Having attended yearly Back to School Night (BTSN) for the past 11 years, I can honestly say that after elementary school, I have found it to be a complete waste of my time. Don’t get me wrong (you probably will but try not to), I am not saying it’s a waste of time for you but after a LOT of soul searching, thought, and much discussion with friends and family, including one high school teacher (I really loaded up on the questions as to her point of view), I have ascertained that for me, it is.
Listening to the same canned spiel over and over again does not correspond in any way to my child’s success in the classroom. I have found forming personal relationships with the teacher via email, phone or even the occasional in person meeting and periodically checking in throughout the year far more beneficial. Also, a first impression formed at a BTSN has at times impeded my personal correspondence with a teacher from that point on because if I was less than impressed with their demeanor or personality, I could be found guilty of establishing a no-nonsense and authoritative tone that might be construed as off-putting. In addition, not accounting for nerves on the part of teachers in having to speak before a bunch of judgmental, often hard to please stranger-parents, I eventually reasoned that BTSN was not the best way for a teacher to make a good first impression. It was fraught with too many potential pitfalls.
After third grade, there is nothing that BTSN offered that I couldn’t easily obtain from an email, phone inquiry, asking a fellow parent or my child, or from checking the school’s website. Third grade marked the end of the single teacher classroom model. Fourth grade marked the beginning of kids changing rooms and teachers for each of their classes. When kids are very young (K-3), there is a huge emotional tie to attending BTSN as well as every other event that parents are barraged with attending. I remember those precious letters from my kids as I sat at their desks year after year (that part wasn’t so much fun) on BTSN. Once those letters ceased, I started wondering the point of giving up several hours on a weekday night after a long day at work. I figured out that I was only attending BTSN because I couldn’t have my kid be the only one who showed up the next day with their letter to me still sitting on their desk because I was the only parent who didn’t show up. Luckily, those letters cease to exist after a certain point in elementary school the same way those annoying class parties do.
Time is a precious commodity and life is so short. Was BTSN really worth my time? I concluded that it was just an obligatory part of the school’s yearly calendar and some freaky see and be seen for those parents jockeying for social position, something I had no desire to be part of.
I also do not need to see the parade of sad and pathetic souls who dress up in faux leopard skin dresses or leather pants, face caked with enough makeup to write my name in without touching skin and their cheap cologne wearing spouses because BTSN for them is really just an excuse for an alcohol infused night out. I don’t want to be reminded in any way that these parents are my peers and that we are all in this together.
After attending yearly BTSN’s in the same school with mainly the same faculty and administration year after year, parts of the BTSN “presentation” become not only unnecessary but mind-numbingly dull. There were so many better ways to spend an evening such as waxing my upper lip or getting a jump on making next day lunches. In other words, I would rather spend time on the things that I knew would yield a positive result even if those things are not very exciting to execute.
This is not to say that some people do get something positive from attending BTSN. One of my good friends always chooses to go even though her child is now in high school and she has years of rhetoric behind her. She needs to put faces to the teachers’ names. She also needs to breathe in the same physical space that her son attends each day. If you are that type of person then you should absolutely attend. BTSN is made for you.
Believe me when I say that I have thought about this subject far more than I have cared to over the years. Many parents believe that BTSN is a mandatory event. They couldn’t imagine not attending. I am here to say that it is actually a choice and I have made mine.