January 7, 2021
Dear High Meadows Community,
I am writing to you as history unfolds. Yesterday afternoon and into the evening, we witnessed actions in and around our Nation’s Capital that have shocked our collective conscience. I spent a good part of last night and today attempting to understand how the actions of several hundred people have affected our community individually as well as reflecting on how they could shape the future of our republic. I find myself asking a few central questions:
- How can our school and its teachers provide what students need in this moment to understand these events contextually and to process them appropriately for their age and interest?
- How does HMS respond in a way that helps us realize a central part of our school’s mission to “empower each [individual] to be a compassionate, responsible, and active global citizen?”
- How might we support every member of this community as they process and reflect on the events of the day to gain greater compassion and a deeper understanding of our individual and collective experience?
- How will we apply our espoused beliefs to create collective action?
I am deeply grateful to the staff and faculty of High Meadows School & Camp who have helped me gain a better understanding of this moment in time and the chance to begin to frame it. Our educators have had to process these events personally while prioritizing the needs of their students. I am incredibly proud of the work they did today, and I know that it will continue. These topics require ongoing conversation and reflection. Please continue to support our educators in this important work.
I have been moved by the stories I heard today. We are collectively appalled by the attack on our country’s democratic process and on the civil servants and law enforcement officers who were put in harm’s way yesterday. However, the direct impact these actions have had on us as individuals differ. Here are just a few of the personal observations I heard today:
- A request from a 4th/5th grade student that they be able to have a conversation where they could “name names” because “sometimes people have to take responsibility.”
- A fear for personal safety that required Black adults and teenagers to avoid roads and stay inside. “I could not bear to let my son go for a run outside last night.”
- “The painful reminder of the generations of my family who were killed under Hitler’s regime as the neo-Nazi flags were waved on the steps of the United States Capitol. I could not bear the thought of my mother seeing that.”
- Outrage that a Trump or Confederate flag would replace an American flag.
- A concern that older students have started to become numb and that events like the one yesterday have been normalized.
- A repeated question: How can the Capitol be heavily guarded during a Black Lives Matter protest and easily intruded as the Presidential election is verified?
- A visceral desire to protect an adult child and his family. He is a journalist in Washington, D.C. “I just want him to come home and live in the backyard where we can protect him.”
- A student concern that people might assume that racism and southern accents go hand in hand.
High Meadows School & Camp is more than a school or a camp, it is a community. We are made up of individuals with different experiences and perspectives, and when faced with adversity and challenge, our community must serve to strengthen us individually and as a collective. We must feel a connection to others and be afforded the opportunity to gather and share our experience so that we can better understand and support one another. To this end, tomorrow afternoon we will host a Parent Community Gathering. There will be no formal agenda or presentation. Rather, we will gather as adults to share our experience, our hopes, and our fears. If you are interested in attending, please join us from 4:15-5:15 p.m. on Zoom.
In the end, I hope that this moment will create a greater resolve to protect our republic and to equitably protect all of its citizens. For our part, we remain committed to our students and their families. We will continue to lean into the challenging needs of our time and to help our students become greater thinkers, problem-solvers, and compassionate leaders for now and for our future.
We have included a few of the resources we shared with faculty today at the bottom of this letter. I hope they are helpful to parents who are our partners in this work. Thank you for your continued support.
Head of School & Camp
- Tips on leading conversations: Leading Conversations After Crisis
- Talking to Kids About the Attack on the Capitol: https://www.nea.org/advocating-for-change/new-from-nea/talking-kids-about-attack-capitol
- Resources for teachers on the days after the attack on the U.S. Capitol: https://beyondthestoplight.com/2021/01/06/resources-for-teachers-on-the-days-after-the-attack-on-the-u-s-capitol/
- Teaching in the wake of traumatic news: https://www.edweek.org/leadership/teaching-in-the-wake-of-a-traumatic-news-event-like-the-storming-of-the-u-s-capitol/2021/01
- Responding to Tragedy: Resources for Educators and Parents: https://www.edutopia.org/blog/tragedy-grief-resources-education?fbclid=IwAR3XpATNtxjiLSDs3u1-uLABhKll6BNsVa4Gvcn7Sg-csTcyLmGzbckSdnI
- Responding to the Insurrection at the U.S. Capitol from Facing History & Ourselves: https://www.facinghistory.org/educator-resources/current-events/responding-insurrection-us-capitol?utm_source=hootsuite&utm_medium=facebook&utm_campaign=organic
- Where do we go from here- strategies to help classrooms process the 2020 election: https://illinoiscivics.blogspot.com/2020/10/where-do-we-go-from-here-resources-to.html
- How the election of 1876 led to nearly 100 years of segregation: The Compromise of 1877 Set the Stage for Jim Crow Era
- PBS Resources: https://www.pbs.org/newshour/extra/daily-videos/classroom-resource-insurrection-at-the-u-s-capitol/