Open House, Open Chaos

Last night was the K-6 grade open house at The Narrator’s school. He was excited all day about us going to see his school, classroom, and teacher- never mind that both my wife and I used to work there and know his teacher quite well already. We couldn’t seem to get that through to him.

The school isn’t very big, a few hundred students in K-12 all in one building, and not by any means did all of the kids and their parents show up. I imagine the parents of 5th and 6th graders who had done this a few times before opted to stay home and not lug their kids BACK to school at 6PM on a school night.

For those of us with the younger ones- especially the first timers, eager to be involved with things, it was an opportunity to get inside the building and see things and check them out.

We gathered in the gymnasium, immediately after the PTA took ten of my dollars so I could sign a paper and say I was a member, and listened to a brief introduction from some of the school officials who gave us a rundown of the evening’s events.

We were to go to our kid’s classrooms, where we would pick up a ‘passport’ which listed all the other rooms we were encouraged to visit throughout the course of the night. At each room we would get a stamp on the passport, and at the end of the night we would gather back in the gymnasium where some door prizes would be awarded. The rooms to visit? The gym, the art room, the music room, the computer lab, the library with the book fair, and the counselor.

Oh, be back in 45 minutes, that’s when the door prizes will be announced.

Ready? Go!

….and that was literally it. A few hundred people crammed the hallways looking for various classrooms and collecting stamps on a piece of paper that amounted to literally nothing. Our son’s classroom was jammed with his classmates and parents, and the poor teacher had no more time than to say “Great to see you, please feel free to sign up for field trips or to volunteer to read to the class” before she turned, haggard, to another set of parents to repeat. Our son had no interest whatsoever in showing us around his classroom, when we asked him to point things out, he LITERALLY stuck his finger out and pointed to a bottle of paint on the shelf and said “that’s paint. I don’t use it.”

We knew it was time to bug out of there, so we went back into the slammed hallway and slowly made our way through the rooms on the list, having no more time than to go in, circle around once, day “this is nice” and leave. Although the librarian, whom I have known for ages, did manage to tell me that our son was “her best customer.” She said he LOVED reading and story time, and his excited facial expressions as she reads to them are simply amazing. – This was the high point if the night.

Come 6:45, we were herded back into the gymnasium where we sat and waited for the handful of stragglers who apparently couldn’t tell time to wander in and put their tickets into the door prize bags.

While we waited, the kids lost all sense of decorum and began charging around the gym floor. A few crashes happened, and handful of five year old kids were able to wiggle out from under the not-so-watchful eyes of their parents and utilize the bleachers as a playground. Jumping up and down them, climbing under them, and spreading general discord and confusion through the place as the handful of school administrators alternated between talking to parents and pleading with the late-comers to hurry up and take their seats.

I told The Narrator he could go run around, but to please stay away from the bleachers. He complied until he crashed headlong into a little girl, and I pulled the plug.

Somewhere around 7:15- a full half an hour after the appointed time, the clock-challenged parents managed to get finished with the difficult task of putting paper in a bag, the dozen names of the winners were read, and….that was it.

We herded out of the building and into the parking lot.

As of right now, I honestly can’t imagine what the hell the point of that was. Instead of doing a peaceful dinner, bath, and bedtime routine on a Thursday night, we took a five year old into complete bedlam for an hour, rushed him through all of his classrooms, disappointed the hell out of him when he didn’t win a door prize, then took him home and sent him to bed.

We gained nothing from the experience, except for a wound up, cranky five-year old, and I really have no clue what we were supposed to have accomplished.

That being said, I have no doubt in my mind that the school is gauging the event as a success, based strictly on the number of people there. Never mind the bottle necking in the hallway, piss poor timing, lack of structure or direction, or the general pandemonium of the whole thing.

I do realize that an open house is not by nature a strictly structured event, and maybe I’m just looking for something to complain about. I just feel like the first impression given to me by the school as a parent of a rookie student was not that great. I’m not uncomfortable about the place, since I know it and I know the teachers, but if that was their opening act, the musical numbers and finale had better be spectacular.



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