Brighter Days Ahead

Time has been much on my mind recently, as we approach the midway point of the school year. This weekend I learned that the last known widow of a Union Soldier in the Civil War died just last month — a story that left me absolutely speechless (another recent temporal anomaly: the October passing of a grandson of the 10th President, John Tyler, who took office 180 years ago). When my children were younger, I often said that the days went by like years, while the years went by like days, and 2020 seemed to bring a century of challenges compressed into a single year.

Towards the end of this month, we’ll be sending home mid-year progress reports for students. This is the second of the four formal communications about your child’s progress we make each year (along with Fall and Spring parent/teacher conferences, and year-end reports in June). Our teachers employ a range of assessment strategies to understand the arc of children’s growth, and sharing their insights with you is a critical strand of the family/school web partnership. Of course, we are also in constant communication with families as needed, and hope you keep those lines of communication open when you have questions.

As we navigate a year unlike any we’ve experienced, the national media has started to talk about possible “learning loss” and how students may be “falling behind”. This fear-mongering is a manufactured concept that is being promoted by the testing companies — a slice of the for-profit industry finding itself increasingly rejected during this tumultuous year. Please don’t conflate it with the arc of your child’s progress. If you feel any anxiety on this topic, I urge you to read this piece in Forbes by John Ewing who does an admirable job exposing the fallacies of this narrative. And in this beautifully written piece about unschooling in the NY Times, Molly Worthen writes that “2020 is not a lost year. It’s a chance for parents and children to watch and listen to one another, to turn the weekday scramble into an occasion to experiment and think about what it takes to make a free human being — one whose freedom comes from truly knowing something about the world, and about herself.” 

All of us — children, families, teachers, administrators — are doing our best under incredibly challenging circumstances, from the pandemic and economic collapse to society’s racial reckoning, the Presidential election and the Supreme Court openings, and the wildfires and other tragedies and traumas that have touched close to home.  It’s more to hold than I’ve ever seen, and more than ever before, we have to prioritize what is truly important and show grace and patience to each other. 

Childhood is fleeting and precious, and the effects of this year will ripple through the decade to come in many ways. The best thing we can do is to keep the emotional and mental health of our children at the center of our collective work this year. They depend on our steady hand and even-keeled equanimity to signal their safety, and to support their best learning and growing. 

I can’t wait to see them on campus again in a few weeks.

Thank you,

Dr. Zachary Roberts
Head of School