Dear Lycée Community,
In his 1963 essay “A Talk to Teachers,” James Baldwin wrote: “American history is longer, larger, more various, more beautiful, and more terrible than anything anyone has ever said about it.” These words truly resonate with me today!
On January 6th, I stood with great sadness and profound disbelief in front of a TV screen, watching history unfold in front of my very eyes, witnessing threats to the lives of fellow Americans, destruction of property, and the desecration of those institutions that we teach our students to respect. With me, with you, our children were watching!
In the immediate aftermath of the insurrection that led to the attack on our state capitol, the heart of our democracy, it was hard to find words to adequately explain what happened, and why. However, how we respond to these events in our classrooms and in the classrooms across our nation, will mold our students’ future. There are very important moments in education that we take with great responsibility, and this is certainly one of them. Students have an opportunity to grow the most because they grapple with real-world issues that we, as adults, are equally struggling to make sense of.
Students also need access to opportunities to express their feelings and emotions, and they have: they reported anger, sadness, hurt! Our teachers engaged them in open forum listening sessions, allowing them to share, assisting them to build the scaffolds needed to be inquisitive, to lead when expressing their thoughts and feelings while modeling respectful curiosity, letting them know they are heard, and reassuring them of our support, so essential at such stressful times. Teachers have also engaged students in the most meaningful form of education, encouraging them to examine information, check their sources, use critical thinking to come to their own conclusion, and stand in truth.
When witnessing the consequences of political dissonance, social injustice and grave civil rights issues, our children question the choices our country leaders make and whether they are keeping us safe, they question how differently our high-level government leadership responds to protest (it has not gone unnoticed that police presence was massive at Black Lives Matter gatherings however completely inadequate last Tuesday, when most needed), they witness unrest and violence, all coupled with the distress of this novel disease that is so disruptive to their young lives. This is such a disproportionate heavy load to carry!
In this moment of tragedy, our focus is that of being there, providing forums for their voices, appropriate resources, and counseling services as needed if students feel unregulated. After speaking with teachers, I am so impressed at our students’ ability to hear each other, to listen to each other, to have open minds, and then to respectfully disagree with each other. They are shaping to become leaders of the future!
As to us, we will continue the IDEA (Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Access) work we started a few years ago with the Anti-Defamation League, with Matthew Kinkaid of Overcoming Racism and training on anti-racism. We are completing a year-long Equity Audit of our organization, supported by Beloved Communities, we partnered with Bridges Collaborative to advance the cause of school integration, we continue examining our curriculum to make sure it is relevant to the lives of our students, aided by Teaching Tolerance standards, among others, honoring our cultural differences and varied experiences. We engage in the complex conversations on race and privilege that are dividing our nation, bringing diverse talent to our organization and celebrating our diversity to promote a better humanity.
This is a pivotal moment in our country and in education when the varying impacts of COVID-19 have sharpened the importance of equity for our students and schools. We fully commit to you that our journey will continue, stronger than ever!
With appreciation from all of us at Lycée,