How do you bring hope to a school community?
I remember when this question was asked of me during my interview for this Principalship. At the time it felt like a curve ball and I remember thinking ‘good question’. It had not been in the list of things I had prepped for and I can’t even really remember what I replied.
As I was leaving school yesterday afternoon, that question formed again in my consciousness – how do you bring hope?
I have thought about this question a lot in the last 24 hours as I reflected on the last eight weeks of remote learning, a world grappling with COVID19, a world grappling with the injustice a of racial prejudices and closer to home a community grieving the loss of another young life. I am also currently reading a new book by Julia Baird titled ‘Phosphorescence: on awe, wonder and things that sustain you when the world goes dark’. It has helped me to make some sense of the question of finding hope. In her prelude she writes:
In my quest for what Emily Dickinson called ‘the light within’ I learned these simple, powerful lessons.
First, pay attention.
Second, do not underestimate the soothing power of the ordinary.
Third, seek awe, and nature, daily.
Fourth…well, so many things: show kindness; practice grace; eschew vanity; be bold; embrace friends, family, faith and doubt, imperfection and mess; live deliberately.
I wish I had read this prior to my interview because I believe it so simply and yet profoundly captures sources of hope.
Throughout our time of remote learning we never gave up, we worked through the imperfection and mess, even when the technological challenges seemed beyond us. We embraced this space as learners with our students. Many of us reclaimed our connection with nature and our families. So many of our students and staff have shared how grateful they were for this time.
We have also tried to be a community that pays attention to fears, to successes, to the need for certainty and clarity in uncertain times. To be a community that pays attention, we have responded to the need to reprioritize, be agile and adaptive and be open and willing to change. We have also paid attention to the voices of our community, especially the voices of the vulnerable.
During the recent Reconciliation Week, we have been a community humbled and inspired by our FIRE Carriers who addressed staff and students with a bold challenge and invitation to work with them for justice, reconciliation, understanding and truth.
And in this time where many are grieving we have been here to listen, to notice, to companion our students, staff and families. This week I visited all of the girls onsite to remind them that we are here for them, to listen to them and that they can have agency and inner strength when things are tough. I shared with them that nothing is so bad or terrible that it can’t be talked about to someone. I invited them to see the ‘soothing power in the ordinary’ so that they might refill their inner wells.
As a Kildare Ministries College, hope is one of our core values. Hope brings purpose and meaning. It was no accident that I was asked as a prospective new Principal – how do you bring hope?
I am sure I would answer this question differently now.
What I know is that on Tuesday when we are all back together it will because we have endured, we have been a community of strength and kindliness and we are people of hope.