Beyond the Call

Between construction delays, two hurricanes and an earthquake, things were off to a slow start this year, and administrators pleaded with us to be flexible in rescheduling events whose dates had already come and gone before classes began in earnest.  One casualty was Back-to-School Night, which was rescheduled twice and finally combined into one massive evening of upperclassmen, underclassmen and teachers.

The fun part of Back-to-School Night is watching the parents rush around, confused and harried, trying to find the classrooms their daughters use every day.  They take the stairs and arrive, huffing and puffing, with just as much anxiety as the students.  “Am I in the right room?  Did the bell already ring?  What did I miss?”  This is supposed to make them empathize with the students, but I think it has the same effect on us — when we see how difficult it is for an adult to keep pace, we’re a little more forgiving of the children of whom we expect so much.

This year, however, my grad school schedule interfered with the event, and I didn’t want to miss the second class after (due to an e-mail problem) I had been completely unprepared for the first one.  My principal was kind enough to excuse me once I told her I was planning to let the families of my students know ahead of time.  

So I wrote a letter and made sixty copies of it to send home with my students.  Their parents read and signed (and some even added a “Thank you” at the bottom, which warmed my heart.)  In compiling the notes, of course, some were missing, so the afternoon of the event I sat down with the school directory and spoke to about a dozen answering machines and one slightly-confused relative.

For the handful whose phone service wasn’t working (full voicemail, no voicemail, dead end) I resorted to e-mail, sending out a note with the same message: I was sorry to miss them, I had posted a copy of my class policies online, and they should feel free to contact me if they had any questions.  All told, the communication took at least as long as the event itself.

So it was lovely, the next morning, to receive an e-mail from one parent who was grateful for the communication, which she said was “beyond the call.”  She added that her daughter, typically a math person, was “actually looking forward to English this year, so you have made a great impression.”  

Sometimes one little note is all it takes.  This one is going in my portfolio for sure.