Learning to Celebrate

on Oct 22, 2014 in Blog by

Celebrate (2)My children’s elementary school recently celebrated our 60th birthday.  We gathered at the school, listened to alumni who are now junior high and high school students play orchestral music, ate cookies, picked a few remaining vegetables from the school garden, and spent time with our friends and neighbors.  Retired teachers, staff, principals, and alumni returned to share their memories.  We heard story after story about how the school changed lives and how teachers, staff, and principals impacted generations.  It was a nice way to spend a Sunday afternoon – and it was a celebration of our community, our students, our school, and an acknowledgement that education matters deeply to us.

Hold on before you moan and call me a sentimental fool.  I know, surely some people were just there to eat free cookies and gossip, right?  I’ll give you that.  And we all know that these events where we engage parents, students, teachers, and the community are imperative to creating and nurturing the “right” kinds of investment in our schools.  But for me this went beyond a simple way to get community engaged.

This celebration came at the end of a week that usually feels more like a month to me, Spirit Week.   There’s crazy hair day, red and white day, twinsies day, etc.  And, I admit, by Tuesday every year I start complaining to myself:  “Why am I doing this?  What do crazy socks have to do with school?  What does a kid learn by wearing a purple wig?”  (And a few other unprintable things.)  As a mother of four kids in elementary school the week requires a lot of laundry, fidgeting with silly wigs, finding the match to the “crazy socks,” and even taking my daughter to a specialist last year because it turns out she’s allergic to hair dye.  And to top it all off there is a homecoming parade right in the middle of the week complete with marching, matching shirts, and lots of candy.  Now I don’t want to shock anyone:  I am not a big football fan and I am not exactly the homecoming parade type.  My daughter, however, feels differently and every year I dutifully march in my logo t-shirt and all.  (My sons choose catching candy to throwing it away to other people, go figure.)

This year as I marched holding hands with my seven year-old daughter, I gained a deeper understanding of these celebrations.  We were not simply supporting the football team or showing school pride.  We were celebrating the community that feeds and bolsters our school.  After being the center of our community for 60 years our elementary school is in the process of closing its doors, but these celebrations helped me see that our community is more than a building.  My neighbors and I along with our school faculty, teachers, and staff will always be a community and most of our kids will go to junior high and high school together.  We will remain bonded by these moments we spent together supporting our school.  We will share that same bond we saw from the returning alumni, faculty, and staff.  In the future, whatever school buildings our kids attend, we will always be a part of this shared community we built to nurture our children.  Marching this year became a celebration of the people we trust with our children every day – parents, teachers, principals, and staff.  And a celebration of our children.

Sometimes celebrations like these can feel like a distraction from the hard work that is going on in our school systems – new building projects, curriculum shifts, financial cuts, or staff changes.  I often hear people refer to them as a waste of time and money in the big picture – I might have said these things a couple times myself even.  I firmly believe that every system, especially schools and school districts, must work in a state of constant formative assessment and reflection, taking every opportunity to understand where we can improve and how to best create positive learning cultures.  But we also need to celebrate all the little and big milestones on the way, in our classrooms daily and with our communities when we can.  Celebrating our schools allows us to bond as communities and tells our kids that we are invested in our education system.  It shows them that we are willing to engage with them in learning and building our schools.  And we get to throw a party or two along the way!

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