OAKWOOD — About five minutes into homeroom period at Oakwood High School, Jimmie Paris raised his hand.
“Excuse me,” he said to Tyler Peterson, the homeroom teacher. “I think I’m in the wrong room.”
Peterson looked at Paris’ class schedule, saw that he should be in Room 10 down the main hall and to the left and then pointed him in the right direction.
Though five weeks into the school year, the third-year history and economics teacher didn’t send Paris to the principal’s office for the mix-up.
That’s because Paris was attending classes Wednesday in his son Jacob’s place as part of the small Vermilion County school’s time-honored tradition known as Swap Day.
Swap Day was started by former Principal Glenn Keever in 1977 and has been held every year since then.
“We don’t have an open house. So this is an opportunity for parents to come to the building to see what’s going on,” current Principal Tim Lee said, adding that about half of the 310 or so students’ parents or grandparents participated this year.
This year, the activity happened to coincide with homecoming week. So, many parents — along with students and staff — wore pink for the theme of “On Wednesdays, we wear pink” — based on a line from the 2004 film "Mean Girls."
While a full day for years, Lee said that at some point Swap Day was moved to an early-out day, meaning classes are only 20 to 25 minutes long instead of the regular 48.
“They go through all the classes, but skip over lunch, and there is no active P.E. We try to make it as normal a day as possible,” said Lee, who recalled that his mother participated each year that he was a young Comet back in the early 1980s.
“She really helped improve my average typing speed,” he said. “My speed wasn’t very high. She worked in an office and was much more adept at typing.”
'Can I phone a friend?'
After homeroom, Heather Fleming, a 1997 alumna, and Amy McFarland, who graduated two years earlier, stepped into their sons Jarron and Kyle’s advanced geometry class and made a beeline for two desks in the back row.
“I was good in math,” McFarland said proudly, before lowering her voice, “but not in geometry. Shhhh.”
To her relief, teacher Eric Fenton told the class they wouldn’t be doing any geometry. Instead, he asked them to divide into groups of three and work together to solve logic word puzzles.
For example, “Read,” he said, pointing to a picture of the word with lines drawn above and underneath it.
“Between the lines,” shouted Felicia Morris, whom Fleming and McFarland immediately recruited for their team.
“Hey, do you have a phone?” Fleming asked McFarland conspiratorially. “He didn’t say we couldn’t use our phones.”
“Can I phone a friend?” McFarland asked the teacher.
“Judging from what I see, you guys are good,” Fenton assured them, after looking at their worksheet. “No one has answered that many yet.”
Fleming said she was excited to attend her first Swap Day as a parent. That’s because when she asks Jarron, “How was school?” each day, all he says is, “Fine.”
“Now I get to see what he’s actually doing,” Fleming said, adding Jarron was home “probably still asleep.”
Morris said her son, Ashton, was taking her place as a teacher’s aide for K-2 special education students at the grade school.
“It’s a true swap,” she said. “He had crosswalk duty from 7:30 to 8 a.m. He wasn’t happy. ... But when I was a kid, we had ‘take your daughter to school day,’ and I had to go to work with my parent. That’s how it works.”
'It's a Picasso'
Out in the hallway, Sara Martin stood by a bank of lockers — decorated in purple, white and silver for homecoming — and struggled to open her son Ayden’s combination lock.
Chris McCoy, who was checking his daughter Alyssa’s schedule to see where to go next, empathized.
“I forgot on the second number, you have to spin it around twice,” he offered.
Martin’s face lit up when she finally opened the lock. Then she sighed and shut the door.
“I thought he would have a pen or pencil in his locker, but of course, he didn’t,” she said before hurrying to the art room.
In Art 1, teacher Amanda Nichols played a YouTube video demonstrating a technique called blind contour drawing. Then she told students to find a partner and use the technique to draw their portrait.
“Remember, your eyes don’t leave your subject, and your pen doesn’t leave your paper,” Nichols instructed.
Ashley Lee burst into laughter when she saw her drawing of her son Mason’s classmate, Jayden Hawkins.
“It’s a Picasso,” said Jody Cole, who sat across the table, wearing a pink T-shirt that said “Cassie’s mom” on the back.
'I see a lot of my former students here'
After the bell rang, Martin headed to the health room, which doubles as the band room, on the other side of the gym and up a flight of stairs.
Lynn Anderson, affectionately known as “Juice,” was taking attendance.
“Hey, I see a lot of my former students here,” she said, when she spied Chad Durbin in the back row.
Anderson, who retired as a P.E. and health teacher five or six years ago, is back this year teaching two classes, coaching girls’ volleyball and track and serving as the junior class adviser.
She told parents that students must pass health in order to graduate. Recently, they’ve been learning how to make healthy decisions and about respect — a topic requested by other teachers. Now they’re learning about personality and had to draw their personality traits on paper.
Then Anderson held up each drawing and asked parents to guess which one their son or daughter drew.
“That’s Natalie,” Susanne Garrison said when she recognized familiar caricatures that her daughter drew, including one on her phone case. “She really likes to draw.”
“Savannah,” said Jared Nevitt when he saw a drawing of a tornado surrounded by a volleyball, basketball and softball — the sports she plays. “She loves tornadoes. She wants to be a storm chaser.”
Later, the class played a "Catch Phrase"-like game that Anderson plays with students to improve their verbal communication skills.
“They’re so used to communicating like this,” Anderson said as she mimed texting on a phone.
'A lot has changed since I was in school'
During the next period in Emily Kuhn’s Algebra I class, Lynne Ellis reflected on the day while she and parents Lara Darling, DeeJay Tiernan, Shannon Wallace and David Bryan played a logic game, requiring them to solve a murder mystery by organizing clues written on slips of paper.
“A lot has changed since I was in school, even since my son was in school,” said Ellis, who was representing her twin grandchildren — Kaelyn and Matthew Miller. “There’s a lot more technology. They all use Chromebooks.”
Earlier in the day after a lesson in Allison Fritz’s anatomy and physiology class, Patti Wise — a fifth- and sixth-grade teacher in the district for 27 years — said she didn’t get to participate in Swap Day when her son and daughter were in school, so she was excited to attend in her granddaughter Katie Reffett’s place this year.
“It’s just neat to be in their educational environment,” said Wise, pastor of the Batestown and Union Corner United Methodist churches. “When you’re at your job and they’re at school, you can visualize where they’re at and what they’re doing. It keeps us in touch with their world.”