It is with such pride, joy, and a belief in the opportunities before us that I welcome you into the 2021-2022 school year. We have been hard at work preparing for the start of school, fully in person and comprehensively operational in every aspect. To do that, we have been judiciously minding the continued evolution of Covid-19 and the existing Delta variant, making adjustments to our plans as necessary without compromising the vibrancy and excellence of our program. As indicated in this inaugural Brooklyn Friends School Back-to-School Manual (BFS families, please check your email for this publication), we are poised, ready, and collectively committed to all that our strong and beautiful community makes possible. I am grateful to everyone who has been hard at work to make the safe start of school on September 9th, a reality.
Like I am certain is true of all of you this summer, I have worked to find a balance that allows for time and connection to people and places I love, while also allowing moments for mindful centering and self. That centering has involved earnestly reflecting upon my first two years as your Head of School, minding with humility the many lessons learned, pieces accomplished, relationships forged, challenges faced, and dreams realized. It has also involved thinking deeply about belonging and spirituality in the context of our Quaker school. As a constant learner, I read voraciously, as I’ve always found this to be a soothing part of my existence. This summer, I have read various books, among them our two all-colleague reads, Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain and The Art of Possibility: Transforming Professional and Personal Life, which I have gifted many, many times over throughout the years. To partner in our learning and growth, I encourage you to read them as well.
I have also read Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone by one of my favorite voices of inspiration, Brené Brown, and re-read a cherished one, Leading the Light: Celebrating 325 Years of Quaker Education in America. In asking myself the question, “What makes Brooklyn Friends School an essential entity in our world?” I have reflected upon your children, our students, and the way in which they walk into the world each day – boldly believing that their voices matter and utilizing them for good. I think about my times in the Family Center with our two-year-olds, watching them negotiate the experiences before them with care and sensitivity to one another, all the while guided by patient teachers who know that they can do this. I juxtapose that with the bookend of our academic and social-emotional arc, our Upper School, where I have watched students peel the layers of incredibly complex questions and challenges facing our world today. They intrinsically understand that they need one another to formulate the ideal answers and to generate even greater questions. They know that they can never accomplish the optimal solutions without ensuring that every single person’s perspective, identity, and experience is honored.
I marvel at our school, an educational entity that can balance the building blocks of learning with a strongly held spiritual core. While acknowledging our continued quest to grow in our understanding and actualization of our Quaker school identity and all that the core values signify, I am also moved by the ways in which our community members organically live these ideals in beautifully imperfect ways. It is in our students and in the colleagues that believe in them that I watch the value of belonging come to life. This value is encompassed in everything that a Friends education stands for. Dr. Brown defines TRUE BELONGING as:
“The spiritual practice of believing in and belonging to yourself so deeply that you can share your most authentic self with the world and find sacredness in both being a part of something and standing alone in the wilderness. True belonging doesn’t require you to change who you are; it requires you to be who you are.”
This embodies our school. It is a sacred place where we are all collectively a part of something greater than ourselves even as we are encouraged to boldly live our individuality. The balance in these two truths of belonging is the ability to have at the center trust in one another and respect for the divine Light within each of us. As such, I have reflected this summer on what a gift it is to lead a school where spirituality and God can be at the center without having to justify or defend.
In The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are, I found the following definition of spirituality to hold true to our school.
“Spirituality is recognizing and celebrating that we are all inextricably connected to each other by a power greater than all of us, and that our connection to that power and to one another is grounded in love and compassion.”
This is us. We are a school filled with children whose inner Lights shine, confirming for us that there indeed is a power beyond us all that binds us in our humanity and gives us purpose to strive for. As proven by the legions of alumni who are making steadfast positive and bold imprints in our world, our students are bright, courageous, dynamic beings who deserve all of our focus and care. This is a responsibility that we hold dear and will do right by each and every day. In moments where we may stumble, I only ask that you extend grace and trust that we will keep working towards what is best for your children, our students. They chart our path.
Stepping into the year with a spirit of partnership and possibility,