One of the beautiful things about this new school year is the collaboration and crossover between the Upper School and Middle School. Whether it’s volleyball, cooking, scrap-building, or four square, X-days, or tailgates, we are seeing more “togetherness”. Mr. Follet and I often put the following hashtag on the bottom of our emails to each other: #OneSchool. It’s our promise to each other and our school, a recognition that together is better.
Parents have noticed it too. One mom wrote to us about X-day:
I have never seen my son so over-the-top excited about a school day. The opportunity to make mac-n-cheese with his big brother was so fun! But, even more than the activity, the fact that he could share that experience with his brother and kids across all grades was truly special and that feeling of community will stay with them for a very long time. THIS is why we love CA. Despite a global pandemic…CA remains a safe refuge. A place of incredible learning, creativity, calm and acceptance for all. My boys are all so very different and yet they all love being at CA. I sound like a broken record and remind them how fortunate they are to be there, but especially today I know they know.
And yet it is not always rainbow-chalk and soap-bubbles. There is great healing and growth that comes when an older kid gets to mentor or support a younger kid. Some Upper Schoolers said to me “I wish I had known it was going to be okay,” a gut-wrenching nod to the anxiety surrounding growing up and the middle school years. If someone other than their parents had reassured them, it could have made a difference at that tender time of Middle School. So tender, in fact, that a sixth-grader said to me “I love my eighth-grade buddy SO MUCH…and I can’t believe it, but I think she likes me, too!” The surprise at being worthy enough for the attention and praise of an older student is both heart-warming and heart-breaking.
I’ve been thinking a lot about #OneSchool, beyond the pragmatic. What if we could surround our Middle Schoolers with a vision of themselves in the future? A role model that can bridge the distance between reality and aspiration?
Parents are thinking about this part, too. A parent recently sent me a link to this sixteen-minute TedTalk (from the NC State stage)–My Other Car is a Time Machine: A Journey Back to Self Compassion–about going back in time and showing compassion to our younger selves. I can’t say how strongly this resonated; it’s worth the watch. In this powerful Ted Talk, Mike Iskander talks about visiting his younger self through a series of interviews with children and young adults at every stage of his young-40-year-old life; what he discovers is that he was hard on himself. Like, very hard on himself. Negative self-talk, discouraging mantras…things he would NEVER say to those he loved. Yet why was he saying them to himself when he was twelve? That was a good question, he thought.
And so WHAT IF cross-divisional learning opportunities such as sports, music, theater, and X-days are just as much about healing ourselves and others as it is about learning? Sure, X-days, for example, offer a chance to learn ‘pressure free,’ to tap into creativity and to share experiences with people who are a different age, but maybe it’s about more. Ask any of the volleyball players who mentored the little ones last year; they said that it was like visiting with their past selves. These Upper School athletes said they got a chance to be that role model that they wish they’d had.
So maybe that’s it. The togetherness between the schools can be a reconciliation of sorts within ourselves. Maybe as we inch toward a post-pandemic school experience, ‘healing’ and ‘learning’ are one and the same.