Dear Blake Families,
I am reaching out to the Blake community to convey my wishes to all for a Happy Thanksgiving and to express my thanks. Tomorrow we will be gathering as a Blake school community for our annual Celebration of Voice assembly, and I always look forward to and enjoy our time all together as we celebrate, share sentiments of gratitude, and have some fun. The last couple of years I have taken time as we begin our time together at the assembly to share some words about both the history and importance of the Thanksgiving holiday, including the advocacy of Sarah Josepha Hale leading up to President Lincoln's proclamation in 1863 during the Civil War calling for a national day of thanks. I will be doing the same again tomorrow and wanted to convey some ideas that will be conveyed to students tomorrow. As I shared in my blog post today (Gratitude), the thoughts and message may/will read familiar and repetitive from prior years, but I promise that the sincerity of the message continues to grow in depth.
First and foremost, every individual at Blake (students, staff, parents, and the greater community) matters, is cared for, and is an important piece of the Blake fabric. At this time last year I conveyed that educators have had a difficult challenge to 'appropriately navigate the lines of politics and personal beliefs to model an even and balanced approach to our students' education so that they may grow and discover their own beliefs'. As we have all seen and heard, both locally and beyond, in the recent news communities - school-based and community-based - have been witness to behaviors that do not reflect the core values we have and practice at Blake. I will once again remind and assure our students that Blake is a safe school for all students and adults and our efforts and expectations remain steadfast to both welcome and embrace all learners. Ours is a culture of acceptance and inclusivity, regardless of one's race, gender, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, sexual identity, or ethnicity. We welcome and embrace all learners.
Second, we are a community of learners who must 'practice what we preach'. At this time of year it is important to remember and exercise the words of President Kennedy - 'We must find time to stop and thank the people who make a difference in our lives.' Each year I ask our staff to share their thankful thoughts and it is always heartening to have a window into our collective thanks. They have been collected (with names removed) - Thankful Thoughts from Blake Staff - 2017 - and they are worthy of your time, as they highlight the care, thoughtfulness, and gratitude our community shares and has. I have also posted a 'wordle' of the document below, providing for a nice visual representation of thanks. Several staff members have offered to share their thanks at tomorrow'sassembly as well. In the spirit of modeling, here are the thanks that come to mind this year about our Blake staff...
- I am thankful that our Blake staff and community is willing to name, acknowledge, and reexamine our assumptions
- I am thankful for our collective willingness to reexamine our practices and adjust accordingly
- I am thankful for the energy, commitment, and professionalism that our staff brings every day - viewing challenges as opportunities and creating their own change
- I am thankful that we are a community of learners who are future-oriented and are continuously looking to adapt to acquire and learn ways to best work with and serve our students
- I am thankful to have the privilege of being an educator and working in a wonderful community
Third, we must always be present and continue to be here for one another. When we are at a loss or are unsure of the steps to take, listening and being present are critical practices...
Listening is such a simple act. It requires us to be present, and that takes practice, but don't have to do anything else. We don't have to advise, or coach, or sound wise. We just have to be willing to sit there and listen. - Margaret J. Wheatley
Simply being together tomorrow as a community affords us the chance and opportunity to do just that - be present, listen, and be there for one another.
Jon Harper's post (@jonharper70bd) is one that I have shared with our staff and community the past couple of years and it resonates and holds true for me each time I read it. I want to thank our staff once again for their continued presence for our students, parents, community, and one another - it is the foundation of all of our work.
Our days are busy, stressful and oftentimes we go home feeling as if we could’ve accomplished more. But at the end of the day we must ask ourselves one important question. "Do the people that we serve want to be in our presence? If the answer is yes, then we can accomplish most anything. If the answer is no. Well then we have work to do. Starting tomorrow.”
My annual hope at this time of year is that we can maintain a culture and spirit of eternal vigilance for learning, listening, acceptance, and gratitude.
Enjoy the well-deserved time off and have a Happy Thanksgiving!