Everyone Just Keeps Smiling.

Back-to-school events are not all the same.

For Shane, fifth grade back-to-school day meant running up the cement stairs to read the class roster. He got the teacher everyone wanted (yay!) and has several very close friends in his class (yay!)

We went to meet his teacher, who is quite wonderful. He has been teaching at the school for so long that we found his picture, complete with hippie hairdo and beard, in the school picture from 1975. We are thrilled with Shane’s good fortune.

But the rest of back-to-school day consisted of seeking people Shane knows among the masses. The school population is 683 this year, and many of the students brought two parents. We went up and down the stairs like cattle, waving and yelling, “Hi Jordan!” and “Hey! Rory!” as we went.

We combed every inch of the school, tripping over each other and apologetically smiling. We stood in line for 10 minutes to buy an agenda book for $5, being pushed and jostled the entire time by kids filing past. Finally, Shane found a handful of friends to hang with on the front steps while a small group of parents talked, until we all went home.

Dylan’s back-to-school event this year took the form of a picnic. Instead of “dropping in,” almost every family arrived right at 3:30. It was an odd time for a weekday picnic, but no one in the group of about 50 people seemed to have any trouble getting there.

The headmaster introduced the school staff, including a new teacher who has five kids and brought vegetables and fruits from his organic garden. We all sat around in a circle, smiling and golf-clapping when necessary. Some of the parents hooted, and the applause felt quite genuine.

Then the headmaster went out to flip burgers, hot dogs and veggie burgers, while we mingled and met teachers and other parents. Everyone was smiling. They all seemed to know one another. The cattle-drive feeling was nonexistent. Instead, we all just sat around and talked.

While I dug a bit deeper into what goes on during a typical day, Dylan ran off with his new friend – a boy he met this summer, thanks to the admissions counselor. The two boys get along beautifully. They played for two hours before we corralled them to head home.

Meanwhile, I talked to the administrators, the admissions counselor, and the music teacher. I met Dylan’s social studies teacher, who also teaches language arts and expects students to call her by her first name. And I met Dylan’s math teacher, who might be the best of them all.

A great math teacher is a good thing, because we are still struggling with how to keep Dylan in his arts/P.E. classes while re-taking Algebra I. It doesn’t seem possible, but everyone just keeps smiling and reassuring me. I wonder if I will continue believing them for the entire year, or if I will explode with frustration before the end of September.

The administration has decided to test Dylan and see how much he knows about algebra – a good first step – and then we will all decide what to do about his schedule, which is incredibly loose.

I’m not going to worry about it for now. We are in full-force, back-to-school excitement mode. And I’m sticking with that until some new feeling comes along.

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