I am a Gen X mama, and I am mourning the loss of the class list and the stability of the home phone number. You know – that class list that schools provided with all the names and home phone numbers of students and their parents, and that family phone that was plugged into the wall.
Our culture has morphed away from the list and the landline.
Growing up, every school I attended (elementary, junior high and senior high) provided a thin, stapled booklet that contained the contact information for each student and their families and general contact information for the school. This was distributed at the beginning of each school year.
Here is what it was used for:
- Setting up carpools
- Setting up playdates
- Coordinating parent-sponsored activities at school
- Asking a friend to bring home books or assignments when your child was sick
- Asking a friend or classmate a question about homework
- Offering to bring someone a meal
- Setting up time to work on group projects
- Getting together with friends
- Asking people to get together or go out on a date
- Parents calling other parents with a question or to ask them over for dinner
While I am sure that occasionally the list was misused at times, the simple function of a landline meant that someone’s parents were almost guaranteed to be answering or listening, so that put the kibosh on anything really terrible.
The Class List
The phone number booklet allowed us to connect as a community. Parents could learn each other’s names and numbers by looking in the booklet, and could call each other. Kids could call someone they wanted to connect with. And parents were listening because that phone cord acted like a veritable umbilical cord. The furthest you could get was around the corner! Privacy was offered when your parents felt you could handle it, but there was an easy way to check on you, either from another receiver (google that if you need to!) or just staying close by. Getting a phone in my room was a total rite of passage. Lucky kids got their own phone line in high school, but I was never that lucky!
Today, there are fewer class and school directories. I find it ironic that in a digital age where people post details so many details about their families online, no one wants you to contact them directly.
How Things have Changed
Growing up, labor and delivery photos and videos were just for family – maybe! Vacation pics? Family reunion pics? Only shared when you went over to visit someone at their home. It was appropriate to know someone’s home number and address, but never have seen their wedding video. Today, it feels like the reverse is true.
Privacy concerns abound. I know there are some very serious ones at times. But in the past those families just opted out of the class list, or opted just to put their phone number and not their address. It would have been bad manners to opt out just because you didn’t feel like being social. Being part of the community was important, and it created a web of support for the school, the kids and their families.
The Value of Community
I struggle with meeting the parents of my kids friends, and creating the sense of community I felt I had growing up. We bare so much on Facebook or Instagram but have created a culture in which we back away from each other in person. Getting to know my kids friends and their families works well if we move in the same circles; but if we don’t, it can be a struggle to get contact information, especially as my kids move into middle school and high school.
With headlines blaring about epidemic loneliness across our country, and frightening increases in school gun violence and teen suicides, I think we need community more than ever. I wonder if bringing back the old school class list might help.