The beginning of each school year always feels like a mad dash through meetings, events, and building of class and community routines; adrenaline tends to be high and I always feel so energized by the reconvening of the community and the exciting promise of a fresh start. Usually, right around Labor Day, I would find myself beginning to adapt to a more sustainable pace; then eventually I gain that feeling of hitting my stride, with the ground settling underneath me.
I think most of us are realizing that the journey to settle into our stride is going to take a bit longer this year, in light of the very different start due to the pandemic and the necessary changes to come through our pivot plan, transitioning from remote teaching and learning to our hybrid model. Our COVID task force, which has been working at a furious pace since the spring, is playing an endless game of “Whac-A-Mole” with sorting out all of the logistics that will accompany our hybrid return to campus and a whole new model of teaching, learning, and community. It is exhausting; it is occasionally exhilarating; and it is absolutely worth it—because all this work means we will be able to welcome our Bobcats back home.
One of the greatest resources I have had over the past six months is the collaboration and camaraderie of weekly standing Zoom meetings with my fellow heads from the New Mexico Association of Independent Schools (NMAIS), as well as the support of fellow school leaders across the country through the National Association of Independent Schools’ (NAIS) Listserv. Never afraid to ask a question, I have been a prolific poster on this listserv, and the immediate responses I have received have been so helpful and reassuring.
A few weeks ago, feeling demoralized by the national news of college, university, and school opening failures and recognizing that many independent schools across the country were already back in session, I posted on the NAIS Listserv asking for success stories from schools who were back on campus with their students. My inbox was quickly inundated with messages of hope, celebration, and great advice from independent schools that were open with full-time, in-person, and hybrid models. The common themes from these messages were how impressed schools were with their communities’ responses to COVID safe practices, how joyful it was to have students and staffulty back on campus, and how much grace we all needed to give ourselves—especially in the early weeks and at each pivot, to accept inevitable bumps and work to smooth them effectively and efficiently. Their stories and encouragement helped shift my energy from what can be very demoralizing and discouraging news cycles to feelings of hope, belief, and a huge excitement looking forward to having our students back on campus. I feel so grounded in the thoughtfulness of our staged pivot plan; in the resilience of our staffulty, students, and families; and in the strength of our community to persevere through the inevitable challenges to come with grace, patience, and fortitude.
Dr. Brené Brown shares the words, “I am not here to be right; I am here to get it right.” As a school, we are committed to getting it right, over and over again, and I am so grateful for your partnership in this work.
As we transition into the Labor Day weekend, I hope you find a moment to take a deep breath, to disconnect, and to find joy around you.
Jessie Barrie, PhD
Head of School