Schools are, by nature, extraordinarily relational places. More than institutions of academic learning, schools shape students to be tomorrow's citizens, to be decent and engaged human beings, and to lead fulfilled lives. Educators cannot do this without the strong relationships they build with their students. That is how it is supposed to be, in the normal course of things. But that normal course of things has been thwarted, suddenly and completely.
And so, it is starting to sink in… this new normal, which feels not normal at all. On Monday morning, when I pulled up to my parking spot at school, the silence on campus was overwhelming. No hustle and bustle of teachers rushing to their classrooms, of parents, children by their side, hurrying to make it to the bleachers on time. Worse: no little ones skipping along, squinting against the Miami sun, ready for a day of learning and playing. No middle schoolers laughing, or upper schoolers bent over their work on the benches outside of Primary Hall. No good mornings, no smiles.
There is something that is fundamentally true about a schoolyard - it is meant for children, for young people, to congregate and play, unworried and free. A campus as silent as ours was yesterday, and is today and for the foreseeable future, is unnatural, and it has, in my mind, become the manifestation of a world off-kilter.
Many have written beautifully about how, in this time of unprecedented crisis, we have an opportunity to pause, to reflect, and to consider new ways of connecting. My writing to you is my attempt to do just that. I heard myself say this week, when I was on my third Zoom meeting in a row, “ I can’t catch my breath. As soon as we make a decision, more and different information comes through, making us reassess what we just decided!”
My own words stopped me in my tracks. It is not how I want myself, or anyone else, to feel or to go through the day. Yes, there is a new reality, and yes, it has parameters that are constantly shifting, making it hard to adapt to its contours. But while the world around us is swirling, and our anxiety is increasing by the hour or the day, we can hold fast to who we are, as individuals, and as a community. That shouldn’t change. In the midst of uncertainty, we can take care of ourselves, and one another, albeit from a distance. We can reveal ourselves to be the community we truly are: strong, kind, resilient.
I wish for all of our families, all of our students, and teachers, that in this new normal, we:
● Know that every one of us - from our little ones to the adults in their lives- is anxious and unsure, and we owe ourselves, and each other, patience and kindness.
● Know that we are doing the best we can to be students, parents, and teachers in a world foreign to us, for our assumptions of what “school” is and is supposed to be, are challenged.
● Take the time to express our thanks to teachers and parents for their hard work to make this new normal feel a little safer, a little more secure for our children.
● Take a moment to breathe, to center ourselves. Self-care is more important than ever. If you can, take a walk or go for a bike ride. Enjoy the simplicity of that diversion. In a world more complicated than ever before, it will still your heart, and calm your thoughts.
I likely won’t write to you every day, but I will stay connected to all of you, and welcome your reactions and thoughts.
Stay safe and healthy. That comes first.