I have not been able to write for the past week. I could tell you it was the stress of COVID-19, trying to lead a school at a distance, and holding a drive-in style Graduation. But, that would not be true to myself, and my beliefs – something I tell our students is so very important and meaningful. COVID-19 has been worrisome, and managing distance learning for three months has been challenging, but neither has made my heart ache like the racism that exists in our country and our world. Several recent events have brought this to the fore – yet, again.
Nelson Mandela wrote: No one is born hating another person because of the color of their skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love; for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite. Each and every one of us, as educators and role models for children, must do better. To say change is necessary is not enough. We must commit to doing the work immediately, and continually, as we listen, learn and have meaningful conversations about race in our country. This will be hard.
I believe that we can and should have these conversations in PK – Grade 8 schools. I told the Kent School employee group last Thursday in our closing meetings that along with our rigorous and relevant curriculum, which may have to be delivered in a hybrid way, kindness will also be the focus of next academic year. We must intentionally teach children how to be kind to each other in order to change minds and hearts. It is normal to be kinder to people we know and like.
Our employee summer read is A Passion for Kindness: Making the World a Better Place to Lead, Love and Learn. I am pleased to share that in October Kent School will host the book’s author, Tamara Letter, as the endowed Kudner Leyon Visiting Writer. I also highly recommend this wonderful resource for you.
In addition, I want to share some resources to help you talk with your children at home about racism and the protests that are occurring.
My colleague Brenda Leaks, the Head of Seattle Girls’ School, a Middle School, wrote a poignant op ed I commend to you about having conversations about racism with children.
The New York Times list for children’s books on racism is comprehensive.
For an at home activity whenever you feel your child needs to practice being kind to people who are different from them, consider Just Like Me, from Harvard’s Making Caring Common initiative. https://mcc.gse.harvard.edu/resources-for-families/just-like-me
I also recommend reading Love by Matt de la Pena and Loren Long, and Be Kind by Pat Zietlow Miller. I have read both of these books to our Pre-K, Kindergarten, and First Grade students this year, and they are wonderful children’s books to read together with your daughter or son, even if they are in Middle School.
Kent School is committed to diversity. Our School’s Diversity Statement affirms that we recognize that a diverse student, parent, faculty, and trustee population gives us all the opportunity to learn and grow from the many valuable differences and perspectives that our community offers. We strive to create an environment where differences are understood, respected, and valued.
The peaceful protests we have witnessed nationwide give me hope. I have hope as I watch young people speak up, that they will not repeat the mistakes of the past. I have hope as I watch my own adult children’s current outrage over a broken system. I have hope as I witness crowds of multiracial humans protesting peacefully for injustice. I have hope for our future.
I believe that our country needs compassionate, empathetic leadership in politics and policy making, and after witnessing our 8th Graders complete their Middle School years and graduate from Kent School last week, I am confident we are preparing the humans that our world deeply needs.