One of my favorite moments from yesterday was when Patricia Polacco reached into her red bag and unfurled the keeping quilt. The reaction from every educator present in Riverside Cathedral was the same – delighted oohs and ahs. All of us know the story, and have read it to our own children and our students more times than we can remember. The Smith family copy of The Keeping Quilt now lives in Room 202, and has been reached for and read again and again, a treasured and beloved story.
All the way back from Manhattan, after a day of crisscrossing 120th. Street from Riverside to the magnificent brownstone edifice that TCRWP calls home, I kept coming back to that moment and our collective delight in the keeping quilt. To Patricia’s family, the quilt represents family roots, traditions and stories. It tells of where they’ve journeyed from, who they have loved along the way, and how they have have celebrated new beginnings and even the letting go’s. Patricia’s family needs only to see the quilt and feel its familiar embrace to know, once again, the comfort of belonging, the feeling of being part of a firmly bonded tribe.
And it occurs to me that we teachers come to events such as the Saturday Reunion to feel just such a sense of being part of a firmly bonded tribe. We want to remember the roots, traditions and stories – to celebrate the best of our teaching practices, to learn about new beginnings and how to hang on to the best parts of the old ways. We want to feel the embrace of our own metaphorical keeping quilt, to know that we belong to a tribe that soldiers on sustained by all that connects us, sustains us, inspires us in these very difficult teaching times.
I am so grateful to all the presenters who shared their wisdom, but I am most grateful to all my fellow teachers who gave up their Saturday to fill a cathedral and a teaching college with their brave and joyous spirit. For a short time, we wrapped our selves in our keeping quilt to remember why we do what we do, and why this work matters. At the day’s end, we boarded buses, trains and airplanes, and journeyed back to our homes, ready to face what Monday brings: new mandates, new standardized tests, new modules, scripts, evaluations and directives. Teaching in public schools today is so very difficult. But, come Monday morning, we teachers still show up, ready to bring our best selves to the children we teach, ready to open our classroom doors and try, again, to remember the power and comfort of our keeping quilt.