I have two families. Not because of divorce, or remarriage. Not because I studied abroad and was taken in by a kindly pair of elderly Parisians. Not because I’m one of the fellows who will show up on a Dateline Mysteries episode, one spouse in Mississippi and another in Arizona.
I have two families, one at home, and one at Diegueño.
I haven’t always felt that sense of family at the place I earn my paycheck. Sometimes where I worked felt like a nice collection of professionals. Sometimes it felt like a team. Once it felt like a bad blind date.
It’s not just the amount of time I spend at Diegueño that makes this place feel like family; I’ve had jobs that required even more time on campus. The quality of the time I’m here, however, is rich. At Diegueño I spend many hours in classrooms and talking with amazing teachers and kids.
It’s the people here who show me that we’re more than just folks who work together.
The beginning of this feeling of family started over pancakes and coffee on our first day back from summer. As a staff we enjoyed breakfast together, an agenda free hour or so where we could look each other in the eyes and talk about our adventures over the weeks away from campus. The reality of our Diegueño family truly hit me midway through the morning when a teacher arrived who had experienced a family loss over the summer. His fellow teachers literally put their arms around him and held him close. Standing by the grill, spatula in hand, I knew I was witnessing love.
We added a dozen new staff members to Diegueño this school year, and the new alchemy of personalities reminded me of older and younger siblings, mostly getting along, understanding that we’re in it together, and at the end of the day looking out for one another.
The connections our staff enjoy extend beyond the school day, and include dinners together to commemorate milestones, baby showers, wedding planning, and even celebrations of life. Our teachers throw lunch parties for each other, coordinate for school dress up days, find quiet ways to support one another through the tough times, and celebrate each other when things are going well.
That sense of family extends to the kids as well. Certainly jostling and immaturity are part of our school; it’s middle school, after all, and I wouldn’t want to be educating an army of robots, but the quiet kindness I’ve seen kids show each other doesn’t cease to inspire me.
Both of my families have love, and stress, good times and bad. With both I know that the challenges that come our way are ones we can face optimistically, together.
It’s that word, together, that helps to make us a family.
And as we move forward in this glorious enterprise of teaching and learning, I don’t take for granted how fortunate I am to work with people I respect, care for, and consider family.
And we’ll be able to face it all, celebrating and supporting each other, leaning on one another and pushing against one another, and we will do it all together.