A girl from the bucolic hills of Virginia (where there are cars) but who now lives in New York City (where there are buses and trains) is sent by her administrators to Brooklyn–by train, by herself, and in the rain.
She takes the wrong train, takes the right train, walks (in the rain) to the address that the blue dot on her iPad map directed her to, and then stares up at a sign that says “Francis Scott Key Middle School.”
“Oh no,” she thinks. “I’m at the wrong building.”
But then a security guard appears and says, “What are you looking for?”
The girl who has taken wrong trains and traversed Brooklyn (in the rain) can’t, at this point, even remember the name of the place she is trying to find. But she is told that there are 4 different schools in this one building, and a middle school is not one of them. That went defunct years ago, but the sign was never taken down.
As the girl is trying to pull up her email for information, she tells the security guard that she is there to observe a College Now teacher for City University of New York.
The security guard looks at her, looks at her very wet iPad (because she left her umbrella in her office, even though she knew it was raining) and says, “Hope you didn’t ruin that iPad. But even if you did, what do you care? Anyone who is here to observe a teacher must have money. Lots of money. So you can just get yourself another one.”
At that moment the girl from Virginia is feeling very homesick. She doesn’t remember it EVER raining in Virginia. And even if it sometimes does, it is a soft, nonjudgmental, bucolic rain.
The security guard escorts her to the classroom. She finds a seat at the back, and her jacket drips a small puddle onto the floor.
But it takes a total of one minute for the girl from Virginia to completely forget about the wrong trains, the right trains, inappropriate economic discussions, and even the rain.
She forgets because she is watching a master teacher engage his students in a NYC public high school in innovative, energetic ways.
The poem the class is discussing is Langston Hughes’ “America.” She listens as students read with voice and vigor and then as they take turns relating the poem to the America of today.
And she thinks that effective teaching is effective teaching—no matter where it occurs–whether in Virginia, in New York City, in other parts of America, or for that matter, anywhere else in the world.
And in that space and that place of teaching and learning, she feels completely at home.
Later, as the girl from Virginia leaves the school and walks toward a coffee shop, admiring the brownstone buildings she is passing, she notices that the rain has turned soft—not a bucolic soft, but a Brooklyn soft.
Which, after all, might be the same thing.