Living in a School Community

For new families, I hope that it is becoming clear to you that you are joining a very unique school. What does it mean to be a member of the SGS community? What are our rights, and what are our responsibilities to each other? Next week, I will speak to the girls about recognizing the power of their sisterhood. This year, our 5th and 6th graders were welcomed by Keyaunna, an alum from our very first class.  The chain of powerful women from SGS is long and unbroken!

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As has been our tradition, I will also challenge them to end the week getting to know five people outside of their grade – and perhaps outside their comfort zone. I will also provide a second challenge to returning students: that they reach out to just one, or maybe two, people with whom they need to repair relationship. The powerful, student-written documents that we ask the girls to adhere to have one simple right at their core: safety – both physical and emotional.

When I communicated this challenge two years ago, one of our parents educated me regarding the Jewish holiday, Yom Kippur, a day of reconciliation, when one strives to make amends. The ten days leading up to Yom Kippur are known as the Ten Days of Repentance. During this period one is encouraged to seek out anyone she may have offended and to sincerely request forgiveness so that the New Year can begin with a clean slate. If the first request for forgiveness is rebuffed, one should ask for forgiveness at least two more times, at which point the person whose forgiveness is being sought should grant the request. The rabbis thought it was cruel for anyone to withhold their forgiveness for offenses that had not caused irrevocable damage.  A spirit of forgiveness is one we can teach to our students.

Also a tradition at SGS, we will pass on the expectation that each girl represents a future leader, with leadership defined in many ways.  We like to say that you can lead from the front, the middle, and the back. 
The key is for each girl to be her authentic self as she follows her individual course.  That course may lead to places she never dreamed of …

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SGS alums Ana and Asha serving as ambassadors to Rwanda this past summer.

Last, but certainly not least, I will emphasize that we are an honor code school. The five M&Ms or Skittles that each girl counts out each day is a reminder that we expect her to be her best self at all times, even when nobody is there to remind her.  We need to reinforce this daily ritual with meaning and intention. We want to start each day with intention to respect the rights of others and carry out all the responsibilities that make ours a caring community. We know they can do it! Of course, there will be teachable moments and mistakes along the way, but those are part of the journey toward success and growth. 
A great deal of that growth will come from experiencing difference. We may not all be the same, but we have strength in our differences. Teaching our children to recognize and work with difference is critical to the future of our world.  Please take the time to talk to the parents next to you at pick-up time, at sporting events, at next week’s first Community Association of Parents (CAP) meeting, and make it a point to join in our community conversations – especially the difficult ones – as the year goes on.

Next week, it’s time for “regular classes” to begin. Much of what we do at SGS is unique and joy-filled, but there is also something to be said for the routine of the school day that helps develop the habits of hard work, diligence, and effective teamwork.  We look forward to the first round of Learning Team Meetings where students will lead discussions centered on goals and challenges.  The adults in the SGS community will need to forge strong partnerships in order to help these young women achieve those goals, and the key to those partnerships is communication.

I offer you two previous blog posts that speak to the importance of forming those partnerships:
Know Thy Students
http://purplelynxx.blogspot.com/2011/09/know-thy-students.html
What Teachers Really Want to Tell Parents
http://purplelynxx.blogspot.com/2011/09/what-teachers-really-want-to-tell.html
I would love to hear your comments and thoughts as you read through these two sites.  I hope you find them both inspiring and provocative.

Rafael

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