When we closed our physical space for the remainder of the spring term, one of the biggest complaints heard from our students was, "what about International Day?"
International Day is our annual end-of-year celebration with our whole school community. Everyone is invited to wear clothes that represent their cultural heritage, there's a parade around the block, parents host workshops related to their home countries, and it all ends with a pot luck lunch. That's when our school turns into the best restaurant in town!
Of course we couldn't celebrate International Day in the same way this year. But we did our best, through zoom gatherings and home videos. Children dressed up and shared their cultures -- cooking a favorite dish, dancing a traditional dance, showing crafts or flags. It was a beautiful reminder of the multicultural community we have, and how important it is to celebrate what makes each one of us unique as individuals, and stronger together.
Now school is out for summer and it's a mixed bag of feelings. Our head of school said this in her final message:
The last day of school is always bittersweet. We feel the promise of summer-- the deeper breath it allows for teachers, the unscheduled and open days it offers children, but there's real sadness as we say goodbye to children who have been in our care for the last nine months. Hopefully there are picnics and swimming and ice cream and grass in our toes before too long."
Then, she read a poem from one of her favorite poets:
One could say that this year's send off into summer is more bitter than sweet. We haven't seen each other in person in months, and our beloved founder and head of school, Shelley Borror Jackson, won't be back in the fall. Many tears have been shed. Summer will hopefully provide some time to breathe, regroup, and plan for reopening our school building. All the while staying connected to the important things that bind us all -- diversity, community, the global education of our children and the knowledge that they are our future.
Gracias, Xièxie, Thank You
Our faculty, staff, and students have never shied away from talking about our beautiful differences – our different skin colors, cultural backgrounds, languages, and family makeups. You can’t help young children grow into empathetic leaders without these discussions. And part of that celebration of our differences has to include honest conversations about racism, injustice, and what we can do to make changes in ourselves and a difference in the world.
We are all at a distance now, isolated in our homes, which only serves to heighten our feelings of helplessness and frustration. But the conversations have to continue, and as educators, we see the work we have to do. Some of our parents have shared excellent resources, including the "Talking About Race" portal for both educators and parents from the National Museum of African American History and Culture.
And now we approach our last few days of school. Normally this week, our Spanish Language students would perform in the annual musical, which is a celebration of art and culture, and of how our differences, when joined together, can make magic. Though it feels more important than ever, we won’t be able to have that performance this year. So, our Spanish teacher Srta. Sanchez read a book, La Asombrosa Graciela (Amazing Grace) by Mary Hoffman. It's about a girl who is told she can’t play Peter Pan in the school play because she’s black and a because she’s a girl. Of course, Grace proves everyone wrong. We’ve also read the original English version many times in our school. I encourage you to read it, or watch and listen to Srta. Sanchez’s reading of it, and recognize that each one of us, regardless of color, ethnicity, gender identity or age can be anything we want.
Let’s help our children grow up in a better world.
This word cloud sits above the entrance to our school lobby. It's a reminder that we are a multicultural community and that everyone who walks through our doors matters.
As we look toward the fall, we imagine returning students and new students coming through those doors. What will it look like for our school and every other school in New York City? Of course it’s all but impossible to really know what the scenario will be then – or through the rest of the 2020-2021 academic year. As such, we are in the midst of detailed planning, trying to anticipate every possible COVID-19 related framework that we can imagine.
One thing we are endlessly grateful for right now is that we are a very small school, with plenty of room in our building and quick access to the outdoors. We have around 10 students per classroom and one class for each grade (you can see more about the benefits of a small classroom here). Being a small school is a gift that allows us to more easily accomplish a safe “social distance” than bigger schools. We know that we have a lot to prepare, but we are also feeling very positive about our options.
And through it all, our community and our school children remain our primary focus -- and our inspiration. We often post our students’ poetry, prose and flashes of creativity on our Facebook and Instagram pages. They help keep all of us hopeful and excited for the time when our community can be together in person again, walking through those doors and seeing that Welcome sign.
Sometime before school closed, we took a spontaneous photo of our students waiting in the hallway first thing in the morning. We have a beautiful library and a gym, but they prefer to stand there, watching the clock and waiting for 8:20am so that they can go to their classrooms, greet their teachers and get going. Our students really love coming to school. It makes this stay at home order all the more difficult.
We learned last week that public schools will remain closed for the rest of the academic year. It wasn’t much of a surprise but it still hurt. We all want to see each other in person and get back to our regular schedules. Parents and teachers are stretched and tired from the effort it takes to school at home when schooling at home was never the plan. One student complained, "I just want to be with my real teacher and work with a paper and pencil!"
We love our teachers at IANY. They are the reason our children are developing confidence, leadership skills, self-expression, along with achieving academic growth. And now more than ever the talents of our teacher are magnified. It's teacher appreciation week and boy do we appreciate our teachers!
Gracias, Xièxiè, Thank You!
April is National Poetry Month. How timely! When things seem almost too vast to comprehend, a poem can help express things we don't know how to explain in detail. We're all at home, and yet our schedules are so harried, so I don't know many among us who are digging into an engrossing novel right now. But a poem? That can be a quick and deeply meaningful, perhaps even transformative, thing to read.
Even the NYC transit system has "Poetry in Motion," making poetry available to commuters as a gentle balm during the rush of the day. And now, away from the crowds and in our homes, poetry can have a remarkable healing power, whether you read it or write it.
Big changes come with big challenges, and this past week was certainly a big change for all of us, as our teachers and students started online classrooms under the cloud of the COVID-19 virus that continues to spread throughout the world.
At the beginning of the week our head of school sent this message:
Be patient...with us, with your children as they adapt to learning online, and with yourself. Everyone’s emotional and physical well-being is far more important than learning the difference between a comma and a semi-colon.”