom who experienced it. A mom with a Kindergartener. A mom whose child just had his very first school performance and I didn’t even know until an afternoon before.
Schools, you may get our kids for many hours a week, but they are not yours. Let us parents be involved. Let us know what’s going on. Our Kindergarteners still need us, still need our support and encouragement. Education isn’t supposed to be teacher vs. parent, so let us get involved in out of the box ways. Please tell us about the important things like performances even if we won’t get to be there. I don’t want to be the hovering parent demanding to know every detail of every day, so tell me the important things my child will be involved in so I don’t turn into a hovering mom.
I think it’s terrific my son’s school received a very generous donation. I absolutely think the school had every right to celebrate and focus on it. It’s a big deal. But schools have students and students have parents. Yes, we will have to let go and encourage independence in our kids. But, for goodness sakes, our kids are 5. They still need us. They need to know we’re there, that we support them. So, please, schools, give us that.