Celebrating Our Schools

   Recently my alma mater, my high school overseas, celebrated a milestone. 50 years as a school. The party was a good one by all accounts. There were people from everywhere; from long, long ago, together with current and more recent members of the community. It was a reunion and a celebration. While I wasn’t able to attend (I was visiting my new posting) a few things have popped out at me. Items I want to remember as a member of a current school hoping to make history:

Schools have changed, teaching and learning have changed, but it is still the enthusiasm and commitment of the people in the building that matters.

“We want to be a school that grows, a school that transforms and changes. We want our school to excel and prepare.”

We tend to talk about schools like they are alive. The personification of the place is natural but misses the point. It isn’t the school doing the heavy lifting; it is the people inside the buildings.

Business (of which education is a part) is beginning to value the effect the people have on the place. It isn’t new information. However when schools can pick from a plethora of initiatives aimed at an outcome, it is important to remember that there are people doing the work, in the moment. Those people, how they feel, what they think, why they do what they do matter long after the end of one unit, or year.

If a school were alive, it would be a grandparent to some children. Teachers’ kids. Our double connection to a school is important to us as human beings and can and should be celebrated.

My husband also attended ISKL, graduating with me in 1990. However, his parents worked for an oil company. Outside of school, his connections were often with families from his dad’s work. They have had reunions and celebrations of their own. For him, the school was a place where he went to have fun, be with friends and learn.

For me, the daughter of teachers, the school wasn’t a place, it was a second home. My sister and I, like other teacher kids, lived there. We were the first to arrive each morning and the last to leave many evenings. Over the summer, we worked at the school, helping our parents prepare their rooms or ready materials. As a group,  teachers’ kids are highly connected to the staff of the school. Not only were our teachers our teachers, they were also our friends, and in many ways, our family.

It didn’t surprise me to see that a great number of the people who made the trip back to the school for the reunion were teachers’ kids. Recognizing the longevity of that group is important to a schools’ history.

Looking back and celebrating where you have come from, and helping every member of the existing team feel connected to that history, makes transient people feel connected.

So why wait 50 years! Most schools have celebrations like this for big milestones, but with our turnover- every year should be put into a larger context.

People (again- mostly teacher kids) posted pictures from when they were there- in the 1960s, 70s, 80s and beyond. The pictures reminded me how much it took for our parents (the teachers) to live away and abroad. Knowing how it was, gives us a sense of responsibilty to keep it moving forward.

Having an international school reach the 50-year mark is a celebration for all of us committed to teaching and learning overseas. It celebrates the work we do, the children and families we serve and the cross-cultural connections we have provided.

Here is to the next 50 years!

About Jen Munnerlyn

Jen Munnerlyn is the Elementary Principal at the American School of Warsaw. Her international experience began back in 1980 when her parents first started teaching overseas. Jen blogs about her own experiences as a Third Culture Kid, the adventures of being the mother of a TCK, and about elementary education in an international school setting. Her picture book The Adventure Begins, about the first day at an international school, is a favorite among adults and students abroad.
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