As many of you know, there was an incident in one of our schools on January 9th that resulted in the arrest of a parent. The parent raised concerns that race was a factor in this incident. In response, the District held a forum last week to hear from community members. I was incredibly moved by the few hundred individuals who came to this community conversation, particularly the individuals who shared their own experiences and stories, their concerns, and their questions.
After this community conversation, I came back to a book I read fifteen years ago, Turning to One Another: Simple Conversations to Restore Hope to the Future, written in 2001 by educator and author Dr. Margaret J. Wheatley. In her chapter titled Willing to be Disturbed Wheatley writes,
“As we work together to restore hope to the future, we need to include a new and strange ally—our willingness to be disturbed. Our willingness to have our beliefs and ideas challenged by what others think. No one person or perspective can give us the answers we need to the problems of today. Paradoxically, we can only find those answers by admitting we don’t know. We have to be willing to let go of our certainty and expect ourselves to be confused for a time. We weren’t trained to admit we don’t know. Most of us were taught to sound certain and confident, to state our opinion as if it were true. We haven’t been rewarded for being confused.”
(In my August blog post titled Do it Afraid, I also speak to how this confusion and uncertainty can feel.)
Through my studies and my work with so many incredible students, families, and colleagues over the past 25 years, one of the ways I believe I have grown is in my ability to be humble, to listen to others, and to openly own mistakes (although I recognize I still have a long way to go!). The various social media posts and community conversation provided me with another opportunity to practice all three of these skills, especially in light of how it felt to be on the receiving end of intense and public criticism.
While the stories shared at the forum were heartbreaking, I am also left with a feeling of hope because these individuals came out to share them. Wheatley writes, “The future doesn’t take form irrationally, even though it feels that way. The future comes from where we are now” (pg. 68). AB is my community. I grew up in Boxborough and am a member of the ABRHS Class of 1991. This is where I chose to live and send my own children to school. And the experiences and feelings that families and community members shared at the forum are indicative of where we are now. Personally and professionally, I know we can do better as a community to move forward from here.
So as a community member and leader, I want every family here to feel that their children are loved, valued, and supported in all nine of our schools every day. I want each of our families to feel that they are an integral part of the AB community- because they are. Wheatley also writes, “New voices revive our energy, and oftentimes help us discover solutions to problems that seem unsolvable… There is no power for change greater than that of a community discovering what it cares about” (p. 59). While I am definitely sad for where we are right now, I am so thankful for new voices in this conversation.
As a District, we will not be able to do this work alone. We will need to partner with staff, students, families, and community members and organizations. A member of the faith community reached out last week to share the following with me, “May we not be a community who competes at altruism or concern for racial justice, but a community who joins hands and works together for it.” We must seek connection in this work- by turning to one another.