Returning to some semblance of normalcy means rediscovering simple pleasures we were not able to enjoy during quarantine-times. Yesterday, I happened upon Kameron Spies, Director of Teaching and Learning, as she was pushing a cart of middle school summer reading books being delivered to classrooms. I had forgotten how much I enjoy the smell and sight of a big pile of new books, and immediately felt buoyed by these fresh new books that will spark discussions and set the tone for the upcoming year.
All middle school students will read Michelle Obama’s Becoming (adapted for young readers), which focuses on the process of becoming. If we’re lucky, we are in a state of “becoming” our entire lives—an evolving and active undertaking. We can all benefit from continued self-reflection, as it gives us the ability to understand what inspires us, and to set direction and adapt our efforts accordingly. Middle school students in particular are intently experimenting with becoming; I am thrilled that through this summer reading assignment, these students have an opportunity to think more deeply about what it means to meaningfully “become.”
My own “becoming” has been predicated on books and all they represent: relishing the beauty of language, feeling connected to others, questioning and deepening my understanding of the world. (And if you are interested in what is currently on my bookshelf, please see the booklist below.) My love of learning (which we strive to instill in our students) is inextricably connected to motivation which propels me to persist through challenges.
Indeed, this past year has provided myriad challenges and has revealed innumerable gaps in my knowledge about the world. This was the year we had to shift from believing the world should show up a particular way to understanding—often painfully—that the world just shows up. We don’t get to choose our crises, but we can decide how to respond. This awareness has redoubled my commitment to educating the next generation and has clarified my calling as an educational leader.
As I reflect on the past year (15 months, really), I am so proud of our school community. When the world didn’t show up the way we wanted, we rolled up our sleeves and got to it. We adapted to what we were given, making sure we met the needs of our students and families.
That’s providing children with a world-class education in the middle of a global crisis.
I learned early on in the pandemic that how you do one thing is how you do everything. Turning Point’s success this year was no accident; we were uniquely poised to meet the moment because organizational resilience depends on reflection. It comes from asking, “What can we learn and how can we grow from this?” It is the process of “becoming” and resides at the heart of Turning Point’s ethos. Just as we design student experiences around developing their leadership, motivation, and confidence, we foreground these elements in our own growth as educators. I am grateful to so many of you who went out of your way to let me know how much you appreciated and admired our navigation of the ever-changing circumstances—indeed, several of you stated plainly that our efforts were “the best of any school in Los Angeles.” I wholeheartedly share—and am deeply grateful for—your pride and recognition of our outstanding faculty and staff.
These were not fluffy compliments: you knew firsthand because a sibling was at another school, or you had friends with children at other schools who could not believe Turning Point’s high level of performance. You saw how our school has navigated a global crisis the genesis of which was out of our control, how we have adapted to new roles, how we have taken care of our community, all the while staying positive and future-focused. Additionally, we collectively continued to commit to inclusion, equity, and antiracism efforts when we could have said: “not this year.” I was honored to have the opportunity to discuss some of our school’s DEI work on a recent episode of the podcast eRACED, which is produced by Lisa Johnson, Executive Director of Private School Village, and Collette Bowers Zinn, founder of Private School Axis.
Amid so much turmoil and change, the close relationships we have with you and your children helped to provide clarity and direction for our efforts, from safety decisions, to foregrounding our work on equity and inclusion, to short- and long-term planning which ensures Turning Point’s continued growth and success.
This past year’s lack of in-person interactions with you has been a profound loss. I perhaps did not realize the depth of my feelings until I was able to see our Grade 8 parents and siblings at our intimate Graduation ceremony last night. Looking out and seeing the faces of so many who have been integral to our community was incredibly poignant, and it illuminated how much I miss all of you. I am hopeful that we will have more opportunities to welcome more of you back to campus to help strengthen our connections and maintain our shared purpose of providing an excellent education for all our students.
Thank you, parents, for your support, your concern, your collaboration, and most of all for your trust this year. We collectively learned more about ourselves and our world in 15 months than we might otherwise have learned in 15 years. The lessons were excruciatingly difficult at times, but I continue to take comfort in knowing that we need not face them alone. Thank you for “becoming” with us.
I wish you all the most wonderful summer break, filled with whatever you need—rest, adventure, travel, staying still, new experiences, familiar routines. I know I have plans for all of these in the weeks to come.
Head of School
Dr. Konigsberg’s Reading List
Below are books I have recently been reading or are on my list for the coming months. Stay tuned in August for some resources that will help define community conversations in the year to come. If you have additional books you think our community might enjoy, please comment below.
- Thick: And Other Essays, Tressie McMillan Cottom
- 21 Lessons for the 21st Century, Yuval Harari
- Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning, Cathy Park Hong
- These Truths: A History of the United States, Jill Lepore
- My Grandmother’s Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending Our Hearts and Bodies, Resmaa Menakem
- The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How Everyone Can Prosper, Heather McGhee
- Unworthy Republic: The Dispossession of Native Americans and the Road to Indian Territory, Claudio Sante
- There’s a Revolution Outside, My Love: Letters from a Crisis, Tracy K. Smith and John Freeman (eds.)
- Uninhabitable Earth, David Wallace Wells
How We Operate as Humans
- Humankind: A Hopeful History, Rutger Bregman
- Atomic Habits: An Easy and Proven Way to Build Good Habits and Break Bad Ones, James Clear
- Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know, Adam Grant
- Upstream: How to Solve Problems Before They Happen, Dan Heath
- The Code Breaker: Jennifer Douda, Gene Editing, and the Future of the Human Race, Walter Isaacson
- Noise: A Flaw in Human Judgment, Daniel Kahneman et al.
- The Yellow House: A Memoir, Sarah M. Broom
- The Book of Delights, Ross Gay
- Between Two Kingdoms: A Memoir of a Life Interrupted, Suleika Jaouad
- Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times, Katherine May
- Promised Land, Barack Obama
- A Swim in a Pond in the Rain: In Which Four Russians Give a Master Class on Writing, Reading, and Life, George Saunders
- Intimations, Zadie Smith
- The Smallest Lights in the Universe: A Memoir, Sara Seager
- Memorial Drive: A Daughter’s Memoir, Natasha Tretheway
- Homeland Elegies, Ayad Akhtar
- The Vanishing Half, Brit Bennett
- Klara and the Sun, Kazuo Ishiguro
- Deacon King Kong, James McBride
- Hamnet, Maggie O’Farrell
- Interior Chinatown, Charles Yu