Parents get lesson on school rules

Tuesday, August 8, 2006

I hadn't spent a whole day in high school in more than three decades.

Not until last Friday. I spent the day with my teenage daughter, Becca, getting a full day of orientation at Cape Girardeau Central High School.

With Becca being an incoming freshman, I'm sure I'll see a lot of the school over the next four years.

High school's changed a lot since I was a freshman. For one thing, there's more food choices at Central than I had the entire time I was a student at Kirkwood High School in St. Louis County.

Of course, Central High School doesn't have a cafeteria. In the wording of today, they call it the "commons." The high school has an ala-carte food bar that serves such items as toasted ravioli, potato skins, popcorn chicken, egg rolls, cheese sticks and onion rings.

Not that it matters to Becca. She'll bring her peanut butter and jelly sandwiches daily.

As alert readers know, Becca is a picky eater. Not even a modern school cafeteria will be able to conform to her taste buds.

Much of orientation involves learning the rules.

In today's high schools, there are some rules we never had.

Cell phones, beepers and pagers are off limits for students during school hours.

In today's wired world, that's a major deal for students who spend all summer talking to friends in cars, the mall, home and just about anywhere else they happen to be standing or sitting.

Sometimes it seems like cell phones are permanently glued to their ears.

Naturally, this won't work when teachers are trying to educate students on important things like algebra and biology.

Maybe that's the problem with the United Nations. All those ambassadors and their staffs are always shown wearing headphones. They're too wired to really comprehend what their colleagues are saying.

At orientation, Central High School even has separate sessions with the parents in which the prohibition against exposed or beeping cell phones is stressed.

School officials told us not to call our children on cell phones even in the case of an emergency. We're supposed to call the high school office and let the school staff get in touch with the students. That way they won't get in trouble for disruptive cell phones.

Politicians and their aides couldn't spend five minutes, much less a whole day, without fielding cell-phone calls.

Fortunately educators have a higher opinion of students. They're sure teenagers can be taught to wait until after school to chat by cell phone.

Another change in today's high-tech world is that parents have a better chance of contacting teachers via electronic mail than by phone.

For parents, a lot of high school orientation involves writing checks for everything from class pictures to lunch money. I stood in a line with hundreds of other parents, our checkbooks at the ready.

Friends with older children who have already gone through high school tell me that orientation is just the beginning of the spending spree for education.

Thankfully, I still have some checks left over.

Mark Bliss is a staff writer for the Southeast Missourian.

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