Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Sara and Melissa Talk About...School (Again)

We've been running a column series (for over three years now!) to get more personal with our readers. This month, we are talking about school, since it's back-to-school season and all. You are not having déjà vu if you've been following our columns for a while. We talked about school a couple of years ago, but this time we're doing something different with our thoughts on the topic. 

We're always open to topic suggestions, so please don't hesitate to share those in the comments. We'd also love to know if you can relate to anything we've said or hear your own thoughts on the topic. So don't be shy. :) We look forward to getting to know you as much as we're letting you get to know us. You can find our previous columns here, in case you missed them. 

Sara Steven:

I’m currently in my hometown of Salem, Oregon, visiting a close childhood friend of mine. She had a housewarming party over the weekend that I was unable to attend, but I saw enough of the photos and videos to know it was like a mini-reunion with several of our former classmates from high school, middle school, and some even from elementary school! 

I’d originally planned on writing about my two sons and how much transition we’ve all had this year, with the oldest starting his freshman year at Arizona State University, and his little brother is now a middle schooler, but thinking about the mini-reunion and my own school years reminded me of how much transition I’d dealt with myself when I was just a kid. 

My college freshman has only been enrolled in two elementary schools during his youth. Moving from Nebraska to Arizona after his fourth grade year was more difficult on me than it was on him, I think, largely due to feeling conflicted on making him start over at a brand new school, where he knew no one. The middle schooler has only ever known one school his entire life–well, now two, if you count his middle school. But he's with the same children he’s grown with since kindergarten; the same familiar faces are all he’s ever known.   

By the time I hit sixth grade, I’d gone to five schools. FIVE. And the funny thing is, they were all schools in the same city! It’s not like I left town or moved to another state. 

The roster looks something like this:

Liberty Elementary School: First and Second grade years. It was close enough that I would walk there, alone. Which is something I would have never been comfortable with for my own kids at that age, but it was also the eighties and parents were a lot more free-range in those days. I still remember some of my teachers, particularly my first grade teacher, Mrs. Jarvis. The school counselor there was also pretty amazing. So amazing, that she had a school named after her years later! But due to a district change and where I lived, I moved on to...

Salem Heights Elementary School: For my third and half of my fourth grade year. I was bussed there due to how far away it was from where I lived, which never made sense to me and still doesn’t. Maybe Liberty was overpopulated and they needed to move some kids around to other schools. I mostly remember the bond I formed with one friend with hearing loss, who had taught me sign language and I’d become fluent. I loved communicating with her. But then I moved from my mother’s home and ended up living permanently with my father, which meant...

Four Corners Elementary School: I only went to this school for the remainder of the fourth grade year. I recall Billy Ocean’s “Get Outta My Dreams, Get into My Car” was a huge hit around that time and we’d all sing it during recess while swinging around on the monkey bars. The move from Liberty to Salem Heights had been tough for me, with having to make adjustments with new teachers and students, but with Four Corners, I felt like I could tackle the newness. I built some resiliency.

Swegle Elementary School: We moved to another part of Salem and my fifth grade year was spent at Swegle. My teacher’s name was Mrs. Weatherbee, a name I will never forget, and amazingly enough, one of my classmates at Swegle ended up becoming a classmate later on during high school, later leading me to her sister, who I’m still best friends with to this day. I decided to participate in the school spelling bee that year, but was knocked out of the running when I had to spell “occasion.” 

Brush College Elementary School: We moved again to the West Salem district–another area of town I was unfamiliar with. A new school I was unaccustomed to. The resiliency I felt before had worn off some. I think age and awareness, the need to be accepted made me more nervous and edgy. When I walked into the doors of Brush College, I saw a girl there in the lobby area, and after seeing me standing around looking lost, she asked me if I were new or needed help. She was this little lanky blond thing, sweet. I tried to find my voice, letting her know that yes–I’m new. She asked me if I knew who my teacher would be and what grade I was in, and when I said I was a sixth grader and was in Mrs. Shacher’s class, her whole face lit up.

“I’m also in Mrs. Shacher’s class!” she said.

I never knew how brash and strong and amazing she’d become, some thirty plus years later….she’s my longest childhood friendship, and the one I’m currently visiting. 

There are times I reflect on my childhood and I wish I’d been able to stick with one school long enough to form long-lasting bonds. Some friendships I remember feeling fiercely loyal to, but then I’d move and as hard as we would try, we never stayed in touch. I love that my two sons have friendships that span years, or that my oldest has his “core four”--four friends he’s had since we moved to Arizona who are his closest friendships. I love that my youngest has best friends he’s had since kindergarten. I’m glad I’ve been able to foster that. But I think I learned a lot from how much I moved around, how often I had to change schools and meet new people. I think it’s helped to shape who I am today, and of course–some friendships have stood the test of time, no matter what. My childhood bestie and I are proof of that. 

Melissa Amster:

Since I last posted about this topic, I found out that my favorite teacher is retiring next year. That makes me feel old, considering he started teaching my freshman year. Anyway, he has worked hard and made a huge difference for many students and I hope his retirement will be relaxing and enjoyable.

On to something else now...

This is the last year all three of my kids will be in grades K-12. That is because my oldest will be graduating next summer and then going to college. I am not ready for this and I do not want to talk about this topic much. It just needed to be said. 

Instead, I really came here to talk about what an uninvolved parent I am. I care about what my kids do at school and how they are doing with their grades, but when Back-to-School Night comes around, I do not attend for any of my kids. I attended one time at my oldest's middle school and it was torturous. Trying to find all the classrooms and then sitting through syllabuses and rules and not understanding what half of the class was even going to be about. So yeah, it was a long and dragged out night and I am not into that. 

Another thing was signing up for middle school and then high school. My husband gets to do all that fun stuff because it just overwhelms me and it will never get done if I am in charge. And don't even get me started on the college process. I actually sat through a virtual meeting because no one else was available to do it at the time. I mostly copied and pasted screenshots from the presentation though. I just can't bring myself to get involved in college application stuff. I trust my son knows what he is doing and my husband can help with that too. 

Don't even get me started on PTA or PTSA or whatever other parent thing you want me to join. I don't sign up for those. The most I do is volunteer to send treats to school with my kids on teacher appreciation days. I just don't have the bandwidth to volunteer. However, last year I offered to help one of the nights at my son's school play and then just stood around doing nothing because they didn't end up actually needing my help. I don't think I'll be doing that again!

I usually do not read the weekly newsletters or listen to the weekly update calls. Those just tend to annoy and overwhelm me. If I need information, I will seek it out. I also don't help with homework because most of it is stuff I forgot from my years of going to school or it is just too complex to even ponder. 

One thing I do, however, is attend IEP meetings for two of my kids. Thankfully, the meetings are pretty straightforward and easy to get through and hearing good things about my kids will never get old! That's about as involved as I get.

I've been through school once and that was more than enough for me. As long as my kids continue to do well at their schools, I'm happy. I don't need to be heavily involved.

I saw this posted on Facebook recently and was amused.
Just change Beyonce to Broadway shows... 😂
(For the record, if it was necessary for me to see the teacher, I would!)

What are your thoughts on school?

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