One of the many things about being in education is that there's a first day of school and a last day of school. The opening and closing of the school year is always an exciting time and provides the unique opportunity for goal setting and reflection, a luxury not found in other professions.
With the end of the 2017-2018 academic year nearly upon us, I've spent some time looking back at this past year.
The crux of Mr. Dorey's opening day message to both students and staff encouraged all members of our school community to take care of one another, and I've been thinking about the many different shapes that can take and how I've observed people engaging in large and small acts of caring, supportive and kind behavior. I've seen student clubs organizing hot chocolate service on cold mornings, random Post-It Notes decorating lockers with different messages of goodwill, students reaching out to trusted adults when concerned about friends, and even surprise tokens and notes of appreciation from "Operation Stargirl", which remained anonymous until Ms. Baker recognized it as a class project.
Though there were many, many creative displays of kindness, Mr. Dorey's message was recently challenged by anti-semitic graffiti found on a campus athletic storage container. This hateful and hurtful act is in direct opposition of what we value at ABRHS and serves as a reminder of the importance of compassion and empathy. While I was reconciling my own emotional response to the graffiti- and, if I may expose my honest vulnerability, that included sadness, anger, fear, and even feelings of helplessness in the moment - the conversations had with students and staff we invited to lunch discussions in the aftermath reminded me of the importance of Mr. Dorey's opening message that, though simply stated, is so profound. Those who participated in the open discussion reassured one another, learned from one another, shared their own responses to the graffiti, and empowered each other to act against hate and support and even celebrate one another's differences.
As a school district we have made a collective commitment to wellness and have made strides in promoting mental health awareness and reducing the stigma of mental health challenges, and we've broadened the conversation around life balance and wellness. Of course, there is more work to be done and progress to be made. In reflecting on the hate speech and inspiring responses from students and staff, I recognize that cultural proficiency is an integral part of making people feel safe, supported, and well. From the lunch conversations with students and staff and my more casual chats with students and colleagues, I'm grateful for the enthusiastic willingness to do more, learn more, and talk more about fostering a more inclusive community. I'm very excited for the work we will be doing towards one of next year's school improvement goals around equity, diversity, and inclusion!
On behalf of the entire administrative team, I wish you all a wonderful summer full of respite, enjoyment and enriching experiences. I'll leave you with a friendly reminder.....remember to take care of one another.