I recently was in the old neighborhood (people who know me will find this mildly amusing) and stopped to admire my old school. This is what I found:
The red brick building still stands and from the outside, it looks at least a little like an old-school school. The Amoco station next door where we pooled lunch money to buy candy and gum (and later tried, unsuccessfully, to buy cigarettes) is now a full service BP station with a mini mart in place of the automotive bays. The municipal bus still stops in front and the hot dog/ice cream shack is still across the street serving up fries and cones.
But the school property was sold soon after I was promoted to junior high and has since been reinvented as a commercial building. The classrooms are now offices, some further divided into cubicles. The asphalt playground where we skinned our knees and picked teams for kickball is a parking lot.
None the less, this is what school looks like to me. It’s where I first let go of my mother’s hand and joined a community larger than I was. Even though I am a teacher now and have learned and taught in a number of other buildings, this is still school.
And school is so much more than reading and writing and arithmetic, isn’t it? It’s learning to play the flute (How do those instrumental music teachers get kids to make music?). It’s the annual gym show, performing calisthenics to music. It’s the unmistakeable aroma of pencil shavings and poster paint and eating lunches at long tables with attached benches. It’s flipping baseball cards by the monkey bars and holding back tears while handing over an Oakland A’s Catfish Hunter card. For me, it is–and always will be–that red brick building on Broadway.
If you ask a dozen people about school, I think they will go back to their primary experiences–huge kudos to colleagues who make these memories for kids every day. A child’s first years in school form the foundation for everything yet to come. School is where the heart was when we were very young.
What does school look like or mean to you?