Friday Letter

April 3, 2020

Dear Parents

By the time I hit "send" on this message, we should have the first week of Distance Learning under our belts.  How is it going?  I am sure that depends on the student and the parent.  For most students, I expect this new platform is quite manageable, despite the struggles with Schoology in the first days of the week.  (The company communicated with schools on Wednesday about the impact of so many schools relying on the system at once and took measures to create more consistency in their system.)  The feedback I have received so far has mainly been positive, but I am sure there are students who have struggled with this transition to online work, especially students who already have attention difficulties or for other reasons.  In those situations, I am sure parents are shouldering more anxiety and having to engage more than ever.

Especially with younger students, creating a daily schedule and a routine will go far to help them to be successful and find comfort in the predictable.  I encourage parents to reach out to teachers or division coaches (Krista Barbour for Middle School and Kara Schrader for Upper School) for assistance as needed, and you should continue to coordinate learning support with Sonja Czarnecki if students have had (or need) accommodations.  Their specific assistance will be more helpful than my general advice at this point. 

I also want to underscore that Self-Care for students and parents should be the first priority right now.  There is nothing a student can learn in any of our classes that is more important than their mental well-being--and yours!  Your children are relying on all of us to put many aspects of their life into perspective right now (and I must admit that I am still trying to find stable perspective on what is happening in our world right now).  We need students to know right now that we all care about their mental and physical health above all other things. 

I was a bit nervous about hosting the first All-School Meeting on Monday, and I was even more ecstatic when over 200 people crowded onto the screen without crashing the site!  I could see from the student faces that they were happy to be back together.  I led the first meeting, but as of Wednesday, the Prefects took the reins back and are now leading announcements.  We agreed to move the all-school meeting on Monday to 11:45 am, closer to their final class check-in.

A few spots are still available if you would like to participate in the BSAP Parent Education Night workshop on Compassionate Communication with D.A. Graham, 6:30 pm on Monday, April 6. Please RSVP to Eliza Bullock: eliza@elizabullock.com 

We will host another online parent forum on Tuesday from 6-7 pm.  If you have any questions in advance of the meeting, please send them to sonjaczarnecki@seaburyacademy.org. 

I nearly started this letter by hoping that all of you are "well," but clearly that means different things to different people right now.  I know that faculty, students, and parents are dealing with a lot right now.  My own mental state is directly connected to how all of you are doing.  My seniors are writing an essay for me this weekend, and one option is to discuss how our present circumstances shine a light on the things we take for granted as essential to "life" and how human beings behave in times of such unprecedented change and anxiety.  Of course, many negative aspects of human behavior are at the ready.  (Who knew that toilet paper would become such a precious commodity?)  But what cuts right to my core are the acts of kindness.

I will risk embarrassing my parents (who subject themselves to these weekly letters) to convey this point.  A few weeks ago (while I was in self-quarantine), they needed to get groceries, and they arrived at the grocery store with far too many people present for them to be there safely.  They stood in a line outside the store until a manager who knew them asked them what in the world they were doing there.  They said they needed bread, milk, and a few other staples.  The manager said they shouldn't risk being there.  As my parents went to their car, a stranger approached them and offered to get their groceries for them.  Several neighbors have since offered to pick up groceries for them on an ongoing basis.  So has the manager at their grocery store.  I am indebted to the kindness of strangers whom I don't know and will never meet.  I hope that I would have done the same for their parents. 

I take the time to relate this story because I am hearing about these selfless choices in many areas of our lives and our communities.  These are not just stray news stories.  I expect the coming weeks are going to be difficult, but for all of our uncertainty about many aspects of our lives, it is a great comfort to know that generosity and compassion continue to be defining values in our common humanity. 

Yours respectfully,

Dr. Schawang