• Jennifer Meliton

Opening the House

When you share a child's life for six years you really get to know a family. Add in a few more kids, a few more years, you might get an invite to Thanksgiving. I work in community where many families who grew up there, remain there.

24 years ago I remember being a new teacher in a faculty room here. In this district. It was not uncommon to hear something like, "You know who that is, that's Allison Miller's cousin who lives next to Bobby Johnson's uncle across from that house that used to be yellow by the old deli," in a conversation. I swore I would never be that person.

Fast forward. In an era where jobs and careers change on a dime, I sometimes feel like a fossil having been in the same place for so long. Until Open House. On Open House Night the older brothers and sisters of my kids never fail to wander in, and it has even become tradition for some of our "old" kids to stop in just to say hello. It melts my heart. (Pun intended as it was literally 94 degrees in the buildings last night, but that's another post.)

Seeing these kiddos grow up, having known them since they were small, is like watching the seeds you planted bloom year after year. My Leah is one student who always stops in. She is in high school now along with the entire class of kids I call "my babies", the first group of kids I had from kindergarten through 5th grade. While I hate to identify any favorites, this class was just so special. We went through a lot together including the serious illnesses of classmates and death of a beloved teacher. Leah and company will graduate in a few years and I will be there to watch them launch into the world with undeniable joy and pride.

Another crew that crushes my heart would be the children of my former students! I call these children of kids I taught or "principaled" my grand-students. What a surreal and amazing gift to be able to watch two generations of the same mold! My old kids have grown up to be amazing parents. Watching them walk the halls with their kids totally does something to me. Now I not only know the family trees and neighbors of neighbors, I can tell you (with a mix of terror and pride) who actually does live across from the old deli.

Families are the magic behind everything we do. It's inconceivable to imagine being part of a school where the families are distant and detached. The warmth of our schools radiates far beyond the August sauna evenings of sweaty red faces catching up and learning about their new teachers, and embodies all that remains sacred about school. We have a lot going on with STEAM, innovation and modern learning, but none of those initiatives would get off the ground, let alone fly, without the lasting connections that we create.

Here's hoping you find the same sparkle in your own school, whether it's already there or you are helping to create it!

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