Thursday, September 3, 2009

Where Are You From?

I never know how to answer that question. I was born in the District of Columbia, moved to south Jersey at four, Saudi Arabia at 13, went to boarding school in Switzerland, college in New York, grad school in Norfolk, and now here I am, back in the DC metro area again. The truth is, I was born here and have lived here since 1989, but I wouldn't say I'm from here. Even so, twenty years is time enough to put down some roots, and that was evident to me tonight.

Teaching in the community where I live and have family has been exceptionally rewarding to me. Over the years, I've taught the children of my friends and neighbors and three of my nephews. Tonight, we had our annual open house for rising sixth graders, and I was moved at the pre-existing connections I felt to so many kids and families. There were parents I hadn't seen in six and eight years bringing their youngest child at last to middle school. Lots of other siblings and cousins and friends of former students went out of their way to tell me that they knew me and they were excited about the coming year. One of my colleagues realized that she and the parent of one of the kids went to our very school together nearly thirty years ago.

The two new teachers on the team both stopped me afterward to say what a remarkable event it had been. We open our doors on this night before school starts in order to allay the anxiety of parents and children who are making a big educational transition with new expectations and requirements, but tonight, for me, it was a testament to the power of simple human connection, even if I'm not from here.

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