The other night I attended my oldest son’s annual Open House at Albany High School. He’s a sophomore this year so I didn’t have the same sense of urgency to go as I did last fall when he was a mere freshman. Despite my strong desire to stay at home to watch the Yankees play, missing it was not an option. I wanted to meet his teachers and make sure his year was off to a good start. Plus, I hadn’t been able to attend my youngest boy’s open house due to work and it was my turn. Off I went.
The back parking lot when I arrived was about two-thirds full – an occurrence you wouldn’t experience in the suburban district where I teach unless you arrived 30 minutes early instead of the 20 minutes late I showed up. You should know I am generally pretty prompt to events. In this instance, however, I intentionally timed myself to get there to “walk” Liam’s schedule but avoid any of the organized administrative presentations in the gym. The fates cooperated and I arrived at the perfect time to pick up a copy of my child’s schedule and get to first period.
The halls were crowded with parents, students, siblings and faculty members as I found my way to math class, figuring out the north/south configuration of the classrooms. The geometry teacher presented the course material, using a smart board as well as handouts and cool models and manipulatives. We were off to a good start. And then…
Things just got better! As I walked back and forth, and up and down the stairs, I encountered familiar faces everywhere. There were two families from the Bradley birthing classes I took during my pregnancy with this now 10th grade man-child, women I have worked with over the years on Lark Street, old buddies from my college hangout, The Griffin… Nearly everywhere I turned there was someone I knew. I had such a sense of community with these other parents who have made the decision to provide their children with a diverse, public education complete with the opportunities and imagined perils which come with an urban school district.
The parents I bumped into are, without exception, educated professionals – a doctor, a financial analyst, a teacher, a nurse practitioner, a librarian. I am certain we’ve each considered the challenges presented by a population of students with truly diverse economic, ethnic and educational backgrounds. We’re not sheltered people. As I walked through the hallways of a school which receives an inordinate amount of negative attention, I was struck by the positives – the teachers availing themselves of current technologies and methodologies, the students enthusiastically showcasing their talents, the parents proudly sharing information about their children with some of the other adults in their lives. While it isn’t the suburbs, it is no less a community. As a matter of fact, maybe it is more, because that Open House felt, to me, quite a bit like home.