Head of School's Blog

Mindful moment of gratitude with the PK-2 Extended Day Yoga Class

Holiday Reflection - Pause, Reflect, and Reconnect

Kim Ridley
Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays, especially if I do not allow myself to dwell on the holiday's history. I reframe the Thanksgiving holiday as a time to pause, reflect, and reconnect with family and friends. I am heading to Richmond to dine and commune with my family and friends. It is returning home to where people truly know me, where I can be myself, dance, be silly, argue and debate about the issues of our day, play games, and bask in the feeling of belonging. 
I have been thinking about the Fayerweather community and all that has taken place this school year, which has been approximately ten weeks. For the most part, our students are thriving, figuring things out, making connections, and finding meaning in their days. The lovely and brilliant Mary Oliver's poem “Roses” describes childhood beautifully and what I see daily at FSS:

“Everyone now and again wonders about those questions that have no ready answers: first cause, God’s existence, what happens when the curtain goes down, and nothing stops it, not kissing, not going to the mall, not the Super Bowl.”
“Wild roses,” I said to them one morning. “Do you have the answers? And if you do, would you tell me?”
The roses laughed softly. “Forgive us,” they said. “But as you can see, we are just now entirely busy being roses."
Our students are busy being children. They are playing, imagining, and learning to read and write. They are creating and reciting poetry, processing complex information, practicing and preparing for our first third through sixth-grade theater performance, and figuring out how to take turns being “it” in their recess games. Our students are learning how to manage conflict, how to advocate for what they need, and how to test the boundaries of their classroom and the larger community. Like our children, adults in our community are grappling with how to advocate for themselves, manage differences of opinions and perspectives, and test the boundaries of our mission and values. As the Head of Fayerweather, I am working to align my values of courage, equity, belonging, collaboration, and grace with the FSS mission, which says:

“Fayerweather’s mission is to cultivate a joyful and collaborative learning community that honors every student’s unique story, promoting growth through intellectual exploration, creative thinking, and meaningful engagement with our world and each other.”

The words “collaborative” and “meaningful engagement with our world and each other” stand out to me and reflect my personal beliefs and values. Why? Because the word collaboration is the foundation for any partnership. Collaboration in and of itself does not mean we will always agree, but that we struggle together to create a way forward. What does that look like in a community of diverse and divergent perspectives? What does this look like at Fayerweather, where some have significant resources, entitlement, and privilege? What does this look like for some who embody dominant identities across many dimensions? What does this feel like when you occupy minoritized identities? What does this mean when you have dominant and marginalized identities?
The word “positionality,” which is “the recognition that where you stand in relation to others in society shapes what you can see and understand about the world” (Öslem Sensory & Robin DiAngelo, Is Everyone Equal, Second Edition), is important in making sense of how people approach perspective taking. How might understanding the concept of positionality be a starting place for all of us to consider as we engage with each other around challenging topics, events, and situations? 
We must accept that we are not always right and will have blind spots. Working to be just and equitable in our engagement with others will not just happen automatically but is a continuous process of practice, dancing with disruption, and holding ourselves accountable to be open to learning and growth.  I follow a blog called “Leverage to Lead” which offers these principles as a way of thinking about our collective responsibility to live our school’s mission:
“To collaborate as partners and in connection, we commit to practicing:
  • The ongoing practice of perseverance, which supports leaning into tension, discomfort, uncertainty, and conflict with the desire to strengthen our relationships.
  • Open and responsive communication, deep listening, and discussions that aim for illumination rather than resolution.
  • Disrupting urgency and giving our work the necessary time, space, and flexibility.
  • Exhibiting curiosity to interrogate the assumptions, biases, or judgments that difference may surface (excerpt from Leverage to Lead).”
Fayerweather’s mission is to cultivate a school that cares about equity and justice in words and deeds. My wish for you and me is time to pause, reflect, and reconnect with what that means for us as individuals who are part of a larger community.

In partnership,
Fayerweather Street School | 765 Concord Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02138 | 617-876-4746
Fayerweather is a private PreK, kindergarten, elementary and middle school. We engage each child’s intellect.