Monday, December 24, 2012
It’s been a long slog through autumn, but the solstice is past and the days are indeed growing longer again. Light is vanquishing darkness in our hemisphere.
There’s still a lot of darkness around, but I feel quite certain that regular readers of this blog are determined to be sources of light and joy as we pass through this holiday season and make the turn into 2013.
I have three things that I wish for, really three emerging themes here and in my life. The first of these is that educators will continue to cherish and sustain the deep mysteries and precious values in the cultures of schools even as we embrace the opportunities and challenges of a new era. I hope that Not Your Father’s School will continue to be a place of worthy questions and ideas as we move forward together.
My great personal desire is that schools will strive, consciously, to deliver on 100% of what they say they do and what they claim to value. All my life I’ve been fascinated, in a horror-stricken kind of way, by the ways in which popular fiction—and too often, reality—skewers independent schools for hypocrisy. Hypocrisy may sell novels—who doesn’t like a juicy example?*—but it’s bad for kids and adults. Hypocrisy in schools is a poison. Thus, my second wish/theme is that schools—independent schools in particular, because I know them best—will continue to strive to “keep it real.”
Schools exist in and of the world, and we school folk are, too, and so my third wish is that we stay open to this essential part of who we are and what we do. Sometimes our stories are funny, personal, irrelevant—but in the world of a school nothing human is irrelevant.
As a teacher, an administrator, and lately a college counselor, I have often found myself thinking and sometimes saying to those around me—anxious students, stressed colleagues—“Hey, relax! It’s only school!” There’s a too-clever-by-half irony there, I know, but at the same time I am trying to say something true: school is a place where it’s okay to strive, to contend, to dream—and to fall on our faces; it’s how we learn, often enough. School doesn’t require endless perfection, only intention and openness and our best efforts in the moment and, when we can, in the long term. Let’s work harder to accept our own humanity and fallibility—and aspirations.
Okay, there’s a fourth wish, as the sun goes down on this 24th of December: May every reader have a wonderful holiday season and a glorious 2013!
*Just such a juicy example can be found in Amber Dermont’s 2012 novel, The Starboard Sea, reviewed by your author in the Winter 2013 Independent School magazine, just arrived. Riveting story, disturbing read.