Quotes and verses help us find words when we don’t have them ourselves. Rumor has it country singer Dolly Parton is quoted as saying, “Storms make trees take deeper roots.” Though, recently I found another reference that it was the poet George Herbert who deserves the original credit saying, “Storms make oaks take deeper root.”
Storms Make Trees Take Deeper Roots
Quotes and verses help us find words when we don’t have them ourselves. Rumor has it country singer Dolly Parton is quoted as saying, “Storms make trees take deeper roots.” Though, recently I found another reference that it was the poet George Herbert who deserves the original credit saying, “Storms make oaks take deeper root.” As a fan of bluegrass, the roots of country music and a bibliophile, I’ll accept both references.
When you hear a storm is coming, you try to prepare as best you can. Sometimes you have little notice and sometimes you have a bit more time. In either case, you have to dig deep and it is then, they say, you see what you are truly made of. You don’t really know what you are capable of until you have to do it. And so, here we are in the height of the storm, or hopefully just passing the height, with 41 days in our homes, and for us at Wardlaw+Hartridge, 22 days in Distance Learning.
Humans are social creatures and social distancing has, on the surface, put great restrictions on our natural need for connection. However, one could argue that social distancing has pushed us to connect more deeply and with more heart than before. As I spend my own days on video chats with my friends and family, I am struck by the amount of laughing, joy, and genuine smiles that come through every single time. As I pop in on our Lower School classes both live and recorded, again, I see screens filled with smiles. In my own Administrative Meetings, there is a good deal more laughter than tears, despite the heavy decisions and work that is still to be done.
I could not be more proud of our students, parents and faculty for digging deep and leaning in to weather this storm together. The number of hours that teachers are spending recording engaging video lessons, having one-on-one sessions with students, driving around (with social distancing) to drop in mailboxes things that did not make it through the mail to be used in lessons for the week, joining in on birthday drive parades for their students, and what I find to be the most crucial, caring for one another. Checking in on their colleagues, having virtual happy hours, book clubs, texting one another just to see how they are doing... all of these things perhaps would have happened regardless, but perhaps not. We all know that while as adults we are doing our jobs of teacher, administrator, attorney, banker, project manager, technical specialist, etc., we are also mothers, fathers, sons and daughters who have “work” to do there as well, and suddenly it is simultaneous. In the past, most of us could go to the office and turn off the other jobs for at least several hours. The office has relocated, and now we are juggling all these roles all the time
Once a week Mrs. Olitt, Ms. Congregane, Miss Bongiovanni and I have virtual meetings with teaching teams and specialist teachers to check in on their students, to see if they need any help, to find out how it’s going this week, and to see their faces for a visual check on how they are doing. Our faculty are doing so much, and I am so fortunate to walk alongside them through this storm. We have begun assembling little video snippets of the teaching and learning that is going on in the Lower School, and I can’t wait for you to see them. This is pioneering thinking. Yet, what strikes me most about my meetings with teachers and administrators is despite all the challenges they are facing, the first question they ask the moment the audio is connected is, “Silvia, how are you?”
I have not shared this widely yet, but on January 10, 2020, a personal storm began for me. I heard words I never thought I would hear, especially not at 36 years old. “You have breast cancer.” Truthfully, I don’t know the exact words as my ears just stopped working. Later, I learned I had Stage One Invasive Ductal Carcinoma. With no family history, to say I was shocked would be a gross understatement. My immediate family and those I keep close to me were the only ones who knew I had a biopsy performed three days prior. Also in this circle were Mr. Andy Webster, Dr. Bob Bowman, and Dr. Corinna Crafton.
When I called Andy to tell him that the biopsy came back with malignancy, the first thing he said to me was, “We love you, and we will help you get through this.” When I first saw Bob and Corinna, the first thing they both did was hug me. Mrs. Kathy Marikakis held my hand as I told the Lower School faculty that the next months of our school year would require me to do a lot to take care of myself and while I may be in and out, I was still there for them. The Board of Trustees sent me flowers and thoughtful gifts and cards. All of the faculty ask me how I am, check in on me, and see if I need anything. Every single Lower School faculty member writes me cards, leaves and sends me gifts, and checks on me every single Wednesday when I have infusions. Just yesterday, when texting with a teacher about one of her students, she said “How are you doing?” After chatting a bit, she ended with, “Take care of you, do you understand, don’t answer me back.❤️❤️”
As we fast forward through the last few months of a successful lumpectomy by one of the most extraordinary humans, Dr. Laurie Kirstein, parent of Sydney and Etan Pfeffer ‘32, I am, medically speaking, cancer-free. I have weathered fertility preservation and am now under the care of another incredible person, Dr. Serena Wong, also at Memorial Sloan Kettering. This week I completed nine of 12 weeks of chemotherapy infusions, and I can see how deep my roots have grown as I head toward the end of the hardest months of my entire life (throw in the stay at home order and distance learning for good measure). Yet, it is only because they are intertwined with my family, my friends, and our school’s faculty and staff. One never weathers storms well alone; it is only with others that we see the other side.
While I am sure that there are many crazy days in the household of a family with a parent or parents working in the home and one or more children now taking meetings as well throughout the day, I would imagine that there are more days filled with the joy of being with your family and caring for one another in new ways. The puzzle industry is booming right now. Family movie nights are all the rage, and the home dance party has definitely taken off. The relationships at home, with extended family, with friends, and with your circles, I do hope have strengthened. I, think, and I am no Dolly Parton or George Herbert, that the storms we weather as a community deepen our roots. While socially distant, Wardlaw+Hartridge has grown incredibly closer.
- Distance Learning