I spend a lot of time telling people to get involved in their kids schools and classrooms! Over and over again, “Volunteer!” I tell people how rewarding it is, how important it is, how helpful it is. I sing the praises of parental involvement in the school systems. God, I sound like a nag.
Anyways, this morning, as I was dropping my daughter off at school and making the rounds to chat with a few teachers I’m close to, I noticed an assistant for another class giving me some serious side-eye. Very obvious side-eye, with a quick mention that most of the children wait in the main foyer until class starts. Because I often volunteer early in the morning, or stop by to see my mother who works in the building, my daughter rarely waits in the foyer with her peers. She skips off to see her Mimi and help me sort snacks or set-up for morning art activities.
In that moment, as I withered under the glare of school employee, I had to acknowledge that my involvement in the school might have some unintended and not altogether joyous side effects for my daughter. For instance, that assistant probably likes my daughter about as much as she likes me. And if she considers my little girl entitled, she might just try to “even the playing field,” should we ever wind up in the same classroom.
The fact is that while my daughter gets to have her mother active and involved in her classroom, she’ll also be affected by any school enemy I might make or gossip I might spread. Yes, I mentioned to my daughter’s teacher that a little boy was trying to kiss my daughter’s cheek behind a couple stacks of books in the library. The story was just too funny to keep to myself.
In other ways, my little girl will be held to higher standards, just like I was while attending the school my mother taught at. When every teacher has a personal connection to your family, they feel a little more invested in making sure you behave. Even worse, when you have a bad day, it rarely gets left in the classroom. Teachers pass such tales along to mothers that they’ve formed a relationship with. It can make it more difficult to move on from a mistake and make small issues morph into large dramas.
Personally, I wouldn’t have traded all that extra pressure or drama for the joy I had in going to a school where my mother taught. I loved walking the empty hallways in the evenings, or being the “special helper” in the morning. I thought it was so super cool to know every teacher’s first name. I enjoyed that little bit of entitlement.
But my daughter isn’t old enough to decide if she wants any special attention or privileges. She’s not old enough to weigh the possible costs. She just has to deal with her mom hanging out in the teacher’s lounge once a week. She has see her teacher multiple times over summer break for social functions. I wonder if she’ll think the trade-off is worth it. And what on earth I’ll do if a few years from now, my daughter asks that I divest from her academic and social life just a bit.