Last night, I went to Camelot, and so did many of my teacher friends. Now, we didn’t think we were going to Camelot. We thought we were going to a retirement party for a fellow teacher who devoted over thirty years of his life to the children in our community. But as we honored him and told stories about the practical jokes he played on staff members, of his sense of humor with students and the high expectations he had for them, one thing became clear. Those of us who taught together at Bryant School for ten or fifteen magical years, starting in the mid 1980s, worked in Camelot.
Now, don’t get the wrong idea. Things weren’t perfect back then – not the administration, the faculty, the staff, the kids or the parents. We didn’t always agree with one another. We didn’t always like our job assignments. And we certainly didn’t realize what a great and wonderful gift we’d been given.
What we had was this: a faculty and staff who had high standards for students, put the needs of kids first, showed respect to the people in the building, and knew how to have fun. At least once a week someone brought goodies to the teacher’s lounge, and we exchanged recipes with abandon. At lunchtime that lounge, all five by ten feet of it, was the place to be. Sometimes, we vented and ranted about work, and sometimes we cried about life’s heartbreaks. But usually we talked and laughed so hard our sides ached.
Through it all, because of it all, we bonded in a sweet and unique way I’ve never experienced in any other work environment. Best of all, the camaraderie among us helped our students. Each afternoon, we went back to our classrooms smiling, able to give our students the positive encouragement they needed to succeed.
Like all good things, our Camelot came to an end as people retired and grade levels were moved to different locations because of building projects and new schools. Our beloved Bryant School will close at the end of this year. The classrooms and the tiny teacher’s lounge will be empty.
But the bonds forged there remain strong. Once in awhile, we have a Bryant reunion. Or a teacher retires and we gather to celebrate. We hug, we cry, we laugh, we smile. We realize, as we did last night, that “once once there was a spot, for one brief shining moment that was known as Camelot.”
As we go our separate ways, I whisper a prayer that somehow in some other workplace, that spirit is growing again. I hope that a new generation will one day also be able to say what we say each time we gather.
Once, we worked in Camelot.