Every end of August, I have a day or so of full-blown panic that takes me back 25-plus years. Flashback - it's March and I am a high-school senior dashing home from class to check what the mailbox has in store. A big manila envelope meant college acceptance; I was in, life was fine, I would get a worthwhile job some day. A dinky business-type envelope meant no go, applications up 40% this year, best of luck at your second choice, lady. For years my heart hadn't raced in quite that same way, but it does every year now -- on registration day for the Madison Metropolitan School District.
I am not sure how I got so caught up in the drama of who my kids' teachers would be, but there is no question I am playing a staring role. I am pretty tuned in to neighborhood "news" (I'd never call it gossip), and I know full well who are the "have-to-have" teachers and who are the "I'd rather not" folks. And of course the fact that all the kids have their hearts set on someone in particular (pretty much based on whether or not they give out candy on the first day) doesn't help ease my stress.
So I take a deep breath, walk up to receive my anticipated/dreaded folder and tentatively look inside. If the news is "good" there is a sigh of relief, a feeling of pride, as if my kid deserved this placement the way I had deserved a spot at Harvard (full disclosure, small envelope). I'd have the right answers when the "Who'd you get?" questions came rushing in.
But if that name is not "the one," or worse, the "one you don't want to get," decisions need to be made quick. Do I march down to the principal's office and ask for a move stat? Do I just live with it and hope for the best, or at least not the worst? Do I look for ways to convince myself it will be great for my child to experience a not-so-great year in a Blessings of a Skinned Knee kind of way?
I've gotten both types of folders on a warm August morning. And for the most part I can say that the teachers with the stellar reputations have pretty much lived up to the hype. But some good things have happened on the off years as well. Maybe it was my son getting to learn U.S. history from a dramatically different perspective (albeit in questionable chronological order). Maybe it was getting to meet his best friend while avoiding being stuffed in a trashcan. Maybe it was discovering there are things you can teach yourself, even when the teacher can't.
And perhaps most importantly, it was my realizing that this year alone will not dictate the type of envelope he (okay, we) will be waiting for come March of senior year.