So a little girl born with an extra chromosome takes her cue from her father on Career Day at her school and pronounces German words beautifully for her classmates. She beams. The other first graders join in and imitate dad and daughter. The class teacher nods approval. None of the other kids was born with an extra chromosome, but they were just taught by the one who has Trisomy 21 or Down Syndrome. They also found out Ellen has two dads because they wanted to know why they see her come to school with and get picked up by Ben and me. The teacher, along with four other first-grade teachers, talked about families coming in all shapes and forms.
This is a true story, and it happened yesterday at Ellen’s school where she is more than holding her own. When the five classes of first graders found out that Ellen lives in two languages, they spoke proudly of their own accomplishments as speakers of Hawaiian, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, even Finnish! They applauded the guest speaker, me, who spoke to five different classes, all of which looked like they were from a glossy magazine setup for a photo shoot. This happened in a public school. I wanted to stay there forever.
To be sure, I talked about how I had been a lifelong learner and in schools as a student or teacher or administrator most of my years. I urged the kids to appreciate their teachers in all areas of their lives, to look for good role models, and to have fun deciding on their careers. For a few hours yesterday, the world seemed pretty great as I walked the two miles to my job from my daughter’s school, hoping Ellen and her classmates will become teachers, doctors, ambulance drivers, artists, poets, and maybe president! The future would be very bright with them leading it.