Monday, May 26, 2014

The People In Your Neighborhood

 Oh, who are the people in your neighborhood? 

Some of you will recognize the line from a song that Bob McGrath often sang on Sesame Street. It’s been kicking around in my head this weekend as I reflect on the conclusion to my work with the educators in Fontana USD. I had the pleasure of working with the group for thirty-six days over the last year and appreciate all of the learning that took place. The ELA design team members (3-4 teachers from each grade level) were very thoughtful and worked incredibly hard during our time together. I was touched by their support and generosity on our last day and was tickled when the grade four team showed up in these shirts:

The local leaders included two teachers-on-assignment and a district person and I can’t thank Jackie, Jeanette, and Tammy enough for their amazing support on all of the days I was in the district. These types of long-term contracts also mean a lot of travel and hotel nights that brought some familiar faces into my life on each trip. Let me introduce some of them to you:

Shawn and Miss Robin – these two work for the Budget Car Rental outlet in the Ontario airport. Shawn always had my paperwork ready when I arrived which expedited the process. When you arrive late at night, every minute saved seems like a gift. Miss Robin generally was the person who took the car back in and was very efficient and ensured I got to the shuttle bus before it left. She always had a quick story and a smile. On my last visit she let me know she was working her last shift, as she needed a job that took her away from all of the outdoor heat.

Michelle, Vivianna, and Arturo - these three work at the front desk of the Hilton Garden Inn in Fontana. The two ladies always seemed to be at the desk when I arrived (usually a Sunday night) and always greeted me with a smile and warm welcome. They assisted me whenever I needed copying, mailing, or scanning to be done. Michelle told me about being one of seven daughters and we shared a laugh about what that must have been like for her Dad. Vivianna actually apologized for missing one of my arrivals. Her reason? She took her son to Disneyland for his birthday and added an extra day to the trip. Arturo always was at the desk when I departed and he never failed to wish me a great day and express how he looked forward to my next visit.

Diana and Michelle 2 – these two were always my dinner servers. I think I went through the hotel menu three times and they always let me know what was good that night (or what to avoid). I also was able to just order off the menu and able to score the best screen to watch hockey (a rare treat when I’m travelling in the US). They shared stories about their work and how much they enjoyed the interactions. It was evident from my vantage point that they really meant it.

Dave – this man sat outside the entrance to a shopping mall that I often ran by jingling his coffee cup looking for spare change. Every time I ran by he had encouraging words or a question to ask. I planned my last run to go by his spot at the regular time and was disappointed to not have the chance to say goodbye.

Lucy and Ingemar – this husband and wife team own and operate the restaurant that was just across the street from the board office and that became my regular lunch hangout. My first few visits were spent sampling various items on the menu before Ingemar suggested I try the carne asada tacos. Three small tacos and rice were the perfect midday pick-me-up and I was hooked for every subsequent visit. I would hardly have set a foot in the door when Ingemar would already start preparing my lunch and Lucy had my drink (pina) and bill ready. My last lunch there was a nice moment as we all shook hands and said our goodbyes and shared mutual appreciation.

Travel (flights and hotels) has become the least enjoyable part of this work. While I realize how fortunate I am to have this role, it really is about the connections I make with people I’m working with and the people who help to make the necessary evil of travel all the more manageable. And by the way, all of these people that I’ve met along the journeys – their future forms are sitting in your classrooms today. It’s why relationships matter in schools today and in the next steps our students take in their lives.

Say, who are the people in your neighborhood?

The people that you meet each day.

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