In the comments to yesterday’s post about my family’s traditional holiday wrapping paper fight, my preschool education blogging colleague Deborah Stewart wrote:
. . .except for our passion for early childhood, sometimes I think you and I couldn’t be more different . . . I throw the gift wrap paper in a big trash bag as soon as the gifts start to open. Perhaps I need to loosen up a bit, you think?
She meant it light-heartedly and I suspect we have much more in common than a commitment to our profession, but I found myself reflecting on the great and wonderful truth wrapped like a gift in Deborah's words during last night’s 3-5 class’ monthly parent meeting.
For as long as I’ve been involved with cooperative preschools, both as a parent and teacher, our December meeting has been short on business and long on socializing. Last night we expeditiously dispensed with the formalities, filled up our plates with goodies, corked the wine (or alternatively, poured out marguerites prepared by our gracious host Karl) and reconvened to share our holiday stories. I look forward to this every year as parents take turns talking about their family’s holiday traditions. Almost everyone in the room has been at Woodland Park for at least two school years now, and many for far longer than that. We already know each other quite well, at least through our children, and this community is a safe, even loving, place to share.
Moving around the circle, literally laughing and crying, often at the same time, it was a genuine celebration of our both our similarities and differences. Some of us celebrate big, while others strive to keep it small. Some told stories of triumph, while others talked of struggle. We heard about traditions that go back for generations, others that are brand new, and some that are still in the aspirational stages. We learned about places as far flung as Belgium and the Phillipines.
Deborah’s words kept coming back to me, “ . . . (we) couldn’t be more different.” And that, I think, is the great gift of our school. It’s demonstrably true that we could not be more different, yet we all wound up in Karl’s living room together sharing food, wine, and the raising of our children. We couldn’t be more different, yet as Amanda said, “I trust everyone in this room with my child.” We couldn’t be more different, yet we come together day-after-day to build community for the sake of our children.
We come from such different places. We have different values, personalities, temperaments, parenting styles, and dreams. Instead of setting those differences aside, we instead bring them into the classroom with us to teach one another’s kids. At its core, it is this that makes our cooperative preschool work: this incredible diversity of caring teachers in the children’s lives.
Far too often we see differences as a point of contention and even conflict, yet right there in Karl’s crowded living room, we convened as living proof that given time for trust to develop, the differences among us become our community's strength.
As Jaimee, a former and perhaps future elementary school teacher, said, “People talk about school readiness. This,” indicating all of us, “is what leads to school readiness.”
We couldn’t be more different. That is our gift to one another.