Before I begin writing on any given day, I go back and review my journal or what I shared around that same time in previous years. This year, I noticed that each November I begin writing to our community about diversity, inclusivity, and equity more frequently than at other time of the school year. I wonder about this. What is it about this time of year that brings such topics to my attention?
When I think about the rhythm of the school year, I think about how the beginning of the school year brings us close together in ways that remind us of how we are similar. We are excited to see one another again, to begin studying, thinking, and engaging in our school traditions together, and to reaffirm our community and our relationships. There is hope in beginnings. Perhaps we feel the most aspirational, the most affirmed, and the most optimistic in the beginning.
As the year progresses, as we learn from our studies and about ourselves, and as we come to know one another better, we bring a more critical eye to our experiences, to the effects of daily and close interactions, and to our differences. We become more reflective, I think, and we begin to notice places where we are not heard, where are experiences are out of sync, and where our empathy is, perhaps challenged.
Author bell hooks writes that “to build community requires vigilant awareness of the work we must continually do.” I find that keeping a balance between aspiration, affirmation, and optimism and reflection, experience, and critical awareness can be challenging, particularly in relationships and in community (and particularly against the backdrop of less light in the fall and current events). A vigilant awareness of the work of maintaining this balance requires attention to ways of experiencing how we are similar and different and ways of experiencing relationships and community.
It is developmentally appropriate, indeed, we should anticipate, that our young people engage in debate, in evidence sharing to prove right or wrong, and in conversations that are emotional, intense, and strongly stated. We want our students to have opinions. (I found that adults can be this way as well.) So our work, as parents, teachers, and leaders in this community, I think, is to help mediate how we think, learn, and engage around topics that challenge, energize, and cause emotion in our students (and in us).
We do this by listening. We do this by making space for our different experiences of each other and the world. We do this by keeping faith that in this community at this time even as we work on what it means to be diverse, inclusive, and equitable we will not cease to work together. James Baldwin writes that “The moment we cease to hold each other, the moment we break faith with one another, the sea engulfs us and the light goes out.” So, I suppose that each November, in the rhythm of our community, is a time to be introspective and a time to remember that without each we are not Crossroads. We have chosen each other. This choice, this holding on, can be the light we need as we spiral forward to a better and more just community and to a better and more just world.
With great expectations,