Monday, November 14, 2016

The Post-Election Challenge for Educators

       After the recent presidential election, as a school leader I felt the need to share some thoughts with faculty and staff. Their reaction has prompted me to post it here as well. I hope it provides some food for thought, a bit of comfort, and a ray of optimism:

Dear St. John’s,

            Obviously the recent Presidential election has triggered strong reactions across our nation. Naturally, that holds true for many at St. John’s, a school full of passionate, thoughtful people who hold diverse perspectives.
            At such times, people experience myriad emotions, all valid and needing to be worked through. Doing so may take some of us a long time. Perhaps like me you find yourself swinging wildly across a gamut of feelings while groping to make sense of it all.  If your candidate lost, you may be angry and despairing. If your candidate won, you may feel joyful and misjudged. You may wonder about people you have considered colleagues and friends. Whatever the case, we must not let recent events divide us. Always we should uphold our fifth tenet of Episcopal education to be “an inclusive community where the dignity of every human being is respected.” Such respect begins with striving to understand. If we don’t, we tend to demonize.
            Even before the campaign, our nation was beginning to fracture, mainly because of fear. We live in what’s been called “the age of anxiety.” Depending on our particular circumstances, we tremble with fears real and imagined. They are personal, often intense. Fear can overwhelm everything else. It causes that fight-or-flight reflex. It lurks in the reptilian, most primal stem of our brains.
            We have evolved far beyond that. We can rise to our better nature, to evoke our higher angels. We can gather our courage and tap into the unique human spirit comprised of heart, mind, and soul. It allows for rationality and empathy and forgiveness and compassion and love. It urges us to seek unity in an ongoing search for the ideal, with hope a shining beacon.
            Such optimism propels our individual and collective mission as educators.  The challenge of this historical moment is how we seize it to become better educators in all aspects of our lives.  To educate shares its etymology with educe, meaning “to bring out something latent.”  Our ultimate calling is to educe that which is potentially awesome, not only in our students but also in ourselves, in each other, and in our nation. I urge that we strengthen our resolve to do just that. Thus we will foster the safety and healing and love our world needs, now and in the future.
            In the meantime, if you wish to talk about this or anything else, as always I’m here for you.