Dear St. Anne's Community,
On Monday morning we had an engaging assembly for our students and faculty in grades 1-8 designed to reaffirm the values that we stand for and to frame the conversations that we want to be having in our community following last week's Presidential election and senate races. I am writing to let you know that your children and their teachers are amazing people and together they shape a community where listening matters, questions are valued, and character is built. We have a great responsibility as a school, today and every day, to help each other to process what we are thinking and feeling, to create opportunities for civil discourse and critical thinking, and to prepare our students to meet the challenges of their time.
During our assembly we acknowledged that following the Presidential election last week some of the emotions were strong for many of us. Some were elated about the result; some were sad. Some were excited, and some were fearful or angry. Some felt heard and embraced, and some felt hurt and excluded. Some of our young people, of course, had no particular investment in the news, which is also just fine. The reality is that it is clear that our country is divided in numerous ways, and not just politically. Since our founding our country has been full of people who do not agree with each other. We also have a long history as a country of fearing the "other," or those who might be different from us. For some the election raises more questions than answers, and that is OK. We need to make sure that we recognize that there are often times when we need to agree to disagree and to do that by respectfully listening and honoring other viewpoints.
That is why it was so affirming for me that one of our second grade classes last week took a picture holding letters that spelled out the word, "indivisible." We discussed that word in the context of the pledge of allegiance and then considered whether the concept of "liberty and justice for all" is indeed a reality in our country or a statement of our aspiration, a vision for America. We then shifted to consider what it would say if we had a pledge for St. Anne's that would help us commit to a better future and a better world. We brainstormed what the key values might be in that pledge, and the kids young and old offered great answers like kindness, compassion, respect, good listening, love, wisdom, faith, hope, and learning.
Our goal was to to remind everyone that as a school community we aspire to be "indivisible," to be a place that looks out for each other, that values the questions and the differences as we seek to understand and respect each other. As the Bishop and our baptismal covenant both remind us, we want to be a community that always "respects the dignity of every human being."
In Philadelphia on Saturday night there was a performance of A Prairie Home Companion, a favorite radio program of mine that has a new host, Chris Thile, who wrote an original song called "I Made This For You" in response to the election. The refrain to the song says,
"Whether you are laughing or crying,
if you are doing your best to be kind,
This land is as much yours as mine."
We substituted "school" for "land" as we reflected on those words. Next I asked the students to look to their left and look to their right and invited them to pledge together that we will always do our "best to be kind." I then asked the adults present to please stand so that the students could realize that every adult in this school is committed to making sure that they feel safe, connected, and valued.
We concluded by singing the love round that has the Golden Rule in the lyrics ("Love Your Neighbor as Yourself") and then a passing of the Peace and a prayer. It was a fitting connection to our mission at St. Anne's to help students "realize their potential for good as citizens of local and world communities."
I and all of our faculty are grateful for your partnership. Please do not hesitate to reach out to your teacher or advisor if you or or your child need further guidance or support.
Blessings and Peace,
Head of School