You can’t go home again, or at least that’s what I’ve heard. Throughout my life I’ve had many opportunities to “go home” again, and I can honestly say, for the most part I’m glad I went. Oh, there were the times that broke my heart, but not because things had changed. I had changed; I was looking at “home” with new eyes. And this home place wasn’t actually my home, it was a place I loved, or people I loved, or a vacation spot, or a favorite activity. Nearly every time I returned, I was able to appreciate it or them in a new way, with new eyes.
Recently I had another opportunity to “go home” to the school where I taught for 25 years. As a retired teacher and now visiting author, I was invited to speak at Forest Elementary in Williamsville. I’ve done it before, but it was different this time, and I suppose, so was I.
We’ve all heard the saying, There’s no I in team, and this is as close as I can get to describing how it felt to “go home again”.
I was buzzed in through the front doors, made my way to the office with my trusty rolling tote behind me, and was greeted with the smiles and hellos from the second-to-none secretaries, Teri and Marlene. Without fanfare, Mr. Wind, the principal, came in, welcomed me back, and told me to have a good time. Within moments, Pete, the head custodian, ushered me to the auditorium, where I would be doing my thing for the next few hours. It was newly renovated and sparkling clean like the rest of the building. Everything I had requested was there, ready and waiting. Pete assured me that he’d be around if I needed anything.
Next came Melissa, the Media Specialist who had arranged for my visit. She stayed by my side throughout the morning, taking on the role of the Wizard of Oz behind the curtains, making sure my visual aids were in peak performance mode.
So much was the same, but so much was different. As the teachers came in with their classes I felt the familiar tug of friendships worth having; knowing that these were people who had made my days as a teacher, rich. Their hugs and their words reminded me that yes, you can go home again.
Let us not forget the reason I was there in the first place – the students. Obviously, they were a different cast of characters than the hundreds and hundreds of students I had taught over the years, but some things never change. There were still the ones who competed for the arm rests, there were still the ones who held wads of crumpled tissues – discarded dams that held back runny noses. There were some who hung onto my every word, and some who waited patiently for me to break out my Gibson guitar and rock the place … sadly that never happened.
What did happen though, was a window opened that allowed me to see the most respectful, enthusiastic, appreciative young audiences I could have hoped for. Their questions were thoughtful, their laughter was genuine, and their appreciation was impressive: lots of high fives, many fist bumps, and as they filed out even, thank you after thank you, after thank you.
At Forest Elementary there was no I in team. They all were working toward the same goal – to provide a safe, warm, inspiring, cooperative environment for learning. Not only was I able to “go home again”, I was able to play with a team that was better than ever.
In February 2018, this essay appeared in The Buffalo News My View column.