Tonight I am going to my old high school’s Christmas party. No doubt I will drink too much and require a lot of coffee, gatorade, and bacon tomorrow morning. That’s how we do it.
I worked at Cobble Hill School of American Studies for 10 years. I got a job there after teaching one year in a middle school in Bushwick; my school was shut down, I was released from my appointment, and I found a new job. I became a teacher at Cobble Hill. I wanted to teach when I got the job, but it was my ten years in that building that made me a teacher.
It was also at Cobble (as we lovingly call it) that I became an adult. I started teaching there at age 27. I had just met my husband. I finished two degrees while working there. I experienced 9/11 in my classroom and those hallways. I got married. I lost one pregnancy and had two babies while teaching there. I came to work the day after my good friend Eric died and cried every free period in the teacher’s lounge. I celebrated the ups and downs of my life and of the lives of my my colleagues there. I grew up.
The best part of my job at Cobble was the fact that my colleagues were a family. I used to think that it was like that everywhere, in every school, but it’s not. Cobble has a unique love between its faculty and staff, and I am not sure where it stems from. Perhaps from the fact that it’s a hard school to work in, therefore we all bonded like soldiers during war time. Perhaps it’s a unique blend of colorful characters across departments that created a community. Perhaps it’s our propensity to go drinking together. I don’t know, but I do know I felt supported emotionally and truly loved by my colleagues while working at that school. I miss that and them constantly. I am not sure I will ever find that in a workplace again.
I was talking with a colleague about tonight’s party and asking who would be coming, running through the list of the usual suspects. Another colleague whom I have known forever will not be there. His wife, who suffers from extreme epilepsy and can’t work, was just diagnosed with a brain tumor. They do not know if it is cancerous. They have two little boys around the age of my kids. My heart lurched. Then she explained that this teacher had taken time off, but instead of him losing pay and dealing with the bureaucratic horrors of FMLA, five teachers (including the Principal and the Assistant Principal of Organization!) were all covering his schedule for six weeks so he could be home and still collect his salary.
That almost made me cry with pride that those individuals were my colleagues.
That is love. That is family. That is community.
If we want to model compassionate adult relationships for our students, that is how adults in a real school should act. Mother Theresa said, “What can you do to promote world peace? Go home and love your family.”
Cobble will forever be one of my homes. It will always be my family. And I am a better person for having worked there.