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Rethinking PTA


Okay, maybe the line-ups weren’t this bad, but still…

Sometimes, us homeschool/high-school parents get the worst of both worlds.  In this case, even as a homeschooler, I still have to deal with – shudder – PTA.  Which, inexplicably (okay, someone did explain to me last year), stands for Parent Teacher Interviews.

So there I was:  FIFTEEN high-school teachers.  FIFTEEN five-minute blocks to sit and chat about my girlie.  How long should that take?  According to my math, seventy-five minutes.

According to the school, first you must arrive on time and line up, one teacher at a time.  Repeat for as many teachers as necessary.  And no sneaking out of a popular teacher’s line to meet with another one who has a free moment.

One mama I was chatting with suddenly spotted an opening and told me, “I’m going to go over there – you can take my turn and I’ll go when I get back.”  I said okay.  But the person behind me said “that’s not okay with the rest of us.” 

I thought she was joking until I saw the raw hostility in her eyes.

Why not?  First I have my turn, then the other mama has her turn.  Theoretically, that takes the same amount of time as her taking her turn, then me taking my turn.  Sure, I benefit, and the other mama benefits, but the mama behind me wouldn’t lose out.

Anyway, the other mama didn’t go see the other teacher… in the end, we both stood and waited our turns.

Most of the teachers are conscientious, but there IS a notice to keep conferences brief printed right on the front of the evening’s program (a fifteen-page handout, with a map, detailing exactly which teachers are where, plus which English classes and limudei kodesh kvutzos your daughter is in, in case you haven’t had a conversation with her in the last four months). 

If you have something major to discuss, it’s better to arrange a phone call later on.  But no… some teachers appeared to lose all grip on reality and sat with one parent or couple for five, ten, even fifteen minutes… with a lineup of parents three feet away, tapping toes and twiddling thumbs.

The only time I forgave a teacher for keeping me waiting was the gym teacher.  I did stand there grumbling in my head, thinking, “What is there to TALK about with the gym teacher?”  After all, it’s just gym.  Just say Hi, introduce yourself, and be on your way.  And this couple was taking FOREVER.

Conversations are fairly private, but snatches do leak out, and just when my inner grumbles were peaking, I overheard, “follow up with a doctor,” and I suddenly thought, of course

What the English, Math, Chumash teachers are to their minds and neshamas, this teacher is to the girls’ bodies… and girls’ bodies are vulnerable at this age.  She’s the one who’d see if they’re too skinny, too fat, developing scoliosis, guarding bruised ribs, or any other things that they might be at risk for. 

Suddenly, I had a ton more respect for the gym teacher.  And when it was eventually my turn (I stopped looking at the clock) we ended up having a decent chat – one I’ve never broached with any teacher – about “health” curriculum, ie the ministry-mandated sex-ed, drug and alcohol education.

(they don’t do much, but she agreed that although she hasn’t seen anything in the school (she mentioned specific physical symptoms of alcohol and drug abuse that she’d be looking for), some education, handled discreetly, would probably be a better thing than pretending problems don’t exist)

So that was very interesting, and gratifying.

The rest of the evening?  Well, the teachers were uniformly charming and, I’m sure, not at all how they are in front of a classroom. 

For the most part, they seemed enthusiastic about my daughter, which is nice.  One or two squealed in delight, which makes me particularly happy because she’s not, historically, the kind of kid that teachers squeal in delight over.

But oy, the line-ups.  Last year, I gave up and went home, and later reached the teachers I’d missed by phone.  It was easier and more private, and I considered doing it again this year, but there is something to be said for the f2f. 

And last year, I had a better excuse:  the littles were younger. 

Plus, honestly, I never know what next year will bring, so while I actually have three hours to spare, I may as well relax and take the time to really sit still (or stand still in line, as the case may be) and muse about Neglected Middle Daughter as she is now, today, fifteen years old, poised on the brink of… well, midterms.

Kind of like a forced meditation.  How often is it that we stand and think about one child for three hours in a row?  Not that my mind didn’t wander, but for the most part, I enjoyed the ability to focus that way.

So:  gam zu l’tovah about the lineups, although if they brought in fully-automated online scheduling (as they had at the kids’ elementary school!) sometime between now and next year, well… I probably wouldn’t complain.


  1. I'm confused...why are you dealing with teachers when you homeschool?

  2. My little-blogged-about older daughter never homeschooled and is thus just a regular kid in Grade Ten (11th Grade or Sophomore to folks in the US).

    Older son, ds1, is in Grade 11. He goes to yeshiva in the morning and does his secular courses online in the afternoon.

    I ought to have an intro where I put all that stuff, shouldn't I? :-)

  3. Oops - Grade Ten is Tenth Grade, not eleventh; Canadian education isn't THAT superior. :-)


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