"Good evening parents. On behalf of our teachers, staff, and faculty, I'd like to welcome you all to the Sinope Charter School of Manhattan."
It's important to have a ritual, I read once. Something to do at the beginning to calm nerves and steady yourself before any kind of performance. Whether it's on a stage or at an interview is all the same.
“It will be my distinct pleasure to open our doors to you on our first annual Family Night, and introduce many of the people who make this school and community the outstanding model of academia it is today.”
Mine is a Redbull. At the start of any speech or talk I've ever given I'll open one, take one long, single drink, set it down then hit the ground with whatever topic running. And I don't even like Red Bull, to tell you the truth. Have never even had it outside of that precise context. It's a habit I started in college for an Art of the Argument class, but now when I click that little tin can open and I hear the taurine tssss, it triggers something in me that signals to be ready.
"The first question on your mind, undoubtedly, is ‘what makes this school any better, any different, than all the others in New York’?"
The idiosyncrasies of conversation are lost on me. I can never tell what measure of an empathy or emotion is enough, and I doubt myself and other people far too much to ever make a pass at passing off as normal. There are angles, ulterior and motive behind even the smallest smile. And though I'm not looking for signs I am unfortunately intuitive. So if you ask me how my weekend was I''ll always answer - 'Why?'
"Our response is simple - because we want the best, not only for your children, but for our community. The decisions and steps we take today shape tomorrow’s individuals. As far off as that time may seem, our students will one day be contributing members of this community: burning the midnight oil in an office by midtown, owning the businesses that make this city amazing, sitting right where you are with their children…”
"The FUCK you will fucking say that fuck fucker what!!!!"
Screams Sandra, arguing with a sign outside. Sandra, I think her name is. A neighborhood local everybody knows got laid off in the 00's, fell into the bottle, landed on a needle, then tumbled into a whirlwind of anything she could get her hands on. A distraction I didn't plan on but made the most of.
“….or helping Sandra to her feet whenever she gets tired of yelling. And regardless of their future taking them far from New York, whereever they rise in life is dependent on us as their educators, and you as their parents to do our best, now, so that they can be their best later on."
The human experience is more relatable than people. I have nothing in common with the common- I don't care about baby pictures, what school your kid is going to, your favorite song, wine, or restaurant. I don't have the patience or capacity to find riveting how this one time at dinner the waiter had the nerve to put onion in your bolognese when you specifically asked him not to. Given the choice between you or the adult woman arguing with a stop sign, I'm much more curious about her side of the argument.
"That was really great," a parent says to me after. "Before tonight I always thought you were so..."
But give me a crowd and I am in my element- directing thought, coordinating conversation. None of the muddle and mire of social cues or normatives weighing words down. Discussion in its highest form- about something, even if that something is something I think is bullshit. And maybe it's the narcissist in me, quite in love with the sound and baritone of my own voice. Perhaps I fell into the trap of a standup comic that never grabbed a mic, the class clown that can't get enough of all that attention because daddy never hugged me so I need the validation.
"Unapproachable, " I said, and pretended to laugh. "I know. Please don't feel that way. I'm here for whatever you need."
"You know I was thinking of applying to Aquinas but it's so far and my husband doesn't have time to take him since he works late and I'm with the baby so-...."
Outside I can still hear Sandra yelling, and deep inside my bones, I wish I was yelling with her.