Part of being an educator is learning to do things outside of your comfort zone … become willing to be a fool, because you are going to be the fool, you just have to learn how to deal with it.
That being said … I don’t like dancing. Organized dances are about the worst thing on Earth I can do. I’m rarely good at parties unless I really psyche myself up a bit. I won’t even go into wedding receptions.
While I would do virtually anything for students, chaperoning dances is a definite no no for me. I chaperoned a freshman mixer the one year I worked at my alma mater: I broke up two fights and saw lots of crying girls.
Fast forward 14 years.
Earlier this year, a former student who is heading to law school, and is president of the GSA (Gay Student Alliance), asked me to chaperone the school’s first ever dance for gay/lesbian/transgendered and their allies. I said yes, mostly because I had told her that I would be willing to help her, and because of timing I had been unable to help out earlier works … I didn’t want her to think I was putting her off for the wrong reasons. The kids had a good time, and that was about that.
Of course prom is the king of dances. Thousands of dollars wasted on dresses, tuxeedos, limos, party busses, keggers, lake homes, etc. I never went in high school, and have been very happy to not be called on to work this.
But, I am a sucker for someone in distress.
One of my colleagues who was scheduled to work prom found out from her husband that relatives were coming for a visit tonight on a week’s notice. On top of that she just finished her MS and is really stressed out.
Oh …. she is seven months pregnant with her second child. She is a good friend (she spots for me during football games) … so when she sent out word that she needed someone to cover for her …
Damn …. I can’t say no to things like this!
So … after avoiding it for 21 years, tonight I was off to prom.
What did I learn? As I suspected all along, it is really an overblown experience. I am surprised that the experience continues given that parents must understand this, but still allow their daughters to go spend hundreds of dollars on the aforementioned things. I guess some folks think it is a “right of passage” …. but it seems like such a small and ephemeral event to be so big.
I had to report by 8 pm. I got there around 7:30, by which time desert was being served (teachers were not permitted to eat, which as I was told was a new policy). Dancing started shortly before 8. By 9:30 well over half the students were gone. It was over at 11.
It is bad enough when you have kids who aren’t wholly acting mature (like yelling your name across 420 people who are finishing dinner). Then they run up and want a picture, and you really want to say no, but saying “could you please cover the three-quarters of your bust line that is sticking out” just won’t come out in any positive way.
One of the other chaperones was our police liaison officer. He noted that he was very worried about the number of students who were not only leaving early, but of the rumors of the larger than usual number of kids who, instead of going to the After-Prom Celebration, were going to lake houses, hotels, or other places. He noted that he had already been contacted by an out-of-state police department inquiring about our prom since they had gotten word that a group had rented a lakeside condo for the weekend.
I was told that the chaperones were going to rotate between various posts around the room, but after over a half hour of being stationed near the doors next to the DJ (and speakers), I was nearly deaf. I have never had the greatest of hearing, but I caouldn’t remember having so little ability to hear. I had a student come up and talk to me, and I am certain that he finally got annoyed when I kept nodding and saying “yes”. I was then told that most of the chaperones were having a great time, and didn’t want to rotate.
Far be it from me to be the party pooper and ask people to have a little less of a good time and do their jobs …
I wasn’t such a happy camper, because I said that I really needed to get out of there. Fortunately, they were able to get me to one of the positions in the outer hall for the rest of the evening.
Overall, especially in today’s economy, I would recommend that seniors get a pizza, turn on their music at home, and spend time with friends. Save the money for college.
They’ll need it!