I have been inspired lately by the meditations of the late Richard Wagamese, an Ojibway from the Wabaseemoong First Nation of Canada. His storytelling is one of Canada’s many gifts to the world. This morning his words spoke directly to me: I sit and contemplate where the words will lead me today…the magic that is storytelling propelling us forward….and the peace of words planted in the rich and fertile landscape of the page.
His comforting words give me pause, among the noise that is the world we live in right now. I am so grateful for the moment of silence on my porch, save the lone Osprey, of a nest of four, waiting to join his family on their long journey south. The Chester River is very calm and my soul is nourished by its glass-like surface. River, our black lab, is peacefully asleep beside me. Wagamese tells me this morning that there is such a powerful eloquence in silence, and I could not agree more.
Sometimes people just need to talk, they need to be heard. Especially now. I, myself, have been writing less this summer and talking more. Maybe this is the wrong approach. Returning to my medium of choice, I will try and share my story of the summer of 2020. A summer of great disappointment due to the cancellation of our family vacation in Montana due to COVID, and a summer of deep reflection, as well as swift action as we plan to return to the Kent School campus for in-person instruction on September 8.
Trust me when I say that opening Kent School is not political. Even though I have been hurtfully accused of this recently. We are following the health metrics where we live and following all of the guidelines established for schools. There are three main reasons we can return safely to campus – our incredible outdoor spaces, our large classrooms, and our small community. The beauty of independent schools is that we operate independently. Never has this meant more to me.
Children need to be in school for their health and well-being. Parents need their young children in school so they can work. We all know that nothing can replace the rich interactions between teacher and student that happen in the classroom. And, we all have to learn to live responsibly with COVID. I have lost a lot of sleep this summer. I am very mindful of the fact that there are no zero-risk scenarios, and that I have the lives of our students and teachers, and the livelihood of our employees and families in my hands. But, I also believe that the layers of mitigation we have put in place will minimize virus transmission in a region with a small number of active COVID cases.
I am trying to work more on my listening skills. My first reaction is generally to counter, defend, or correct. Maybe that is not my role in this complicated time. Maybe my role is to wait in silence for the talker to say all of the words they need to say. Maybe articulating their feelings helps them come to their own decision. I can not tell a family whether or not they should send their child back to school in two weeks. Each families’ circumstances are unique, and each parent’s thought process is different. These are personal family decisions, made with great thought, and which I deeply respect.
Four new faculty members will be on campus Monday at Kent School, and all faculty return on Tuesday. I cannot wait to be together, with face coverings and socially distanced seating, as we dive into professional learning, create COVID-responsible classrooms and schedules, and support each other as we begin, what I am sure will be, a very interesting and fluid academic year.
From Wagamese’s Embers the following exchange sums up my thoughts perfectly and I plan to share them with all employees on Tuesday.
Old Woman: Choose what leads you to the highest vision you can have for yourself, and then choose what allows you to express that. What you express, you experience. What you experience, you are.
Me: How do I prepare?
Old Woman: Breathe…