Lower School Reflections: From the Desk of Dr. Gosnell

Published On: January 5th, 2022 | Categories: Food for Thought |

January 2022

Happy New Year! The year hasn’t even started and many of us are tired. It’s easy to feel defeated by the ongoing and unpredictable nature of the pandemic. At school, the recent rise in cases has prompted us to have a necessary and renewed focus on health and safety. In the midst of uncertainty, it is easy to try to create it by gravitating toward all-or-nothing thinking and much harder to remain in the messy middle. Under the strong, capable, and thoughtful leadership of our head of school, we have continued to take in new information, consider all options, and proceed in a way that will keep our students safely on campus for as long as possible (hopefully without disruptions).

In order to achieve our goal of continued in-person learning, it is not simply enough to have the goal. James Clear, the author of Atomic Habits, says “You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems.” A huge part of the system that helps us to navigate these stormy waters is our faculty and staff.

Our faculty put forth immense effort each day to simultaneously create the safest learning environments possible while also bolstering a sense of familiarity and community for our students.

Charlotte Danielson calls teaching a “decision-making job” and she is right. Each day teachers make hundreds of decisions, some tiny and some significant. As they plan and adjust learning experiences, consider the social-emotional needs of individuals and the group, informally assess academic progress, adjust instruction, and the list goes on, they also take on additional pandemic-related responsibilities. They take on additional cleaning, calculate spacing and risk in their rooms regularly, teach through masks, compassionately respond to student worries, find creative ways to engage students, gather and communicate materials and assignments for students in quarantine, consider contingency plans for a variety of circumstances, and all while managing their own health and that of their families. Our faculty are such an important part of our system.

Our parents have been communicative, transparent, and such wonderful partners. They have been gracious and understanding, even when there are differing perspectives or a parent receives timeline information about return for their student(s) that adds stress and upheaval to this already intense year. Our parents have shown such care and concern for our community and this attitude helps our system to thrive.

Our students have shown tremendous resilience. Our young children have had a lot to deal with and navigate. They have gone through ups and downs and they look to us for support as we all (speaking as a parent now) are doing our best to be steady and calm despite managing our own nervousness. All the more reason to celebrate that our school is prioritizing a guidance counselor position for next school year (possibly earlier) to support our students as it is not expected that this time period has been or will be easy for them. Our system puts our students first by prioritizing in-person learning while also implementing safety protocols to prevent community transmission.

Thank you for your partnership and for being part of this system. This is a difficult time and we can have hope in our support for one another to see our way through it. Many are already aware of Amanda Gorman’s poem “New Day’s Lyric”. If you haven’t had an opportunity to view it, I highly recommend doing so (see link below) as we can all use a little hope about the year ahead.

~ Dr. Gosnell
Lower School Director


“New Day’s Lyric” by Amanda Gorman

Atomic Habits: Tiny Changes, Remarkable Results by James Clear

Parents Grapple With Omicron as Open vs Remote Schools Debate Continues – The New York Times