I loved night when I was a kid. My sister and I would dress in our Sunday best and walk down to Edison School with both parents. Having both parents at school might not seem like a big deal, but my dad, like many parents, had a regular 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. job, (or really, 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.) and he couldn’t participate in field trips or bake sales. But, since open house was held in the evening, it was one of the few times he could. It was like “Bring Your Child to Work Day!” — except it was ”Bring Your Parent to School Day” instead.
Open house was the time when I got to show off. I had some learning issues that made school challenging for me, but the glorious thing about open house was that it wasn’t only about grades. It was more about the part of school that was fun. It was positive. It was about what I had accomplished, not simply the things that I had to work on. Because with me, there were always things I had to work on.
On these nights, my mom or dad would squeeze into my mini desk chair and ooh and ahh over things like my and my solar system mobile. They would patiently read reports about raccoons and past presidents and lovingly say things like, “Your penmanship has gotten much better!” And, “Wow! I can’t believe you made up an entire story about a pickle!”
Even if my grades themselves were less than stellar, because of open house I always felt confident about myself and my work. And I felt that my parents and teachers felt good about me, too.
I have two girls that both attended Edison, my youngest is in fifth grade now, so it’s our last year in grammar school. Fourth grade, last year, was the first year there was no open house and I was surprised how much I missed it. I missed being able to praise my girl publicly. I missed being able to gush and make a big deal out of her projects and her reports that I know she worked so hard on. I missed being able to invite her grandparents and aunt into her classroom so they could see all the wonderful artwork hanging from the ceiling and stapled to bulletin boards around the room. They missed it, too.
I understand that the Alameda Unified School District is extremely low on funds. I understand that many parents would rather see the open house program cut than any actual learning time from the classroom and I hear you. I just feel that fun is just as important as an English or science lesson. Not like PE fun and not simply because of the praise. (‘Cause let’s face it, all of our kids are geniuses!) But because we’re invited into their world for an hour or two. We are given the opportunity to connect with them in their "office" and acknowledge that what they do all day is important, too.
Can’t parents just do that at home? Sure, and I hope they do. All I can say is that it really did make a difference to my sister and me. And when I ask my kids, it's always one of their favorite school days. That and Valentine’s Day.