This past February my family and I were fortunate enough to experience another parade. We had been to many parades before; the Thanksgiving Parade in downtown Detroit and Grosse Pointe are staple events in our community. It was always fun for everyone, no matter the weather. However, this particular parade was far different than any of the others. This one was at Disney's Animal Kingdom in Florida and our daughters, aged thirteen and six, had never been. It seemed to us that the level of excitement seemed impossible to be elevated any further; never had we been more wrong...
A wave, a smile, a Two Teacherz thumbz-up from us and the action was reciprocated by the bystanders along the parade route; in retrospect it seemed curious at first. After some reflection and discussion about our experience of having 30,000+ total strangers interact with us a reason as to why we connected with the people in the crowd became evident to me and my wife later that evening back in our room. I'll remember the moment for the rest of my life. Nothing was said, we just looked at each other and tears came to us both simultaneously. We are the "average" American Family; a husband, a wife and two daughters. The crowd identified with us and were happy for us. We were them and they were us.
Parade participants and bystanders know no racial and/or religious differences, there is no socioeconomic heirarchy and there are no predisposed stereotypes of others. Regardless of the event; the parade brings out the very best in everyone. There's a common ground, everyone at a parade is there to cheer. A parade brings out the very best in people and society; simply put: it's a magical event.
As surreal as our experience was to be IN the parade it was overshadowed by our experience OUTSIDE of that arena. The "Parade" made us realize how everyone in the world isn't different. We are actually very similar. People from all over the world were at the Animal Kingdom that day and they found joy with my family because we were on a float and we were like them. There was no jealousy, there was just joy. This experience had special resonance to us because we are both educators. Each and everyday in our classrooms our goal is to re-create that parade experience for our students. Teachers command a float everyday. Their goal is to place each and every student on the platform of that float to experience what my family did at Disney's Animal Kingdom. Every educator knows that a wave, a smile and simple joyous gesture can transform a young persons day; maybe even their life. In the world of education everyday is a parade. Every classroom in America is a melting pot of humanity. The value of what is learned in the classroom is not reflective of a test score or a grade; rather it's reflective of the message from the parade. Each and every student is special, unique and as such we celebrate our different cultures, race, and religions because we are similar in the fact that ONLY TOGETHER will we continue to strive to make America the Magical Kingdom on Earth. This is what is learned in America's classrooms. That day in February at the Animal Kingdom solidified further to me and my family the unmistakable fact that there's so much good in the world; and it only takes a wave or smile to someone else to open it up. Make everyday of your life a parade: support teachers, for they are working tirelessly ALL year to allow that special, life-altering, magical event to take place for each and every student under their care.