Having my daughter start high school at Homestead High means two things: Figuring out the bell schedule, and attending my first Back to School Night (BTSN).
Let's start with the bell schedule. After several cups of coffee, a scientific calculator, and consultations with statisticians at Stanford Research Institute, I now understand Mondays. On this blessed day of the week, students go to each class for 45 minutes or so. After that, it gets murky. There are A and B days, skinny 7s, and 7 blocks, the mysterious 8th period, rally days, and schedule holes. Some say the full moon even plays a role. Here's a typical dinner conversation at our house:
Parent: How was your math class today?
Student (rolling eyes): I didn't have math today.
Luckily, at Back to School night, they follow Monday's schedule. An army of parent volunteers hand out schedules, each of which in an example of sheer brilliance in our educational system, has a map of the campus on the back.
Campus? Attention, class! Who here is not from California? If you raised your hand, perhaps, like me, you have always been amazed that the definition of "hallway" in a Silicon Valley school is an outdoor path leading from one building to another. I recall watching TV shows like Room 222 and The Mod Squad in the 70's, wondering why those kids were always outside at school. And without coats. We entered a giant brick building at 8:30 every morning, and emerged, squinting in the sunlight, at 3:00 pm. Hallways were, well, hallways.
Ring ring. Period One has begun. Thank goodness I only have to sit in this desk for 10 minutes. Just enough time to size up the teacher, the classroom, and the other parents (some of whom are looking quite middle-aged, I might add).
The teachers I meet are all energetic, articulate, and seem really concerned with providing the kids a good education. Trying to be an involved parent, here was the dinner time conversation the day after BTSN:
Parent: What did you learn in Ms. L's class today?
Student (rolling eyes): I didn't have Ms. L's class today.
Ring ring. We navigate the (sneer) hallways, and fight the bottleneck into the math building. I imagine being shoulder to shoulder with teenagers instead of adults, and give a little involuntary shudder.
Despite this momentary, frightening flashback to my own high school years, I enjoyed BTSN. But it had a different feel than the previous nine I've attended, and not just due to being high school. My daughter was in the Cupertino Language Immersion Program (CLIP), where the parents became a close-knit community. So except for Kindergarten, we always knew most of the parents in the class. We were a rowdy group, catching up on each others' lives and opinions. In the middle school years, we still saw our cohorts in the Chinese class, and a few would always be sitting near us in each mainstream class.
This time, our cadre of CLIP parents, like their children, had dispersed to many different high schools. Since my daughter's middle school isn't a feeder school to Homestead High, we were thrilled in drama class to see one dad from our daughter's 5th grade soccer team. When we saw a CLIP dad in Chinese class, we were so excited we almost got sent to the Principal's office for disrupting the class.
I guess I'm going to have to the join the high school PTA if I expect to have any kind of social life during the next four years.
Happily, my daughter has renewed friendships with previous soccer and softball pals, and quickly made new friends on the walk home and in various classes. The dinner time conversation goes like this:
Parent: So did you walk home again with Mary after 7th period today?
Student: (rolling eyes): I didn't have 7th period today.