Friday Letter

December 1, 2017

Dear Parents:
 
Yes, we are just back from one break and looking ahead to another!  This is an odd calendar year for December scheduling.  I decided to go ahead and give you the long view (above), but I did not include games or other events scheduled for the week we are back in January.
 
I am once again instituting a "stop day" on Tuesday 12th, the day prior to final exams.  On this day, I expect most students will stay home and prepare for finals.  However, this day will also be an opportunity for students to come to school to meet with teachers.  Also, if any parents find it onerous to provide daycare for their children on this day, students may be on campus to study, but they will be restricted to the Commons to study quietly throughout the day and will need to provide their own lunch.  I am considering changes to the academic calendar for 2018-19 that I will communicate in January.  I don't know if a stop day will be necessary next year, but I may continue the tradition if students and teachers find it to be helpful.  I will send more information about finals next week.
 
I hope you can attend the Lessons & Carols ceremony at First United Methodist Church (946 Vermont Street) next Friday night at 7:30 pm.  If you have not been to one of our Lessons & Carols productions, you really should.  Parents often comment on how glad they were that they came out for this beautiful evening to hear our students sing us into the holidays.  Please feel free to attend "the loveliest night of the year" regardless of whether your child will be participating. 
 
We once again had an entry in the Lawrence Festival of Trees that was auctioned for $425, the proceeds benefiting The Shelter in Lawrence.  Congratulations to Ms. Porter and senior Maia Tilly for their work!  (Picture is attached.)  You can see ours and other entries at Liberty Hall through Sunday.  And if you enjoyed the Thanksgiving card that went out a few weeks ago, the beautiful cover art was designed by Siena Casagrande.  Thanks Siena!
 
I wanted to thank everyone who participated in our Seabury Fund.  At the end of November, we have raised $165,428 with a boost from the recent Hamm family match--and with 57% parent participation.  Thanks to 19 new donations on Giving Tuesday, we raised more than $3,200 in 24 hours!  This will be my last update, but we are still hopeful to reach our $200,000 goal with additional December donations (just under the wire for 2017 charitable deductions)!  THANK YOU, EVERYONE!
 
Many Seabury students were recognized by the Lawrence Journal World for the fall sports season.  All Area Awards went to Evan McHenry for Soccer, Lindsey Hornberger for Volleyball, Henry Nelson for boys cross-country, and Sami Dennon for girls cross-country.  Henry Nelson was named Runner of the Year.  And cross-country coach Kara Schrader was named Coach of the Year.  Congratulations to all on being recognized for their excellent work!
 
Congratulations to all of the students for their participation in this year's Science Fair--and thanks to Ms. Schrader and her judges!
 
The first day back from Thanksgiving Break, I always take the seniors out to find a Christmas Tree.  This was an exuberant group, and I enjoyed my time with them very much.  They identified two trees as good options.  I thought we should go with the smaller tree....and thus began a barrage of pleas and insistence that we get the taller one (which was over 10 feet tall).  Of course, I am a sucker for such requests, so we cut down the taller tree, brought it back to the school, and spent the morning decorating it, complete with holiday music and hot chocolate.  It is a beautiful tree (despite its tendency to lean), and I hope you can see it up close.  I have also attached some pictures.
 
Finally, we have split morning meetings on most Fridays: the middle school in the gym and the upper school in the Commons.  I took this opportunity today to talk to the older students about an issue related to the topic of sexual harassment that has been ever-present in the news.  These students are old enough to have studied the serious inequities suffered by women for much of the history of this world, and it is within that context that I consider these modern incidents of sexual misconduct by men in power (even if not all of the victims of such actions were women).  
 
I told the students that---over my 18 years at Seabury--I have occasionally felt it necessary to address students on this issue because of perceived or reported behavior.  I tend to think 8th-12th grade is a time when boys and girls--while they experience the development of a sexual identity and awareness--are also learning from adults, peers, and a range of media (music, news, movies, video games, and so forth) how they should comport themselves with others. As I told students, it is my job to be concerned about the ethics and behavior of every student, regardless of sexual orientation or gender (conversations for a different day), but I was presently concerned with addressing heterosexual boys and men.
 
The short version of my talk is this: boys at this age are given mixed signals about how to behave with girls and other boys--and within a culture that continues to labor under a troubling double-standard about male and female sexuality.  Some of the recently reported misconduct by some men in power demonstrates the most distorted sense of entitlement towards women that I have to think only happens when one disregards the full value of another human being and projects one's own will onto that person (making them a means to an end and not an end to themselves).  Part of my responsibility--and I know yours as well--is to articulate expectations for proper conduct for boys and girls who are developing sexually and to do so with the hopes that these messages will negate those competing messages that cause some boys and young men to objectify and degrade women through speech or action.  I told the students that--although it may seem like a trite sentiment--they should consider what conduct they would find acceptable towards their sisters, mothers, and (perhaps one day) daughters, and allow such considerations to inform how they behave towards all women in their lives.
 
I told them it is understandable to be saddened and disoriented by the behavior of men whom we might otherwise have admired.  The decisions of these individuals have had an impact not only on themselves and the women who have come forward--but also on an entire community.  It is an important lesson, though a difficult one.  Like the tragic protagonists students read about in English, the fall of these individuals by their own actions is disturbing but also hopefully educational.
 
Yours respectfully, 
Dr. Schawang