“Human beings are more alike than we are unalike. The minute we begin to understand just the slightest part of that, we recognize ourselves as family. The moment I see a fifteen year old Jewish boy with braces on his teeth and know that boy is mine, and a very oversized white woman in Kansas, that she is mine and I am hers, and that Arab woman in the Palestinian concentration camp is mine and I am hers, then I am liberated into something very strange, into responsibility. It is amazing – it at once liberates me, it’s free as a bird and as contained as a poem. It is absolute – I belong to them, they belong to me. I have responsibility to them and they to me.”– Maya Angelou
These words of wisdom imparted to the world by Maya Angelou in 1989 embody the message we share with the students we are entrusted with daily. We know by the time children graduate from fifth grade at BNS, they understand this more deeply than we could ever imagine.
What an exciting week it has been, joining the national movement to celebrate Black Lives Matter in Schools Week! The participation of the entire BNS community, focusing on Black Joy was for some the start of the conversation and for others, the continuation of ongoing discussions. Teachers and staff focused on the 13 BLM principles to help students understand why this organization was founded, what it means in school, and why we are actively joining the celebration.
As with anything done for the first time, there will be successes and areas for growth, but in the spirit of moving forward, we acknowledge that there is much to be done personally as well as within the classroom, to ensure that students understand the lived experiences of Black people in America. We came into this week knowing that this celebration was a drop in the bucket in comparison to the work that we must continue to do daily. Conversations about race & racism in America can be messy, but using these guiding principles as a way to think about the joy that exists in the midst of the tragedies that sparked this movement, has created a balance in the way Black Americans are portrayed.
Students made artwork and wrote reflections, responses, and poetry to capture the messages they will hold onto from this week. Our BAX teaching artists, Donna and José, focused on BLM in Schools week during their weekly Wednesday warm-up session while students in the upper grades participated in a special presentation by the Harlem Chamber Players, all of whom are Black male classical musicians.
Even as our teachers plan curriculum, participate in BLM week, and support hands on learning, even as they work tirelessly with the kids, they are also typing away. They are writing about your children. They are not checking off boxes or selecting numbers, but rather they are describing your child’s work at school. And some of these teachers are writing thirty of these reports. It is hard to know how they do it during any school year, and as we read about how well they have come to know your children this year, we are in awe. How do they get all this work done?
Our hope is that by the end of this week, each family will receive a written story of their child. (A few may have to wait. As with any deadline, there might be one or two folks who do not meet it.) But if you haven’t received a progress report by February 22, do let us know. After all, we are expecting you to read these reports and to think about them carefully so that you are ready for your parent teacher conference in the month of March.
Anna, Diane and Malika
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