Wednesday, September 02, 2009

In Praise of Community

School begins today.  As always, I start the year by thinking a bit about the numbers involved.  This is my eighth year teaching history and political science at my school.  JT begins the fourth grade today; it's his seventh year at the school.  And it will be my fourth year as a single parent, an idea that once seemed unbelievable to me.  But there is it, the reality of my life.  And that's one of the reasons that our school is so incredibly important to me.  On a purely practical level, the fact that we come to school together every day, that our days off and our vacations are completely synchronized, is an epically huge blessing for me.  I don't have to think about coordinating my arrival or departure from work in terms of my child's schedule because we are on the same schedule.  That we're on the same schedule would probably be enough to make my life as a single mama easier.  But it's not just convenience that binds me to my school. 

Independent of my job, which I dearly love, there is the benefit of a school which acts as a partner in the task of raising my child.  The people at the school know my son because they've watched him grow up.  There is the classroom teacher who recognizes his laugh when he's around the corner.  There is the gym teacher who knows how much JT adores a good game of chaos kickball.  The librarians who know just what book he will love.  The art teachers who encourage his boundless imagination and creativity with a piece of paper and some colored pencils and the choir teacher who lets me know what a well-mannered son I have.  I could go on and on.  On this campus my boy is surrounded with the familiar faces of people who know his heart and soul and love him for it.

It's not something I take lightly.

The sum total of the arrangement is that though I am a parent on my own, I feel less alone.  In my school, I have found a real community.  And I don't throw that word around lightly.   At school, JT spends his days with adults who want him to succeed on his terms, who sustain his curiosity and give him the support he needs to face new tasks.  He is willing to challenge himself because his safety net is sound.  In the school community, there are adults who wish for JT what his mama wishes for him: that he will grow up to be strong and capable, with an imagination that will support him for the next steps of his journey, wherever that may be.

It's easy to take such an arrangement for granted and sometimes I do.  But as a new school year begins, it seems fitting to stop and express my gratitude for my school, a place that lets me do what I love secure in the knowledge that my son can do the same.  We are not alone in this place we now call home.

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