Back to School Blues

Tuesday was good. The kids got dropped off in the usual first-day madness (our school does not post class lists in advance, so all the kids and parents are mobbing the teachers trying to figure out where everyone should be – does your school do this?). Each of them got some – not all, but enough – of their friends in their classes; each one got a really great combination of teachers. So all in all it is looking to be a good year.

I spent Tuesday in a flurry of activity, getting tons of work done I’d been putting off for all of August, thinking, “Just a few more weeks and I’ll have time to do that in a quieter setting.” Wednesday, too, I was working on a dozen different for-work projects while simultaneously making bagels and doing laundry and feeling like a rock star boss.

And yet…now I find I am having some sort of school-related let down. It’s not loneliness, or concern about the kids. And after a whole summer of managing bickering and constantly renegotiating rules and packing picnics for various day trips, you would think that the relative sanity of a daily schedule, combined with time to sit with a cup of tea for 15 minutes all by myself whenever I feel like it, would be refreshingly comforting. But I’m still super cranky about…well, everything, really, getting frustrated at the lack of help around here, and then it not being exactly the RIGHT kind of help, and then no one caring about me, me, me.

I don’t know, maybe this is my midlife crisis. More likely it’s just getting back into the routine and feeling the flow again.

It does not help that my son’s new grade 6 teacher sent home an essay-style form for me to fill out yesterday, asking all about his personal interests, hobbies, and the amount of reading he does. I was forced to admit that he has exactly one interest (videogames) and exactly one hobby (videogames) and the amount of reading he does for fun is zero. Sigh. I felt like she’d be reading it thinking he was a huge, uninteresting blob, the product of huge, uninteresting parents who can’t even be bothered to get off the couch for a second to take their child for a walk around the block or a trip to the library. GAH.

So now on top of being cranky and oddly sad and generally out of sorts with everyone, I’m particularly harping on him to get a freakin’ hobby already, which I’m sure is confusing to the poor boy after a summer of basically unlimited access to his iPod, and I have new resolve to force him to read something or other every day, which I’m sure is going to be big fun for us both, but will happen, I swear.

Gritting my teeth over here, and determined to white knuckle it through the September Blues.

12 thoughts on “Back to School Blues

  1. Well we don’t get class lists either, or didn’t until now. Sonja gets a classroom assigned at year end and the newsletter mentions which teacher will be teaching which grade so we kind of get a narrowed down list of what’s what, but no confirmation. And a lot can happen in the summer, and into the first months of school where teachers leave for sudden new openings elsewhere so it’s best for us not to hang on too tight to what they say in June and wait for the first week of school to begin. Having said that, the school is small, so it’s relatively easy to seek out the two teachers who are teaching grade 2 this year….

    The French Extended school is outside of the neighbourhood and new to us. Ben has to take a bus. They did post class lists so he had an idea who will be in his class from his old school, but it didn’t seem to make that much of a difference. Grade 4 is ‘older’ kids, so I guess he figures ‘whatever’.

    On the topic of teacher wanting to know child’s hobbies, this is the first I hear of something like this. On the one hand I wonder if the answer carefully constructed by the parent will get adequately absorbed, knowing how busy teachers are at the beginning of the year. Why do they want to know from the parent what the child likes? I would think maybe a writing exercise by the child might be more…appropriate? I judge this by the amount of paperwork I have to fill out from the legal perspective – med forms, excursion forms, food forms, this form, that form…if someone asked me to write an essay about my kids’ interest I’d be communicating with the teacher/principal about how perhaps they can ask the child themselves…weird. Anyway. It’s nice that the teacher wants to know about your boy, but…why from you?

    In terms of the crankiness…I’ll probably feel it next week. I haven’t had time to get or stay cranky, we jumped into hockey tournament season on the first day back to school and my whole life alone at home has been about food. Where is it? Do we have enough? Who eats when? Do they need portable meals?

    Hang in. 🙂

  2. My oldest is now in grade 7. This means he’s experienced 9 Septembers of “back to school”. This means it’s taken me 9 Septembers to figure out to go easy on myself and the whole family for the entire month.

    The first week = massive forms to fill out and new routines to navigate. And I’m sorry- there is no amount of “training” in August that gets my kids ready for September. We gave up this summer and just had summer right up until bedtime the night before school started.

    The second week = school ennui and after-school activities start. In the second week, homework starts. Extra curriculars start. Other activities outside of school start. And we pray for a dip in gas prices as we drive our kids around.

    The third week = ennui about everything. I’m tired. Kids are tired. Gas prices didn’t go down. More forms come home. The school follows up on the forms I thought I filled out and didn’t. Field trips start. New friends start to emerge (oh yeah? who are their parents??? and where do they live?).

    The fourth week = general acceptance that this is the new norm for the next 9 months.

    I think I can map this onto Kubler-Ross’s model for dealing with death:

    August = denial. September is never coming. We will have summer forever.

    1st week of Sept = anger. Don’t make me get up in the morning! Don’t make me go to school! Don’t make me fill out all those forms which are the same forms every single year – why can’t the school just keep them in a file somewhere?

    2nd week of Sept = bargaining. If I let you sleep in an extra 15 minutes, do you promise not to scream when I brush your hair?

    3rd week of Sept = depression. I can’t believe we’re already stuck in a rut. Where did that “back to school” energy and enthusiasm go? Oh yea – it disappeared after the alarm went off on Day One…

    4th week of Sept = acceptance. 9 more months. Ok – here we go….

    1. OMG, Lisa, I LOVE this. This is EXACTLY what I am feeling every step of the way! Parental experience for the win :).

      Also: especially loved the “why can’t the school keep these freakin’ forms on file” and “do you promise not to scream when I brush your hair.” YES and YES.

    2. I love it too. I’m further on than you, and I should have figured it out, but I didn’t, other than ‘September is largely going to suck and I’m going to cry a lot’. You’re my hero.

  3. Mary Lynn

    Too funny…I got absolutely nothing done yesterday and had no excuse for it other then an overall MEH sort of feeling. I;m between jobs right now, but have another one lined up to start in just a few weeks, so I ought to be grabbing every chance I get to work on the very long list of stuff that needs to be done around our house. But yesterday I just could not work up the energy.

    I wasn’t sad the kids were gone…they’re happy to be back at school, excited to be with friends and they both got good teachers. And I *do* like how quiet it is around the house. It just feels like I don’t quite know what to do with myself.

    I had to fill in long questionnaires for both of our kids, too, though slightly different questions for each kid (they’re at two different schools). On Hana’s form, they asked about hobbies and activities outside of school, but also asked about how scheduling of these might impact ability to do work outside school, which I found interesting. My kids are not in a ton of things, but I do wonder how kids who are doing sports multiple nights a week manage to balance homework demands in older grades.

    The forms also had a number of questions about the kids’ strength/weaknesses and likes/dislikes. I actually like being able to provide a bit of input. With Hana, I like to give the teacher a heads-up at the start of the year that she does have some anxiety-related issues, that they are improving with age, but if there seems to be any increase in her anxiety through the year we would like the teacher to contact us. For Jamie, I wanted to make sure the teacher knows he is behind in reading (partly due to a year of daydreaming in French immersion before we switched him into English) and that we are working with him at home but he may need additional reading instruction at school, too. However, he’s an enthusiastic kid who is very positive about school. I feel much more relaxed about the start of the school year just knowing I’ve had a chance to convey those points to the kids’ teachers.

  4. On the first day of school last year, I arrived to find absolute chaos. No class lists or specific gathering places for each grade anywhere, just hundreds of kids and parents milling about trying to find someone, anyone, who knew what was going on. Parents had to corner teachers to ask which grade they were teaching and if you happened to get a teacher from your kid’s grade you could ask if your kid was in their class. There were 4 classes for BG’s class last year and of course her teacher was the last one I asked. Once we found her teacher, it was just more milling around until – a drumming concert started in the school yard. Because there wasn’t enough chaos! BG was already stressed out by it being the first day of school, the chaos and drums did not help one bit. She was hanging onto me for dear life. (To be honest, I don’t deal well with chaos either and I thought I was going to lose it too.) It took an hour before there was any semblance of order and the kids finally started going into the school.

    I smartened up this year – we arrived 45 minutes late. The kids were already sitting down watching this year’s concert (no drums, thank goodness!) and BGs teacher from last year helpfully checked the master list of all the kids and told us who her teacher would be, and even pointed her out. Next year I plan on showing up 90 minutes late and just going to the office! What is the problem with posting class lists exactly??

    I would love to quiz the school staff to see if anyone pays any attention to all the forms. Last year for the daycare I had to fill out what seemed like an 8 page document about the kids’ food preferences, favourite activities, did they have any specific fears, their doctor’s information…as if anyone is reading all this for each child or remembering any of it. And I would love to know if in the history of the school the staff has ever called a child’s doctor! As if.

  5. We’ve had the full gamut of first-day experiences. From the worst-case scenario the year where even the smallest children were herded into the gym, with parents told to stay out, and, once there, they were called up one by one to the stage to join their teacher and class. That day one little girl’s name wasn’t called, and she was left crying in the gym on her first day of grade one with nobody sure where she should go. Nice start.

    I have to give our current principal kudos for having the guts to tell us all our children’s teacher’s name on the final report card in June. It was a leap of faith for her, and it requires parent cooperation – it’s not fair to take that info and call the office the next day to complain about class placements. The result in September is a calm, organized school yard with an instant bond with the teacher – the kids know they’ve been destined to be with THAT teacher since June.

    My son commented on it walking up to school on Tuesday – “Mom, it’s so much better to know where I’m going, and who I’ll be with.” Because, of course, you also have all summer to figure out which of your friends are in your class, and to make plans to meet up at recess with those who are in other classes.

    No system is perfect, and there are still cases where teachers are new, or haven’t been hired, but at least for kids in those situations, they don’t have to share the yard with 900 other frantic, disorganized students.

    Our last couple of first-days-of-school have been pretty non-eventful and that’s always good in my book!

  6. First day of school is always a shit show at Eve’s school – we used to go into the gym and there would be huge papers on the wall with the teacher’s name and all the kids’ names in the class. Crowded and noisy, but fairly organized. Then the new principal decided it should all be outside, and we’d have to go to tables to find out which teacher our kid had, and then wander around trying to find the teacher – no lists of kids’ names because of confidentiality issues (*spits on the floor*), just little signs with the teacher’s name that were hidden as soon as two or three kids lined up. It was hideous – I’d be having the vapours, Eve would be getting more and more anxious – one year they gave us the WRONG NAME for the teacher, because she was new to the school and had gotten married and changed her name over the summer.

    As far as September goes, I just know now that I suck at transitions, even if they’re positive. Even if I’m looking forward to getting back into the routine and having some time alone in the house, I’m lost and weepy for a bit.

    And now after making this all about me – hugs to you. Arjun is fine. He has a lot to cope with in the regular run of things, and if the teacher doesn’t get that, s/he’s a dick. Angus used to play a ton of video games, we did almost nothing about it, and now he doesn’t. And he said he wants to start reading again, unprompted. Screw the forms. Write some inscrutable song lyrics on them. Breathe. You’re good.

  7. I’m not a teacher, but wouldn’t it make more sense for the grade six student to write his own essay about himself? She might learn a fair bit. Maybe. Dunno.

    Our school year hasn’t started yet due to labour strife and I am in a constant low level of panic about it. My september blues might coincide with november for all I know.

    But for first day of our school they usually do everyone shows up and goes to their classroom from last year for half an hour, then goes home. The next day, they go back and are hopefully sorted into classrooms. Sometimes it takes two or three days. I like the idea of class lists at the end of the previous school year. I think my own elementary school used to do that and aside from the year my best friend dumped me over the summer because we weren’t going to be in the same grade 6 class in the fall, it worked great!

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