December 29, 2017 by Bill Ivey
“What is Humanities doing now?” asked Ruthie, now in eighth grade, as she drew on the white board while waiting for her math class next door. I said, “Their current unit is ‘Who are they?’ and ten of them are studying each other.” and she whirled, her facial expression matching those of her friends, and said, “That’s awesome! How come our class didn’t think of that?” “Well,” I responded, “as I remember, at this precise time of year last year, you all were deeply involved in planning your conference about the new Declaration of Sentiments, which no other class had ever done before and which is pretty much an amazing project in itself.” They looked pensive, and commented, “That’s true.”
Last April, the all-women band Antigone Rising headlined a show on campus to benefit their foundation Girls Rising, for which the Upper School Rock Bands (the eighth graders being away on their D.C. trip) and the local teen girl band Kalliope Jones served as warm-up acts. Bassist Kristen Henderson praised the kids for their hard work and spoke of the importance to girls and to our culture of using their power and voice through rock music. We had learned the backing vocals for “Game Changer,” but when they were all on stage and lead vocalist Nini Camps asked if any kids were interested in taking the lead, Aster and Eileen were ready and stepped to the mic to belt their way through the entire song, ending with matching proud smiles.
In a Humanities 7 discussion on George by Alex Gino, Natalia observed, “I’ve learned so much by reading this book. We don’t have any transgender people in Honduras.” and Sabrina added, “In Mexico either.” I opened my mouth to add something, but before I could speak, Natalia added, “Well, at least we don’t talk about them.” And the class was off on a thoughtful discussion about how identity and culture intersect.
In the best of times, I find it fairly easy to focus on the ways I feel like I’m not measuring up, and these are by no means the best of times. It’s been a long and stressful year for many of us, myself included. But many teachers have found solace and grace this year in the kids with whom we’re privileged to work. Myself included.
There are about a trillion and a half things I want to do better next year to bend the arc of the moral universe more rapidly toward justice (to paraphrase Theodore Parker’s words later referenced by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.), and I hope and trust I will continue to learn and grow in 2018 and continue to try to take concrete actions every day to make the world a better place.
And as I walk that path, I know I’ll continue to seek and find joy in the learning and growth I get to witness around me every day.
Happy new year to you all.
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