As summer vacation draws to a close and my school year begins, I can’t help but think that I am returning home after a summer abroad. After a dozen years of teaching, my school has begun to feel a little like home. It has become a fixture of my life, and during my years spent teaching, I have worked among people who have become some of my closest and dearest friends. I have taught children who return to my classroom on a weekly basis to apprise their former teacher about their adventures in middle and high school. Some of these students have become legitimate friends. I play basketball with them, counsel them on difficulties that they are experiencing and share in their accomplishments and joy. As my first class of students enter college, I find some of them now babysitting my daughter and attending important family events.
I have also developed friendships with the parents of some of my students, and these friends have become some of the most important people in my life. I count many of them as my best friends, and one is even my daughter’s godmother.
And recently, I came to realize that some of the most important events of my life have taken place inside the walls to my school.
On September 11, 2001, I watched the second plane strike the World Trade Center and the first tower fall on a television in my principal’s office. Immediately thereafter, I retrieved my students from music class and went on with my day without telling them that anything had happened, giving them a few more precious hours of normalcy in a world that had suddenly changed.
In the fall of 2002, I met my future wife in our first staff meeting of the year. Ironically, our first real conversation would take place a few weeks later at a YMCA camp as we hiked around the lake with students. That discussion centered on the plans for her upcoming wedding, an engagement that she would later break off.
In the fall of 2004, I revealed plans to ask Elysha to marry me to a colleague and friend in our Curriculum Specialist’s office. A month later, while Elysha was trapped in an after-school meeting, a committee of teachers and friends helped me choose Elysha’s engagement ring.
In the spring of 2005, I received a call from the veterinarian before school informing me that my dog required life threatening spinal surgery. I went on to teach for the rest of the day while Kaleigh was in surgery, waiting to hear if she was alive or dead.
In February of 2007, I was sitting at the desk in the principal’s office when my aunt told me over the phone that my mother was dead. I spent a few moments alone before returning to class to finish the day with my kids.
Early in 2008 I was sitting at the desk in my classroom when a call came in from the geneticist, informing me that I was a carrier of the muscular dystrophy gene, and that I was almost certain to contract the same disease that killed my mother.
That same year, I was sitting at the same desk when I received the call from my agent informing me that Doubleday had made a preemptive offer on the book. I spent a moment collecting myself before finding Elysha alone in the hall and informing her of the news. She collapsed to the floor in tears, sparking great concern throughout the faculty that something terrible had happened. I was standing by the library after the school day had ended when negotiations over the book had finished and the call came in with the final purchase price.
With experiences like these, and so many more, is it any surprise that a school can begin to feel like a home?
More importantly, does this happen to everyone at the workplace, or is there something different about working in a school?