Saturday, March 8, 2014

SOLSC #8 What is community?

I am posting every day during March as part of the annual "Slice of LifeChallenge for Two Writing Teachers.  Check out their website for lots more reflections on teaching.


This past week, our preschool families hosted a dinner get-together at a local Salvadoran restaurant, Judy's. The children were surprised and excited that all the preschool teachers were there, too, and they enveloped us with hugs. (Don't they live and sleep at school? What are they doing outside of the building?) The preschoolers danced under a disco ball; we ate delicious pupusas, quesadillas, plantains; everyone mingled and talked. It was very low-key and absolutely delightful.

In the early evening light, I walked up the hill to the Columbia Heights metro station,
thinking about how comfortable I am in this neighborhood, this city.

I wonder

What does it mean to be connected?
What is community?
What makes a neighborhood?

For the past two years, my husband and I have driven to a nearby metro parking lot and then commuted by metro and foot to work. I have an energizing fifteen minute walk to my school each morning from the metro station.

This walking has helped me feel connected to the neighborhood.

The morning walk and its regular sights -

The newspaper man at the top of the escalator, "Have a good day! Don't do anything I wouldn't do!";

Men at the community park, as old as my father, laughing and socializing together;

Moms and Dads with children by the hand, waiting at bus stops and hurrying across intersections, all heading in different directions (the neighborhood school is a disappearing concept in DC - I think, how challenging this must be for families, figuring out where your children should go);

Cyclists pedaling down 14th street, much too fast for me;

High schoolers in their khaki uniform pants, walking in clumps, trying to make the 8am school bell;

The nanny with the double stroller, pushing up the hill...wonder where she heads each day?;

The crossing guard, giving a happy wave, "Have a good day!"

Construction workers on the corner, directing trucks in to the site at the start of the day, reassuring me that it is safe to pass;

The food delivery truck for the gourmet restaurant, coming down the neighboring alley;

Children and backpacks, hurrying into our school,

Happily beginning the day.

I walk these same streets with the children each day,
around the immediate city blocks, to the playground, or to Meridian Park,
guiding (and tugging) the children along on a walking rope.

All this walking has helped me feel connected to the neighborhood.

Our public charter school is moving to a new, permanent location next year, in another part of the city. I will get to know another part of Washington, D.C. There's a real possibility that I will be driving to the new location, parking at the school.

Will I feel as connected?

What does it mean to be connected?
What is community?
What makes a neighborhood?


Just for fun, check out this Washington, D.C. version of Pharrell Williams "Happy" - guaranteed to make you smile!

Clap along if you feel like a room without a roof
Clap along if you feel that happiness is the truth

(A daily share by preschoolers in their own words)

A Story Collage by Bernie

Once upon a time, there was a cruise ship with a blue dining room. And there was a sailboat and there were two pirate ships that were sailing to the cruise ship with the blue dining room and trying to wreck it. Them wreck it. The pirates wreck it. And the cruise ship sinks with all of the bashed in people that’s up in the front of the boat that’s making it leave the dock and to pick people at the dock, too. And make it go backwards, too. And they have to go to the hospital. There’s a hospital seaplane that comes and picks up all the hurt people. And to check if they are okay. The End


  1. Love that the pirates made their way into a story! And love the story about your neighborhood. The dinner sounds wonderful, always nice to see parents and students in a different light. And you really wrote a nice tribute to this neighborhood, Maureen. I bet you will miss the walk when you move again. I'm surprised you are moving again. Didn't your school just change locations not too long ago? I guess this time it will have more land though, if you also have a parking lot? I enjoyed hearing about your walk!

    1. You are right that we moved just recently - two years ago. This is the nature of public charter schools in D.C., Linda - we rent space in a variety of non-school buildings, for as long as we can. Most move several times. It is an added challenge! We are super excited to have been awarded a closed D.C. public school - a real school building, unused at present. It will be our permanent home - so, our last move!

  2. I often take the same walk you do each day and I notice that the newspaper man who say's "God Bless" and "Don't do anything I wouldn't do." I notice the crossing guard and the khaki kids and the construction but I clearly missed so much. I miss the nanny, cyclist, and older men enjoying each others company. I usually have my head phones blasting and I am in deep thought day ahead. I wonder if I just stopped and paid attention, if I too would feel more connected, more apart of the community. I drove to my last school every day and ironically, I was more aware and felt like a part of the community. I think that say's, I don't pay attention very well when driving! Lol But, I hope it's a good sign that even though we will drive, we will feel connected.

    1. Thank you - it is a good sign that even though you drove, you felt connected!

  3. What a thought? Literally walking the neighborhood to feel connected to it. I do think it is important. In a school I worked at before my kids were born, we focused on subject or theme for the year with our buddy classes. The most exciting were those that connected us to the cultures of our families, pot lucks where traditional foods were shared and resident artists who taught us Latin Dance/ Music (for instance) I really enjoyed how full of images this piece was! Enjoyed each and every one.