“We cannot live only for ourselves. A thousand fibers connect us with our fellow men; and among those fibers, as sympathetic threads, our actions run as causes, and they come back to us as effects.” - Herman Melville
Two weeks from this posting in the WHEN and on our school’s website, Middle School students will be on summer vacation, the eighth graders will have completed their Stepping Up Ceremony, and Middle School faculty will be winding down their academic year. As I finish up this academic year, I am filled with bittersweet emotions. Many of you know that I have accepted a position as the Director for Professional Development for the Association for Middle Level Education. For me, it’s been a whirlwind of two incredible years here at Wardlaw+Hartridge, and I’m leaving with confidence in the strength of the Middle School community and pride in what we have all continued to build together. As this year began, I focused my first blog on Joy, Community and Connection. As I write my final blog post, I’d like to add another word to that list – Compassion.
In Robin Steinberg’s book The Courage of Compassion she shares, “How would you like to be judged for the rest of your life by the worst thing you've ever done? We all think we are compassionate just like we all think we are honest. But true compassion is not innate. Compassion for others, especially those that we don't know or understand, must be learned.”
One of the most challenging aspects of Middle School is the notion that mistakes will be made, sometimes big mistakes, and because we are in the business of educating, we support students to take accountability for their mistakes, make amends, learn from their mistakes, and grow. By no means does this mean we want or allow kids to be hurtful to each other in word or deed. We strongly support the W+H DEIB Mission Statement, and, “ We welcome and honor every individual’s uniqueness, ideas, differences, talents, and experiences that make us who we are and will stand up to discrimination, harassment, or intimidation.” And, developmentally, students are at an age where they do make mistakes.
We are so fortunate as a community to have a diverse population of families. What this means is we need a higher dose of compassion for each other, for the learning curve of our emerging adolescents, and for addressing mistakes and accompanying accountability that is age and stage appropriate. Although during the course of a year, our students learn a great deal about navigating a variety of cultural competencies, each year, new students and families join our community who have not had that experience, and we start again at the beginning. So, I ask, as we move forward through a summer of rest and rejuvenation that we, as a community, consider how we will begin again in 2023-2024 with renewed Joy, Community, Connection, and Compassion.