Melissa Soderberg, Head of School
April 3, 2020
Dear Columbus Academy Families,
I have never been so inundated with information and known less about what the future holds.
I have never been more thankful to have my family around me while wanting more space and time to myself.
I have never been so socially isolated while being so exhausted communicating with people all day (and night) long.
I have never felt so challenged to think creatively and so concerned about catastrophic predictions regarding our country and the world.
And I have never been more assured that being connected to Columbus Academy is one of the most consistently positive parts of my life.
These are strange times. And we are all -- our children, spouses, cats and dogs -- on this wild ride together. Don't you find it odd to have some of the most precious moments with your family while in the same breath hearing some tremendously sad news about illness and death? It is profoundly hard for my brain to wrap around the polarity of daily life as it is now, and I can only imagine that it is difficult for you as well.
So, what do we do about it? What do we do about this pause on school campus life, community events, sports, concerts, rites of passage, meeting friends in restaurants, and any kind of financial predictability? I think there is only one answer. We carry on. And not to be cliché, but we stay calm enough to continue to focus on those aspects of our world that we know are good and true. Just like the late night talk show hosts filming shows from their living rooms, it is time to approach the world head on -- unvarnished, unkempt (with hair uncut) -- because there is no opportunity to be anything but ourselves... and our children are going to learn so much from watching how we tackle the work ahead.
It was around the fourth day of spring break when the realization of what it would mean to make our education go online began to wash over the vast majority of our faculty. They were beginning to see that to create the kind of connection with their students they felt was important and expected, their every waking hour was needed to master the technology, plan the schedules and curate the messages to reach their students through a fog of uncertainty and forced isolation. The faculty was digging back to one of the most important parts of Academy's education -- the relationship between our teachers and their students -- and working to reconnect to that core from which knowledge-building and skill-acquisition are based.
After witnessing the opening of school online this week, I would say the efforts more than paid off. Students and teachers were meeting; ideas and stories were being shared. The school, for all intents and purposes, was in session -- with no dining hall, fieldhouse, theatre or quadrangle to speak of.
We know this is just the beginning, though, and soon the familiarity of homework and "going" to school will no longer be a welcome break and, instead, will pile on top of the other narrowness living all in one space seems to present to us. It is then that we will have the opportunity to dig deep into our strongest character impulses and see the world as one in which the values of the school live in the lives of its families.
Who among us has not felt, almost embarrassingly, forced to cook more dinners at home, play more games, reach out to reconnect with friends and family members from far away. These are behaviors most social relationships are built upon, and yet so many of us had abandoned them frequently, if not totally. These are strange times. We are actually living in a moment when the highest authorities in the country are telling us to take walks with our loved ones and get some sleep. There is no greater signal that we are racing back to the fundamentals -- those basic tenets that remind us to live a principled life.
Compassion , integrity and fairness -- all key character traits in a Columbus Academy education -- are what we need to exercise most when the world seems to have dealt us a particular blow. Just one glance at the faded ghosts of school activities populating my calendar with a spring that will never be causes a realization that there is no time like the present to practice bringing out our better selves. Let's begin to ask our children, "who among us most needs help?" Or "what are the ways we can even out the inequities of the world's events that will hobble some of us and not others?"
Odd as it seems, now is the time for us to show our children that we triumph over loss and fear by counting ourselves among those lucky enough to be part of a wonderful school community and to do good around us. Plant seeds, clean up a neighbor's yard, send a note to a friend, draw a picture for your family, do the dishes when it's not your turn. Everything counts when we lead with our true selves to earnestly be part of a community. And, as can happen in historic times like these, we just may discover (as the saying goes) we are the ones we've been waiting for...
Cherish the ones you are with.
Academy Seal