Sunday, June 11, 2017

Adulting at Prom and Surviving the End of the Year Chaos

Being a high school teacher has plenty of funny moments. One of them is attending your 7th prom. The perks of being a high school teacher often come from being able to enjoy high school events without the angst you felt as a teenager.

These are the things I love about going to prom as an adult:
1. It takes me about 20 minutes to get ready.
2. I get to spend the whole night telling students how lovely their dresses are/how dapper their suits are.
3. I am typically back in the comfort of my own apartment before 11:00.

I'm lucky to have a fun group of "prom friends." We typically go to dinner and then get to prom on the early side. We stay for an hour or two and then head out. I love being able to see my students looking so grown-up, and I love being able to share their special night with them.

I always overhear conversations about dresses and hairstyles and dinner plans all throughout the second semester, so it's really fun to see the final product of all of their planning. I even have a prom "soapbox" speech that I give some time mid-second semester. These are the things I tell them:
1. Go to prom. Anything in life that you only get to do once (graduations, proms, final tours by your favorite bands), go. Don't tell yourself you don't care so you won't go. What's one Friday night of your life? What will you be doing instead that is a once-in-a-lifetime thing? If you get there and it's terrible, take some pictures, laugh about it, and leave. Go to IHOP, and eat some pancakes. Whatever. Just don't miss things you can't do again later.
2. Make good choices that night. You have spent countless hours and no telling how much money to make that night special. Don't ruin it by consuming things that will make you unable to remember the night, get you in trouble/kicked out of prom, or leave you with the contents of your dinner revisited on your dress.
3. Don't overplan. Every year some friend group has a complete meltdown over paying for the limo or dinner reservations. You'll see EVERYONE at prom. Just keep the group you go to dinner with small and keep the transportation plans simple--heck--get an Uber.

When I first started going to prom, I had a hard time figuring out what to wear, but as I've built up a collection (and by collection I mean 3 or 4) of wedding dresses (Not in the Runaway Bride sense. In the "I've gone to so many weddings that I grab every little black dress that Banana puts on sale" kind of sense.), I now have some options for what I wear.  This year I went with a silk dress I bought over 5 years ago. The other ladies in our group were rocking some pretty amazing dresses, so I felt like I had awesome prom dates. :)

Break for a random prom story:
On the walk over to prom (we don't need to discuss what "5 blocks" means to some people...not that I'm holding a grudge...just sayin'), we hit several stop lights. Some in our group decided to jaywalk, but since I was wearing heels and couldn't make a run for it very easily, I stayed behind. At one point, I saw a car coming, and stayed on the sidewalk. I yelled, "I'm a law abiding citizen. I'm staying here until I'm told to walk." The guy in the oncoming car rolled down his window and said, "I would marry you." This might have made my night.

I say might because we also found the prom king and queen gear and definitely made sure they were ready. My only regret from the evening is that we didn't reenact a classic teen movie scene when we tried on the crown/tiara.

I have a few tips for prom dressing before I give a bit of a soapbox speech about surviving the end of the year.
1. If you're like me, and you don't attend that many fancy events, use prom as a night to be fancy. Wear that dress you love but never get a chance to wear, go eat somewhere tasty, and then enjoy seeing your students in a setting that isn't about grades, late assignments or tardy bells. I know that if you are chaperoning you have some obligations, and I know that students sometimes make bad choices on prom night, so you don't always get to be completely free of adult responsibilities, but as much as possible, enjoy the experience.
2. Try your dress on a few days ahead of time. Once again, if you're like me, those dresses hang in the back of your closet until prom--or some friends recommend a fancy night out--so make sure it still works well for you.

Okay--now on to my second soapbox of this post.

A very kind friend, a few years ago, told me that she was praying for people to come along and take over some of the things I was, at the time, in charge of. At the time, I just kind of said, "Thanks!" and went along my way. But as the year went on, and I noticed how tired and impatient I became, I thought, "Maybe my friend is right. Maybe I have too much on my plate. Maybe I could do fewer things with more grace." I looked at my calendar and made a "must", "would like to", and "just can't" chart. I put things like my summer time in Arkansas on the "must" list and put things like going to school plays in the "like to" column. After looking over my chart, I decided that the only way I could survive a somewhat busy schedule was to faithfully do the "must" list things and allow the "like to" things to be decided on a case-by-case basis with no judgment if I opted not to attend/participate in them. If, the week of the school play I thought it would be fun to go, I'd go. But I wouldn't make myself go, and I never promised my students I would go. If they asked me if I was going, I would be honest with them. I would tell them that things were pretty busy at the time, so I would probably need the weekend to recover. They understood, most of the time. And if they didn't, that was okay. They are teenagers. While most are really compassionate and understand that their teachers have a lot on their plates, the ones who don't understand can't be the ones I answer to. Making them happy isn't my job--teaching them is.

Some time over the summer, I'll write all my thoughts about teacher guilt and how movies like Freedom Writers give students, parents, community members and teachers a false hope for what a teacher can/should do for his/her students, but for now, just know that prom is on my "would like to" list, and, luckily, most years I make it. But, the key to enjoying prom (for me) is it being something optional that I choose to attend, not something I feel forced to attend. When I grab dinner with my friends, stop by prom for an hour or so, and then go home, I leave with fond memories, and I can genuinely tell my students how nice it is to see them and how fabulous their dresses/suits are. It has to be from a place of joy, not a place of guilt.

Okay--I hope this post might inspire you to feel free to say "No!", even to good things, if they leave you with an out of control schedule, and I hope it might make you decide to put on your fancy dress and go enjoy yourself for a night.

Quick Arrested Development reference: When we were walking to the staff lounge, we came across this never nude. I had to document it.

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