Friday, September 15, 2006

"Let us introduce ourselves to you." ~ Dr. Mark E. Cohan, NFA Superintendent

Last night was Parents' Night at Norwich Free Academy - an annual tradition to give parents a chance to meet their child/children's teachers and administrators. At least that's what they tout it as but I think it's really a chance to see why our kids come home worn out beyond belief!

Before going to the school, Amanda filled out a copy of her Monday schedule and gave it to me as that was the order I was to follow. We were given 12 minutes in each class to meet the teachers and find out a little something about what was expected of the students during the course of the year before we had 8 minutes to find our way to the next class. The students themselves only get 5 minutes so apparently some leeway for us old folks had been built in to the schedule - thank you!

I started the evening out in the band room in the Bradlaw Building as Amanda's first course on Mondays is Concert Band I taught by the very affable Mr. Mac (technically Mr. McDonald but he doesn't like to be confused with his father). Prior to him telling us about the course, we watched a short video presentation from Dr. Cohan, the new Superintendent of NFA. He thanked us for coming and said how important it was for we, as parents, to be involved in our children's academic lives. Kudos to us and now on with the evening!

After learning that Amanda really needs to be practicing her flute for a good 30-40 minutes four times a week (ahem ... Amanda??) and other things about the band program, the bell rang and off we parents were running to the next class on the schedule. Lucky me - that was clear across campus in the Cranston Building.

I felt akin to a salmon as I fought the stream of people going the opposite direction but managed to make it over to Civics before the "late" bell rang. Ms. Matters explained how her class was run, all about the e-board that she has (the excuse of "my dog ate my assignment" will no longer fly!), etc., etc. before the bell rang and it was back to the Bradlaw Building for me.

This time it was to the third floor and Mr. Bailey's Graphic Design I class. Feeling somewhat winded (translation - sucking wind) I again managed to get to class on time before another 12 minutes flew by and it was off to the Norton Gym for P.E. The crowds made negotiating the trip harder than it would be but from what I've been told, the crowds there last night were nothing compared to what the kids deal with every day. At this point I was really beginning to miss my two-story all-in-one building high school!

After gym, I went back to the Cranston Building for the rest of Amanda's schedule - Mrs. Macht for English, Mr. Sylvia for Algebra, and the mentioned-in-several-other-posts Mr. Johnson for Advanced Integrated Science. By the time the end of the evening rolled around at 8:30, I was more than ready to call it a night though I had a better understanding of Amanda's schedule and classes. Sitting there listening to all that was expected of her in English made my head spin and though I tried mightily, I couldn't for the life of me remember what my freshman English class had been like. I'm pretty sure we didn't read The Odyssey, though I believe there was some form of Shakespeare. It could have been Romeo & Juliet, which Amanda will be reading, but that was 34 long years ago and I can't remember things from 3-4 days ago anymore never mind years!

I really liked Mr. Sylvia, Amanda's Algebra teacher. He's been teaching at NFA for 39 years (holy smokes, Bullwinkle!) and doesn't believe in piling the kids down with homework as he knows they've got tons of it from their other classes (heck, she's supposed to be doing 2 hours a night in English alone, never mind that other 30-40 minutes of flute practice I mentioned!). He cited an article from yesterday's USA Today that backed him up on this and I personally think it's a very forward-thinking idea and I'm glad Mr. Sylvia knows that there's such a thing as "too much". Kids are busy with so many things these days that to expect them to sit down and do homework for three hours a night is really a bit over the top.

My last class of the night was Mr. Johnson's Advanced Integrated Science class and it was also the one with the most parents in attendance. The first thing Mr. Johnson told us is that "you don't need to be here as your kids are already doing a great job or they wouldn't be in Honors Science". Now if that isn't something that makes you feel really darned good as a parent then I don't know what is! My daughter - the Honors Science student - wow! We got a good overview of the class and were even treated to the infamous white mullet wig that he pulls out when the kids start to look a little distracted or bored. A 1993 graduate of NFA himself, Mr. Johnson knows what it's like to run from class to class (though as a former two-time State Champion in track I'm sure it didn't bother him as much!) and he genuinely seems to care about "his kids" as he calls them.

It's been 30 years since I sat in a high school classroom so last night brought back a lot of memories for me. Had I been a graduate of NFA I'm sure it would have brought back more but I think that having Parents' Night is a great thing as it does give us an up-close look at what our kids are doing and who's leading them into the future.

All in all, I'd have to say that Amanda is in good hands. And I'm just glad I didn't have to carry her bookbag for the course of the evening!


  1. Shall we alert an ALS unit to stand by @ NFA for the NEXT parents' night? Seriously, though, with everything else to worry about, isn't it nice to NOT have to worry about Amanda's school? NFA sounds like what North Kingstown High was like in the early to mid-eighties. In todays's troubled world, that's a definate plus.

  2. Honestly, if they have another Parents' Night anytime soon then I may very well request to at least have a BLS unit with plenty of O2 standing by! I'd think about dragging around some portable O2 with me but that would make traveling in the crowds even harder!

  3. Anonymous8:05 PM EDT

    I feel bad for your daughter. Although we may have had just as much homework, I don't recall, because I never did any of it. I got tired just reading about it.

  4. I am proud of you mom for going to parent's night! Even though it was a workout, it must've been really cool for you to get a glimpse into her daily life at NFA!


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