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The Superintendent of Schools, Lisa McCullough, shared this Year-End Message on June 26, 2020 and I read it last night (via Signal Hill’s new fancy website and app) and was surprisingly moved. (Read the full text at the link– below has been condensed.)
“It is difficult to close out this school year with the usual year in review and acknowledgements,” she wrote.
“Every student has faced a significant shift and interruptions to their last three months of learning. Many students, families, and staff have also faced very challenging personal circumstances through this time. The usual acknowledgements are not adequate under these conditions.
I would like to acknowledge just how amazingly well everyone has adapted and responded. With the support of many generous community partners, we were able to support community food security by providing hundreds of meals per day and thousands over the course of the past three months.
Over 800 employees turned on a dime to learn new job duties and expectations and to create and shape a new way of being for our students and families, and for each other. And, all of you, the 5000 students and families of SD48 navigated these new conditions and rose to the learning and scheduling challenges in front of you.
Important graduation ceremonies were organized and will remain as historical symbols of this time. I am deeply proud to be a part of this community and school district who rise to every occasion to pull together and support each other through adversity.”
I have been admiring the grad pics and the graduation ceremony photos that have popped across my feed over the last few weeks – the ingenuity of administrators, and parents, and students, and teachers, all adapting, once again, all throwing out the well-worn playbook, and crafting experiences and rites of passage to launch the class of 2020 into a completely unchartered future.
It feels as if the ancient truth – that nothing is for sure – is being surfaced for us these days, and the assumptions we made, the plans, the expectations, based on things being as they have been, are proving one of our least reliable guardrails.
This is a good place to start: don’t have expectations of things being a certain way, or of you being owed anything. But we can place expectations on ourselves, of the kind of code we’l hold ourselves to. Maybe our values are more important than ever.
Instead of asking “what are you going to be,” let’s re-orient to the more important question: “who are you going to be?”
Instead of navigating life in a linear fashion – these are the steps you need to take to get to this job, to achieve this – we need to let go of the playbooks and presumptions, pay attention to what’s arising, and let our core values guide us.
Mayor Mike Richman adapted his annual speech to grads and even though my kid just graduated from grade 1, and I finished school a mysterious number of years ago, his words struck me as beautiful guidance.
“Nobody envisioned this. But you’re not defined by this situation. You’re defined by the moments, the relationships, the experiences you’ve lived. Right now there are opportunities everywhere. There are powerful forces of change happening, that are going to alter our world and our society, I think for the better and forever, and you are going to drive that change. You are going to shape our world and our future, and that fills me with confidence. It excites me. I’m excited to watch that future unfold under your leadership.”
I’ve been reading Resmaa Manakem’s book, My Grandmother’s Hands, and he talks about resilience. Resilience is a characteristic that helps people survive upheaval, injustice, challenges. It’s genetic and it’s learned. It’s individual, but it is also gleaned from one’s community. Every individual is more resilient through the support of the people around them.
I learned, these past few months, that a school is much much more than a place kids go to learn to read. The work that unfolded in response to pandemic closures was about supporting families, supporting community. I realised that a school is a profound anchor for our society, and I feel deeply appreciative for our community.
The kids have graduated from one school year, but they’re still learning, as are we all. Let’s continue to grow in our resilience, our adaptability, our commitment to taking care of each other.
Let’s keep lifting each other up.