Why My Kids Love Standardized Test Weeks

Unless you live under a rock without access to the internet (especially Facebook), you are aware of the controversy surrounding Common Core and the wide-reaching “opt-out” movement that is sweeping the nation.  Parents are angry, teachers are frustrated and students are stressed.  But not my kids.  They seem unfazed … And it’s not because they are overly confident, smug, smarty-pants geniuses (they’re not).

For those without kids, a brief explanation … April is test month: a two-week period during which elementary, middle and high schools around the country administer daily 2-hour-long standardized exams to measure student proficiency in the nationally recognized Common Core curriculum for math, language arts and science.  Here in Pennsylvania, these tests are called PSSAs for grades 3-8 and Keystones for grades 9-12 (PSSA is an acronym for Pennsylvania System of School Assessment).  Other states call the tests by different names, but the purpose is the same.

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Do they still use scan-trons or am I dating myself?

I could join the movement and continue on here about how corporate executives shouldn’t be creating school curriculum without educator input, or how “teaching for the test” is suffocating our children’s love of learning, or how instructing kids to use a 5-step process when multiplying two numbers together instead of using old-school multiplication table memorization seems ridiculous to me, but I won’t.  I could have “opted-out” of testing for my kids based on religious reasons or some other viable excuse, but I didn’t.  I didn’t for a variety of reasons, one of which is that these tests don’t count … At least not in terms of their classroom grades.  [Test results aren’t even available until July — Yep, a full month or more after school has ended for the year!]  I told my boys this, so they are not stressed or worried.  They aren’t the least bit concerned, actually.  In fact, they look forward to test weeks.  Why?  For five (5) simple reasons:

  1. No homework!  Teachers are not allowed to give out-of-class assignments until the test period is over.
  2. Extra recess!  Bonus play/social time is offered as a way to relieve test stress and relax.
  3. Sucking candy!  Teachers allow students to have chewing gum or sucking candy during the exams as a way to ease stress and increase focus.
  4. Movies!  With limited classroom time to learn new material, many teachers show movies or offer independent reading time to fill the afternoon hours.
  5. Did I already say no work and more recess?

So according to the Tarr boys, two weeks of no studying, no homework, extra recess, movies and sucking candy in exchange for a few hours of tedious testing that won’t affect their grades is a decent compromise.  Oh, to see the world through the eyes of an 8- and 11-year old!  If only it was that simple.

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No wonder I can’t do 3rd grade math!

– LJDT

Spring P/T Conferences are for Suckers

It’s finally spring!  Time for longer days, warmer weather and parent/teacher conferences.

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In our school district, spring parent/teacher conferences only happen at the elementary school level.  With one in middle school now, I almost got to skip this annual event.  Almost.  My third grader insisted that I attend his, despite it being optional.  Optional, but encouraged, as proven by the school emails and not-so-subtle reminders from my son, who was instructed by his teacher to remind me more than once.

For those who don’t know, the spring conference is a face-to-face progress report of sorts.  The teacher informs you of your child’s most recent learning assessment scores and shows you some of your child’s assignments (many of which you’ve already seen because they needed parental assistance at home — read my post about that here).  Each parent is given a 15-minute slot in the teacher’s schedule.  Quick and easy, in and out, but fingers crossed you don’t follow someone who’s (a) a windbag, (b) tardy, or (c) the parent of a struggling student (since those discussions aptly require more than 15 minutes).

I had resolved to skip this unnecessary meeting.  After all, I review my son’s homework nightly and ask him questions daily so I feel that I am already aware of his progress.  Nonetheless, he insisted.  Maybe there was something I didn’t know that his teacher was going to tell me, I thought.  So like a good parent, I booked my 15-minute meeting and marked my calendar accordingly.

Here’s how it went down when the conference day arrived:

  • I didn’t have time to shower after the gym (It was either shower or eat lunch … I chose lunch), so I did a quick “wash down,” swiped on some deodorant, added a touch of lip gloss and ran out the door
  • It took 8 minutes for me to drive to school
  • It took another 2 minutes to park my car and walk to the classroom
  • I listened to my son’s teacher for exactly 15 minutes while sitting in a very low, uncomfortably small chair (FYI, he’s doing great, as I already knew)
  • It took 2 minutes to walk back to my car
  • It took 8 more minutes to drive home

All in, I spent more time traveling to and from the meeting than I did attending it, and the teacher didn’t tell me anything that I didn’t already know … Ugh, what a waste!  If I had a child who was struggling in school, then the spring parent/teacher conference would be more useful and I’d eagerly attend.  But I don’t have a struggling student, thankfully.  And if I did, I sincerely hope that the teacher wouldn’t wait until late March/early April to tell me about it.

So while I didn’t learn anything new about my third grader’s education, I did learn something … Spring parent/teacher conferences are for suckers.  Thank goodness I didn’t shower for it.

– LJDT

The “New” Third Grade Stinks

My youngest is currently in the third grade.  I don’t remember much about the third grade.  After all, it was a long time ago.  But I do remember the basics:  My teachers’ name was Mrs. Kenny, my bff was Sharon McLaughlin and we had to square-dance with boys in gym class.

My 3rd grade class, c.1981

My 3rd grade class, c.1981

I also remember that we did not have to craft a book report on a t-shirt, a coffee can, or a cardboard snowman — like my third grader has to do.  To be honest, I’m not even sure we had book reports in the third grade, but if we did, we wrote them.  Not crafted them.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, allow me to explain … Each marking period, every student in my son’s third grade class has to read a book of his/her choosing from the teacher-assigned genre and complete a book report project.  Each project has a theme and must include certain information (such as: title/author, characters/settings, problem/solution, etc.).  The project theme is the vehicle in which the report is presented.

The first report had to be presented as a poster board.  Easy enough.  We had an extra piece of poster board and plenty of markers, so this one was a snap.

The second report had to be presented in the shape of a snowman, made from cardboard and decorated with felt, buttons and pipe cleaners.  A bit more complicated because cutting circles out of cardboard and getting them to stick together (at least long enough to make it from the house to the bus to the classroom) required some parental assistance, but still not terrible.

The third report had to be depicted on a t-shirt, complete with drawings and other embellishments.  This is where the wheels fell off in our house.  Finding a plain, white t-shirt was challenging.  Finding a second one because my 8-year-old didn’t listen when I told him to put a piece of cardboard between the front and back to prevent the markers from bleeding through to the other side was not only challenging, but also frustrating and annoying.  Let’s just say there was some yelling and some crying with this one.

The fourth report hasn’t been assigned yet, but if it’s anything like three years ago when my older son was in this class, it’ll be a coffee can character.  That one nearly killed me.  I don’t drink coffee, so just finding a coffee can to use was problematic enough to result in some choice words on my part and some tears on my son’s.

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Hideous, but happy … and done all by himself.

Don’t get me wrong, I love that third graders are assigned book reports.  I love that they have to read from four different genres and I love that they have to give oral presentations.  What I don’t love is that these reports are more an exercise in arts and crafts than in reading comprehension and writing.

Maybe it’s because I prefer independent work … Despite having finished elementary school years ago, these assignments generally require parental supervision, if not involvement.  I feel like I’m the one being graded!

Maybe it’s because I’m not crafty enough … You can clearly see which kids had help from a Pintrest-inspired parent and which did not.  I consider myself somewhat creative, but not exactly crafty.

Or maybe it’s because I’m biased … As a freelance writer and the daughter of a former English teacher, I think our school focuses too much on math and not enough on language arts.  Making a list of character names and stating the story’s conflict and resolution in a two-sentence paragraph isn’t writing.

Needless to say, I am not enjoying third grade.  Between these new “book report” projects and the crazy Singapore math homework that often makes me feel like an uneducated moron, third grade really stinks.  Thank goodness it’s almost over … How many more days until summer vacation?

– LJDT

Love and Cupcakes

This time last year, I was stressing out about baking homemade, allergy-free cupcakes and designing creative, perfect Valentines for my boys’ classmates … Until a snowstorm canceled school, postponed the class parties and my new attitude about letting things be messy and imperfect finally kicked in.  [Click here and here to re-read my two posts about last year’s Valentine’s Day debacle and subsequent save.]

Today, with one in sixth grade, the pressure to be creative and fancy has been cut in half because middle schoolers do not exchange Valentines or have class parties, so I am told.  But third graders do, so I am not totally off the hook yet.

With one kid “celebrating” and the other not, this seems like a good time to start downplaying the Hallmark holidays.  I’ll still make red, heart-shaped waffles and serve pink milk tomorrow morning, and of course I’ll still give my boys heart-shaped boxes of chocolate and plenty of hugs and kisses … But I won’t fret over homemade class treats and unique cards for 20+ kids I barely know.  Instead of signing up to bake some fantastic, Pintrest-inspired cupcakes, I’m sending in red and pink sprinkles for the class party.  Am I a slacker?  Some may say so, but those sprinkles were on the request list so I don’t feel guilty.  I did my part.  As for the cards, I tried to convince my son that store-bought cards were the way to go this year, but he wasn’t having it.  Solution: We made 22 tags that read: “You Rock!” and attached them to packets of Pop Rocks candy.  Not very original (in fact, this idea was rehashed from last year’s list), but my little guy liked it and that’s really all that matters.

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Simple and easy, albeit not too original, Valentines

I’ve come to learn that all the stress, anxiety and pressure I feel around these lesser holidays, like Valentine’s Day and St. Patrick’s Day, is self-imposed.  I agonize over making every minor holiday a wonderful, memorable events for my kids.  I make grandiose mountains out of what should be fun, little mole hills.  But not anymore.  Those days are over.  2015 Lauren is cutting herself more slack and living a less-stressed life.  Calmer, happier, better.

This doesn’t mean I’m boycotting all upcoming holidays.  Nor does it mean I’m killing off all our family traditions.  I sort of took care of that last year anyway.  [Click here to reread my post about the end of St. Patrick’s Day leprechauns and the Easter Bunny.]  But it does mean I’m downsizing.  Toning things down … way down.  Red waffles and chocolate truffles for breakfast?  Sure thing.  But pulling an all-nighter to bake two dozen beautiful treats that won’t be appreciated by the under-9 set?  No thank you.  This year, it’s colored sprinkles and Pop Rocks … and simple love for my boys (big and small).

Happy-Valentines-day-2015-banner-etcPB

– LJDT

What I Learned in Middle School at 42

Flashback to fall, 1984:  Benetton sweaters, braces, big hair and even bigger EG socks.  I was twelve and in the seventh grade.  It was my first year of junior high (we didn’t call it middle school).  All the usual pre-teen insecurities and anxieties were multiplied because my school was actually a junior/senior high school, with grades 7-12 together in one building.  Twelve-year-olds and eighteen-year-olds milling about in the hallways … probably not the best idea, for so many reasons.

Fast forward to last week, 2014:  No Benetton sweater, no braces (although if I had worn my retainer as I was supposed to back then, my teeth would be straighter now.  Lesson learned, Dr. Seewald!), no big hair (at least not 1980s Long Island big) and no big-assed socks the near-size of leg warmers.  I am 42 and back in sixth grade, the first year of middle school.

Why?  Because last week was Take Your Parent to Middle School Day.  This visitation day is supposed to give us parents a glimpse into the daily life of our middle schoolers, to better understand what they are learning and see how they are adjusting to their new environment and responsibilities.  In theory, it’s a good idea, but I wasn’t totally sold on it.  Sit still all day and not fall asleep?  Pay attention and not chat with friends?  Get permission to use the bathroom?  This was going to be a challenge for me.  But I was curious.  Besides, I couldn’t come up with a good excuse fast enough not to go (not wanting to miss boot camp didn’t fly with my 6th grader), so I went.

I made a few observations during my 7-hour stint in school:

  1. The school is like a mouse maze … virtually windowless with many, many hallways.   It’s a bit depressing, actually.
  2. The size range of pubescent boys and girls is comical en masse.
  3. It’s pretty easy to pick out the sixth graders from the seventh and eighth … the sixth graders are the ones scurrying through the halls with huge piles of books in their arms, struggling to see over or around them.
  4. Two months in and cliques have already formed … as evident from the cafeteria seating arrangements.
  5. Locker organization is a skill that my son clearly does not have … and from what I could see, neither do most of the other 11- and 12-year-old boys in his grade.
  6. Parent visiting day is like reality TV, with teachers and students putting on a show.  This was not a typical middle school day, I’m sure.
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The windowless building is more like a mouse maze than a middle school.

In addition to learning how the school day is structured, my adult middle school experience reinforced a few previously held notions about myself …

  1. I am not cut out to be a student again.  It’s a l-o-n-g day, the chairs are uncomfortable and I zoned out more times than I’d like to admit.
  2. I do not like crowds.  This disdain only grows with age and the chaotic hallways made me tense.
  3. I pee a lot.  On the bright side, I now know where every bathroom in the middle school is located.
  4. I am often tardy.  Four minutes between classes isn’t enough time when you need to pee after each class, or when you stop to talk with friends.
  5. I get anxious in unknown social settings.  Walking into the cafeteria alone immediately brought me back to the first day of junior high again … Where was I going to sit?  Did I have any friends in here?  Are people looking at me?  Thankfully, my son “allowed” me to join him and his friends … but only because another mom was already sitting at the table (thanks, Jen!).
  6. I am glad I’m not still in middle school.

All in all, I’m happy I went.  But I’m even happier that I don’t have to go back again tomorrow.

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6th grade buddies.

– LJDT

The Dog Ate Your Homework? Lame. I Can Do One Better Than That …

We don’t have a dog so the old excuse, “The dog ate my homework!” isn’t an option for my kids.  But that’s okay because my youngest found an even better excuse … “My mom burned my homework!”

Yep, it’s true.  A few weeks ago, I burned my third grader’s math folder and spelling workbook.  Not on purpose, of course.  Actually, I think it was really his fault.  Yes, I realize I am throwing my 8-year-old under the bus here, but let’s call a spade a spade, shall we?

Adding "Fire Chief" to my job description

Adding “Fire Chief” to my job description

Here’s the scenario:  I was at the stove cooking dinner while simultaneously supervising my kids’ homefun — that’s the elementary school’s weak attempt at renaming homework so it sounds more appealing.  [Note to school:  The kids aren’t buying it.  It’s still homework.]  My 8-year-old had been doing his assignments on the kitchen counter across from the stove, but left to use the computer in the study.  While my back was turned, he came back in to the kitchen to grab something out of his binder and carelessly (or inadvertently, depending on how you spin it) knocked his math folder and spelling workbook off the counter and onto the stove.  Directly onto a pot of boiling water.  He didn’t notice, so he went back to the study.  Soon enough, the school books caught fire and flames were rising up.  I was able to retrieve the burning books and put out the fire, but I couldn’t stop the smoldering without dousing the workbook with water, thus rendering Mega Words both charred and moist.  As for the math folder, it was plastic — was being the operative word — so it melted.

Post-fire math folder.

Fire-1, Math-0

Did I yell?  Did I lecture?  Did I overreact?  Of course I did.  It’s what I do best.  Then I did what I do second best … I calmed down and I retracted most of what I had just screamed about.  After the smoked had literally settled, I was able to see the bigger picture … It could have been worse.  Much worse.  No one got hurt, no damage was done (except to the school books) and dinner wasn’t even ruined.  Crisis averted.  Lesson learned:  No more homework on the kitchen counter while cooking dinner.

A few days later, I went out and bought a desk for the kitchen/family room.  Problem solved.

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New fire-proof homework area

-LJDT

Why I Hate Pajama Day at School

Yesterday, it happened.  We were only on the 11th day of the new school year when my most despised day of the year popped up already … pajama day.  My nemesis.

You’d think I had some sort of traumatic childhood experience that makes me dislike public wearing of sleepwear, but I didn’t.  I just don’t believe in it, plain and simple.

The funny thing is, my sister’s middle child went through a long phase where he’d only wear pajamas — all day, all the time, no matter where he was going — and I thought it was cute.  Granted, he was only 4 years old at the time and I only had one child at that point in my life so my opinions and feelings on topics such as this were still developing.  But nonetheless, I thought Michael was adorable.  [Added bonus:  Thanks to my sister’s generosity with hand-me-downs, I never had to buy my own kids pajamas when they turned that age.]

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How cute is my nephew (far left) in his winter-themed jammies during his “pj’s only” phase at age 4?

Even now, I’m okay with little kids wearing their pj’s outdoors.  Kids are quirky and stubborn and go through phases.  Plus, it’s cute at a young age, which is why I’m okay with the younger school-aged kids having a pajama day.  Preschoolers, kindergarteners, even first graders … Don those princess nightgowns and Superman cape-attached jammies with pride.  Second grader, proceed with caution.  This is a gray area for me because some of the kids seem too old for it.  And once children reach third grade, I think pajama days should be retired.  It just doesn’t seem right anymore.

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Back in the day when the boys wore pajama sets, c. 2010

Why my contempt for pajama day at school?

  1. It looks sloppy.  I’ve stated before that I do not dress my boys, which means they are often mismatched.  And I’m okay with that, for the most part.  But there’s something about mismatched pajamas in public that disturbs me.  It just looks sloppy.  And dirty.  And wrong.  This is just my opinion.
  2. It’s dirty.  I’m not a germaphobe, but kids are germ magnets.  Wearing pajamas to school — running around getting hot and sweaty, spilling paint and milk and all sorts of things on themselves — then coming home to sleep in those same filthy clothes … Eww!  I guess if your child has to wear nightwear to school, you could at least have them change into a fresh outfit for bedtime.  Compromise.
  3. It’s borderline inappropriate.  Once kids hit a certain age, around third grade or so, they stop wearing those coordinating character-themed sets.  Sleepwear becomes more haphazard and it’s just not cute anymore.  Many boys start wearing only boxer shorts to bed — not exactly school dress code approved.  And many girls now need a training bra, something that makes wearing pajamas out in public uncomfortable and a bit awkward.  In other words, after about second grade, kids are just too old.
  4. It looks ridiculous.  With my Fashion Police badge firmly in place, I declare that wearing sneakers with pajamas looks horrendous.  Yes, I know it’s a practical option, but it still looks ridiculous (as bad as men’s dress shoes with sweatpants or high heels with yoga pants) and furthers my case for no more sleepwear days.

So did my third-grader participate in the first of what is probably not the last school pajama day?  Sort of.  Despite my better judgement, I allowed him to wear boxer shorts (that looked like gym shorts) as long as he also wore underpants and an oversized t-shirt.  And sneakers, of course.  As I said, compromise.

I can only pray this is the last public pajama battle, but I think I know better.

– LJDT

Back to School, Week #2: Reality Check

Last week, I wrote about the most wonderful time of the year … the start of a new school year.  I love routines and schedules, and of course getting my life and house back.  I get sh*t done when school’s in session!

But not everyone agrees with me.  That’s okay, I respect that.  My guess is that those in opposition to my back-to-school euphoria are probably way more easy-going and carefree than me.  I wish I could live more spontaneously … have no plans … let the days unfold as they will … but it stresses me out.  So routines and schedules are my thing and I’m okay with that.

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True words for us Type-A planners

We are now almost finished with week #2 of school and reality has set in.  In my state of bliss, I had forgotten how much I dislike some of the things that come along with the start of a new school year.  To be more specific, I do not enjoy …

  • waking up sleepy boys — Yes, they use alarm clocks, but that selective hearing gene seems to get stronger as the school year wears on.
  • making school lunches — I would have the boys make their own lunches, but left to their own devises, their bags would be filled with less-than-nutritious choices.
  • running up hill to catch the school bus — We’re only on day #7 and already we’ve had to chase down the bus three times … oy!
  • doing homework — First week of elementary school assignments always involve photos, which means it’s really my homework.
  • shopping for school supplies (with the rest of my town) — Like the great Martin Luther King, Jr., I, too, have a dream … that one day supply lists will to be issued at the same time as class schedules (read: in advance) so we can shop at our leisure.
  • the premature push for all things autumn, especially Halloween — I love fall, but it’s still officially summer.  I’m not ready for sweaters and boots yet, let alone pumpkins and Halloween candy.
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Wasn’t it just Labor Day three days ago?  Even the grocery stores are pushing Halloween too early.

So as we wrap up week #2, my eyes are now open again and I’m prepared to take the good with the bad.  We’ll find our rhythm.  We’ll get into our routines.  And I will create a way to make the crappy parts of back to school more bearable.  I’m already compiling a morning “wake up” playlist to blast and thinking of having the boys make their next-day lunches while I make dinner each night … although I’m not sure how that second one will go over.

Only 3 weeks until our next day off from school … early L’Shana Tova!

– LJDT

Back to School: It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

I have a confession to make.  I am not and never have been one of those sentimental moms who cries on the first day of school (which is odd, because I’m a very emotional person).  I didn’t sob when my kids went off to preschool for the first time or get choked up when they started kindergarten either.  Maybe I was sad for a moment or two, but no tears.  The truth is, I’m happy when the school year starts.  My kids are always happy, too.  If they weren’t, maybe I’d feel differently.  But they have always been confident and eager to begin each school year, so I am as well.

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c. 2008 – My kindergarten rock star, age 5

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c. 2008 – My nursery school magna cum laude, age 2

Ok, maybe being happy because they’re happy is really only a half truth.  If I’m being totally honest, I’m glad to get my freedom back each fall.  It’s selfish, I know, but it’s the truth.  By the end of the summer, I need my space.  Time alone to shower in peace.  To write in silence.  Even just to run errands alone.  Have you seen that new Target video?  Check it out here.  Spot on.

Flashback to this morning.  It was the first day of another new school year.  I swear if you listened closely, you would have heard the chorus to the song “Freedom” by Wham! playing in my head as the boys walked out the door.  Don’t get me wrong … I love my boys.  But absence makes the heart grow fonder, right?

Anyway, back to this morning.  The first day of 3rd grade and 6th grade (yes, that’s middle school around here!).  As usual, my boys were ready.  They’re still young enough that the first day of school breeds excitement, not dread.By mid-year, however, I cannot say the same is true.  Our usual M.O. on a school day involves yelling, rushing and even some begging, but amazingly, this morning was rather painless.  Everyone woke up on time, even a little early.  Everyone dressed quickly and even matched (mostly).  And most shockingly of all, there was no rushing or yelling.  It was such a smooth morning that I even had time to compose this cheesy, original poem:

T’was the first day of school and all through the land,

Parents were happy – life was grand!

The children woke early filled with delight;

They had gone to bed early – after all, it had been a school night.

A back-t0-school breakfast was ready to eat;

There was no yelling this morning – oh, what a treat!

Lunch boxes and backpacks were ready to go;

I was thrilled with this morning’s easy flow.

The kids were all dressed and pictures were taken;

Their smiles were real, there was no faking.

This first day is special, but things change fast;

I will relish it now because it will not last.

Once homework is assigned and routines are set,

The joy will be gone, on that you can bet.

But today my kids are excited and life is good;

I hope the same is true in your neighborhood.

It’s time to go now, the bus is here.

Happy First Day of the New School Year!

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2014 – My 6th grader middle schooler, age 11

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2014 – My 3rd grader, age 8

So for all of you who have to wait until after Labor Day to send your kids back to school, hang in there!  It’s just one more week until the most wonderful time of the year begins for you.  I’m sure you’re ready, and I’m positive your kids are, too.

– LJDT

The Tenets of An Elementary School Concert

Yesterday was my second grader’s spring music concert.  As usual, it was sweet and sour for me.  Sweet because the music teacher was enthusiastic, the parents were proud and the kids (for the most part) were excited.  Sour because, apart from being scheduled during a very busy time of the year for most of us, it was a bit long … five songs per grade with slow transitions between sets.  I did doze off once, but only momentarily.  I swear.

With kids spaced three years apart, I’ve been to my fair share of elementary school concerts and shows over the past five years.  Spring concerts, winter concerts, K-3 concerts, 4-5 concerts, band concerts, talent shows, lip synching competitions, etc.  I’ve been to them all.  The school auditorium is a familiar place, in deed.  As a five-year veteran of these events, I’ve come to realize that all school concerts share three common traits, notably …

  • the school parking lot fills up early, as in 30+ minutes before showtime early (the early bird catches the worm and the anxious parent gets the front row)
  • aisle seats are at a premium (that’s why the parking lot fills up early)
  • parent paparazzi is in da’ house!  (cameras are flashing and videos are recording, but most will feature the back of someone’s head … that’s why I always make sure to brush my hair and touch up my roots before a show because that head could be mine)

But these three traits aren’t the only tenets of an elementary school concert.  From my years of experience, I’ve found that there are seven student behaviors highlighted on stage regardless of age or grade (this, by the way, is not based on any real scientific study or data — just my keen observation when actually awake).  At any elementary school concert or show, there’s always one kid who is …

  • louder than all the others, screaming the lyrics instead of singing them
  • off-key or off-tempo, singing faster than the melody
  • not singing at all, either looking bored or scared
  • over-animated, exaggerating whatever “dance moves” accompany the lyrics
  • totally off-beat, or moving in the opposite direction as everyone else
  • fidgeting, turning around or poking a neighboring kid
  • dressed to the nines, in full-on formal wear (sparkly shoes or headband included)

Frankly, I have the most fun watching the over-animated or off-beat kids.  They liven up the show (not the ones who are purposely misbehaving and acting rudely, but the ones who are really trying despite having no rhythm).  And let’s be honest … most elementary school concerts are not Carnegie Hall material (harsh, but true).

Don’t get me wrong.  Despite nodding off on occasion, I enjoy watching my own children perform in these events.  Not because they are talented singers (they’re not) and not because the musical arrangements are my favorite (far from it).  But because I’m proud of seeing my boys embrace the stage, smile and sing along with their friends and classmates.  I’m proud of their confidence, their comfort level and their self-awareness.  I’m proud of their behavior and their attitude on stage.  Off stage … well, that’s a different story some days, but I love them all the same.

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How can I not love these two monkeys?

-LJDT