Reasoning, thinking critically, communicating clearly, and cultivating empathy are all predicated on developing sustained attention. When our attention splinters, the way our brains are shaped to think about the world noticeably changes. While thinking quickly in critical moments is a survival technique, it is not a tool we want our children to use daily as they navigate through life. If we wish to educate and equip our children to meet the unknown with the best tools available, we must cultivate strategies that can enhance our attention and ability to think deeply.
As the Winter Solstice approaches and we look to ways we can be the light in a dark world, I’m encouraged by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks’ reflection on optimism versus hope: “Optimism and hope are not the same. Optimism is the belief that the world is changing for the better; hope is the belief that, together, we can make the world better. Optimism is a passive virtue, hope an active one. It needs no courage to be an optimist, but it takes a great deal of courage to hope.”
When our students graduate and matriculate into ninth grade, we hear regularly that they are valued citizens in their new schools, they advocate for themselves and others, they know themselves and confidently share their opinions, they actively participate in class discussions, and they spearhead new clubs and initiatives. In other words, they carry with them an "illuminator mindset."
On this first day, students are simultaneously who they were just a few short months ago, even as they shed last year’s chrysalis to become something utterly unique. They are in the process of becoming—of course, they always are—and the first day of school highlights and punctuates this undertaking.
I can think of no more fitting way to honor Holocaust Remembrance Day than to be immersed in this intergenerational project, to hear about one family’s experience and the determination it has inspired for the next generation to make a difference in people’s lives. I’m humbled by the power one family, even one person, can have to create a beacon of light that attracts others to actively resist what Elie Wiesel calls the “glorification of base, ugly, dark violence.”
I continue to be guided by the central question: How do we continue to build a learning environment where children can thrive? Every answer highlights the giving of care, which makes sense because we are wired for care. As we know and recently have seen first-hand, none of us would exist without our fellow humans' basic ability to care for one another and help each other survive. A grand web of interconnectedness exists; being connected to one another means each of us has an indelible impact. Paradox is present: we are both only one of innumerable people, and everything we do matters. I had Turning Point’s mission statement firmly in mind this morning when welcoming our students back to school, with music and a rainbow arch in our school colors, and with a very special performance from our newly-formed Cheer Squad!
Our Mission: We open our doors every day to create a dynamic learning community in which each child grows into their best self. I had Turning Point’s mission statement firmly in mind this morning when welcoming our students back to school, with music and a rainbow arch in our school colors, and with a very special performance from our newly-formed Cheer Squad!
Welcome to our 2022-2023 school year and all the wonderful possibilities ahead! As a school leader, I believe growth and learning flourish when we put love, belonging, and wholeness at the center. With these compass points firmly in place, we are more prepared to help our children navigate the inevitable ups and downs that accompany their intellectual, social, physical, ethical, and emotional development.
As a country, we pay lip service to caring about children and families. The lack of willingness to regulate guns as our children die in mass shootings should force us to ask whether we, as a nation, truly love children. I am thinking of the children of Uvalde and Parkland and Sandy Hook, their parents, the community, and all communities impacted by gun violence. They will never be the same. They will never truly recover, even as they come out the other side into an irrevocably changed world.
On Saturday and Sunday, we learned of two separate crimes on separate coasts linked by hate, violence, and racism. I have been feeling compelled to write to you about these events and the impact they have on our families and, ultimately, on our children. I want to be clear that these visible, extremist acts of terror signal the serious work we still need to do as a nation to create an equitable society where everyone belongs.