In my office, I have a picture painted by Olivia Bloch ’19 when she was a fifth grader. The picture represents Ripken’s first great escape from campus when he was found begging for food at Elderberry's. There are many of you who do not remember Ripken, but, like Gracie, he was an important part of the North Cross family. And the concept of family is what I want to talk about.
We use the analogy of school as family in so many of our advertisements and in our conversations. Maybe it is time to think about what it really means. Obviously, it does not mean that we are as close as your real family, nor that we are as like-minded as they, nor that we will remain as close after graduation as a family. I think the metaphor works because, in comparison to your usual school experience, North Cross is more like a family.
But I do not stand alone among our faculty and staff in the closeness I feel for the North Cross family. Sr. Douglas works well beyond his job description to make our campus beautiful. He is the great uncle always puttering around in the garage. Ms. Cook tends our family garden, bringing you vegetables like your aunt who lives down the street. Coach Lawrence is your dad’s best friend who teaches you baseball because your dad always gets too agitated when you don’t do things right the first time. Ms. Anne is the mom of your friend who gives you snacks even when you know it is too close to dinnertime. Ms. McGinn is your mom’s cousin who comes to town and makes you feel more grown up than you really are at age 13.
Think about how our school runs from 3 years of age to twelfth grade. Our Middle Schoolers watch our Upper Schoolers for cues on cool behavior. Our seniors have buddies in the four-year-old class, and when you see them together at Halloween, at the Fat Pencil ceremony, on sports senior days, or at graduation, you recognize that special bond. They are like brothers and sisters, this analogy obviously breaking down when they start dating in upper school …
I could go on but this column is already starting to sound like a bad country song. It just needs a chorus of “That’s what I like about Sundays,” but, you know, the Norman Rockwell thing isn’t all that bad. We live in a really awkward time, with uncertainty all around us, and being able to have our kids in an environment where they think of school as an extension of family is a blessing.
So, when we celebrate the birth of a teacher’s child, or mourn the loss of one of our own, or attend a wedding of a staff member, we must recognize that North Cross is a great big, extended family—albeit not as close as your family, but one close enough to recognize that the loss of a puppy dog is a big deal, and for that I am most thankful.