It’s been 40 years since I finished my four years at Brooklyn Tech but it remains one of the pivotal experiences of my life. Oh there were both good and bad things that happened but I really only remember the good things. I still remember the pride of getting and wearing my heavy winter coat with the huge letters TECH on the back. Man I was proud of that. I was a Technite! I was part of something amazing. Tech was a second home to me. From eating in the cafeteria and tossing paper airplanes out the window – only now do I really understand why that drove teachers crazy to being a part of the track team. People are amazed when I tell them we practiced the pole vault on the roof. I still have dreams that take place at Tech. Even after all this time. I run into other Tech alumni from time to time. rare since I live in New England these days but it happens. Each one is family no matter when they graduated. Male, female (boy did that take a while to adjust to), black, white, yellow, what ever. They are Technites and there is a bond there.
A couple of years ago I had business in Brooklyn. I rolled into town early and decided to chance a visit to Tech. As I walked up to the building I went to enter the same door I had walked through for four years as a student. It was habit – it felt natural. Where else would I go in? To no ones surprise I was stopped and sent to a door on the far corner of the building so I could sign in. OK sad but that is the reality. I visit many schools all over the country and visitors always have to sign in. Though it was hard to think of being a visitor. Once there I had to show my ID and sign in. Also not atypical. As I said I visit a lot of schools. Having to show an ID is common though not always the case. I have visited schools where no one even checks the name I sign on the visitor register. And others where a visitor badge with my picture on it is printed out. Oh and I was told I needed an escort.
That was the worst. I had hoped to spend some time just wandering and perhaps talking to faculty. I have done that at other schools where I was not an alumni. Many schools do not require visitors be escorted. At other schools a volunteer student will show me around or to the even where I am speaking. But pretty often I am pointed in a direction and wander off. Not at Tech. Eventually a person from the alumni office showed up and showed me around a little. I was told I couldn’t go visit one classroom we passed that looked interesting. I was shown a few things – the auditorium for example. But we stayed in the halls and visited the alumni office. I felt rushed. I felt unwelcome – an intrusion. I felt like I shouldn’t feel like I belonged. There was no place for me here. I was not at home. I was a stranger.
It’s been a couple of years and I still think fondly of “my school” but I’m not sure that Tech of today is my school. Now some would say I don’t understand schools. But I do. I have taught in K-6 an K-8 schools. I taught for 8 years in a high school. I have been on a school board. I am on advisory boards for four different high schools. I visit schools all the time. I do understand. I just don’t think it is right and necessary or even good to treat all visitors as the enemy – as a threat – as guilty without proof. Alumni especially should be made to feel at home – like they are welcome.
I will not soon be back to visit Tech. I am not wanted there. My heart is broken.