An ICS welcome

"We're a bunch of oddballs," ICS principal Laurent Ditmann said when I met him last May. "Everyone here has a completely different story. We're really a bunch of eccentrics."

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"We're a bunch of oddballs," ICS principal Laurent Ditmann said when I met him last May. "Everyone here has a completely different story. We're really a bunch of eccentrics."

Coming from a former military historian who lapses regularly into battle metaphor, collects antique pocket watches, and has showed up to school dressed as a pirate, a pixie, and Ferdinand The Bull, that sounded ... plausible.

But it really hit home Monday (Aug.4), at the first staff meeting of the year. The gathering opened with teachers standing in a circle, learning a song from school counselor Peg Geronimo "about our magnificent community diversity."

The lyrics were: "I don't fit. Never have, never will. I don't fit - or ever even get close to it - but I know I belong."

It was true. And not just in the obvious way: the high proportion of staff and students who came to this country as refugees or immigrants. The whole school community is an uncommonly warm, welcoming, and delicious collection of characters. The day I walked in the door, I felt at home.

In any other place, this song would have bombed. Musically, it was tricky, and pitched too high, so it careened out of anybody's range. But Peg pressed gamely on, and people gave it their best shots, repeatedly, until they hit "belong." Then, they applauded her bravery, cheering and calling her name.

"So in other words," fourth grade teacher David Bellamy joked as the clapping wound down, "if you are a misfit, welcome to the club."

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