Eating Cake

Thursday, BT had a party–cake and coke only–for two ladies who were retiring, after having worked at BT their entire careers. I’ve liked BT staff for many reasons. For one thing, they know how to cheerfully say good morning. That’s very important. Also, they like to collaborate. Although BT is a low achieving school, in their efforts in improvement, they’ve become truly inter-disciplinary and collaborative. For instance, they have school wide reading and math days, when students work for an hour in all classrooms, be it history, math, or PE or any thing else.

As a Muslim going into a place which has not seen Muslims, or new immigrants, I found the place to be refreshingly welcoming. In DuPage County, where I’ve often been in classrooms over the last year, it’s often difficult for both staff and students to be able to deal normally and courteously. And DuPage has a lot of Muslims. Maybe there’s more tolerance in Cook county water–albeit through rusty pipes.

But, sitting with the retirees and other faculty—and I went only because my cooperating teacher insisted that I should—I felt so out of place. One retiree was telling of supposed scandals in the last thirty years at the school, all of which seemed implausible. Everyone was trying desperately to be “in”. It was so horrendously phony! A few wise souls–mostly people with whom I had worked closely– were looking around silently amused. I tried to feel comfortable, not caring about others around me… But my seat was in the center, so that was difficult. At one point, several people were out of their seats throwing out their plates. I took the opportunity to slip out.

I try not to be Holden Caufield. For one thing, I’m twenty four. I try to take responsibility for my world, rather than seek to become a self-interested recluse. Secondly, I believe that most people are essentially good. Rather than being a lonesome soul trying to catch children before they fall—Holden’s vision—I’d much rather work with others to care for children and make a better world for them. But, witnessing collective self-deception, such as the cake/retirement party, I feel incredibly lonely.

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