Intersections: Awarenesss

December 29, 2016 by Bill Ivey

A year ago, and not for the first time, it seemed like every edu-blogger was jumping on the #OneWord bandwagon, as I mentioned a year ago in my sort-of-annual New Year’s post. Last year, I resisted the temptation, pushed willingly over the edge by the ever-wise Rusul Alrubail. This year, though, it somehow seems to fit. My #OneWord this year is: awareness.

One main focus will need to be an awareness of truth, as Karen Suchenski argued brilliantly in her Honor Roll address to the School on December 6, 2016. In these days of fake news, the truth can be harder than ever to tease out, an act perhaps more important than ever for its difficulty. Dr. John Johnson, in a Huffington Post piece entitled “The Five Types of Fake News,” tells us to watch out for “news” that is: 100% false, slanted and biased, pure propaganda, misusing the data, and/or imprecise and sloppy. I found, as the recent presidential campaign progressed, that I was relying increasingly on - and sharing back out with my online network - sites such as Politifact,, and Snopes and their Twitter accounts. Since the election, I’ve continued to do so and have also increased my rate of personally fact-checking certain stories before sharing them back out.

I will also need to maintain focus on an awareness of my own personal truth. I try always to act out of love, with respect for our common humanity and personal dignity, the better to #Coexist and create #EverydayKindness (the hashtags I use for my online goodnights). I’m acutely aware that every action I take is an opportunity to bend the arc of the moral universe toward justice (paraphrasing Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.), and try my best to make a positive difference each day. That also means developing an ever-deeper awareness of my personal failings and, ideally, blind spots - what is preventing me from being my own best authentic self, and how can I get past that?

Of course, I’ll need an awareness that different people have different personal truths, and that sometimes we’ll simply need to agree to disagree. Granted, that can be tricky. For example, I did not vote for Trump (I won’t reveal for whom I actually did vote; I never have), but when discussing LGBT issues or Islamophobia with Trump supporters, I’ve found people who believe firmly that all religions are equally deserving of respect, as are people of all genders and sexualities. And we’ve agreed to work together toward that common end. But I’ve also found Trump supporters who literally say, for example, that homosexual people are “less human.” And with people who espouse views like that (whatever their politics), I can’t simply agree to disagree. I can be respectful to them. But I refuse to legitimize in any way a world view that creates a hierarchy of humanity.

Awareness of what is happening around me is also fundamentally important. That is true in so many different ways, it’s hard to list them all. Awareness of the strengths and needs, educational and social, of my students individually and collectively, and of the dynamics at play in any given moment in the context of our common group history. Awareness of what is going on in my profession, where I know I need to improve and where I don’t yet know I need to improve. Awareness of what is going on out in the world, within my country and without, as I seek to work for equity and evaluate there too, the needs of the moment in context of our common history, all the while seeking to fight climate change as best I can.

Honestly, that’s probably just the tip of the iceberg - which means one more focus, a continual awareness of the need to constantly expand my awareness. But if I am to help create a genuine and legitimate hope for the future, and to help keep it alive, all this seems the bare minimum of what I must do.

As I write that, an image pops into my mind of my students walking/running into my classroom, tossing their backpacks to the floor as they flop on beanbag chairs, all the while animatedly chatting with their friends. They are the epitome of hope, and along with my family one of the reasons why everything I wrote here is so important to me.

And with that, I wish you all and all your own families a happy, healthy, and hopeful New Year 2017.

Written by Bill Ivey

A dedicated member of the faculty, Bill Ivey is the Middle School Dean at Stoneleigh-Burnham School. He teaches Humanities 7 and the Middle and Upper School Rock Bands. Bill is the advisor for MOCA, the middle school student government, and he coordinates and participates in the middle school service program. Among his many hats, Bill also coordinates social media for Stoneleigh-Burnham School.

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Filed Under: new year, Intersections