Today, CHS had its first annual community meeting. This is exactly what it sounds like; the whole student body gets together to talk about what’s going on in the community, to get to ask questions of the student government and the faculty, and to talk about what’s working – and, perhaps more importantly, what’s not.
Because this was the first community meeting of the year, we started this afternoon’s agenda with a “go around the circle and introduce yourself” sort of activity, where we were asked to tell the room why we decided to come to CHS and then say something about the person sitting next to us. We did this to give the new students a feel for the idea that everyone is involved in this – that every voice matters.
The girl who happened to be sitting next to me is one of my favorites (I know, I know, but I really do love this girl). This lovely young lady – let’s call her Leslie – is quiet and unassuming, but she doesn’t miss a thing. She was in my freshman class last year, and I was consistently and deeply impressed by the quality of her thinking. Add to that that she’s one of my favorite ‘light bulb kids,” when she gets something, her entire being radiates with the discovery.
Leslie explained that she was at CHS because she wanted a school that focused on the arts and had a small, personalized feel to it. Then, she gestured to me and said, “this lady sitting right here is Mrs. Chili, and she blew my mind last year. She blew my mind, and then reshaped it to what it is today, and I’m grateful.”
I nearly burst into tears.
THAT’S why I’m at CHS. I’m at CHS because I get to be a mentor to students and not a police officer. I get to guide students, one by one, along their paths to discovery, not herd them along in a lowing crowd to a predetermined pen. I get to interact with the kids; I get to know their names and their favorite things to do and their special talents (and their own, unique little idiosyncrasies), and I get to really connect with them. I get to form relationships. I get to laugh with my kids. I get to care about them and, sometimes, to genuinely love them.
I think that, were I in a traditional school with endless cycles of jam-packed classrooms and standardized curricula, I would be having a very different – and completely unacceptable – experience (if, in fact, I would be able to exist in that situation at all). Today, I am offering gratitude to the Universe for getting me here.