I am sure many of you enjoyed, sometimes with great relish, the multitude of memes that circulated this past week to express a not so fond farewell to 2020! It was a year deserving of the expletives and graphic depictions, to be sure, reminding me once more that laughter is medicinal, and that 2020 itself was an easier pill to swallow knowing that it concluded with vaccines in the arms of our first health care workers. There is indeed hope and promise in the New Year, even if our midwinter calendar tradition of turning the page—with the turning of the earth around the sun—does not in itself transform the world in a single day without imagination and optimism (and dare I say faith). Perhaps you, too, uttered a prayer for the New Year.
Mine included St. George’s, of course, and as my wife’s Grandma Ethyl was fond of saying in her inimitably Southern way, “You’ve gotta put wheels on those prayers!” We often think of prayers, as with our hopes and dreams, with the imagery of lift and a lightness—think of Emily Dickinson’s wonderful poem that begins, “‘Hope’ is the thing with feathers-.” Dickinson was the better poet, but I’ve always admired the grounding industry of Grandma Ethyl’s line, how it puts those prayers to work. You could say that 2020 grounded us in so many ways, and yet have we reflected enough on the positive of being grounded, of the perseverance and resolve required? 2020 put us to work, tested our resolve, and what resolutions we commit to and keep in 2021 will have that industry and those promises kept beyond the misery of 2020.
Consider just a few things: Despite the pandemic, we completed the last school year at home with an unforeseen flexibility and ingenuity—need I say again that over 9 million people worldwide downloaded the StG Google Meet Grid View?! Meaningful learning happened remotely and yet with an unwavering commitment to community that to this day lends the Shield of St. George’s through our pandemic relief and Community Fund. Then with tremendous effort and planning, St. George’s was able to safely reimagine our summer camp offering so that Dragon Camp became Dragon Care as we welcomed many of our teachers and youngest learners back to campus. This tested more than our resolve; it tested our health protocols and pandemic policies so that the larger lift of our 2020-2021 Reopening Plan afforded us the best opportunity to return to in-person learning. Despite the quarantines, the close contacts and the coronavirus itself, we have managed to continue on-campus learning since August 20th. Equal resolve has gone into our school’s commitment to justice, equity, diversity and inclusion, what we call the JEDI work at St. George’s. If the summer of discontent laid bare the racial injustice and inequity plaguing our country and communities, the systemic nature of it made appallingly clear by the pandemic itself, it is affirming to realize that the response of this community has been to renew the mission of St. George’s and align the values this school has always embraced to an ongoing, sustained commitment to JEDI work. Let us admit we have a long way to go, but let’s not forget in 2020 that we put into place our Faculty and Staff JEDI Council, our Trustee JEDI Task Force, our JEDI parent introduction and invitation, our first Fireside Chat on Race, our engagement and partnerships with Overcoming Racism and Beloved Community, and our long-term strategic planning that has JEDI work as foundational to the vision of who we are and what we aspire to be. Even new traditions, like the St. George’s Thanksgiving Day of Service, put wholly on display how our students can reimagine service learning and transform the giving of thanks into acts of gratitude and giving back.
This and so much more are at once behind us and before us, our hopes and prayers for the new year, the promise of what’s to come grounded by the industry of what’s already been done. As we all once more seek betterment and boldly reimagine how to make ourselves anew, let’s remember that the resolve of our resolutions has already been on display. We have our core values, and they only need to be reimagined as resolutions to provide us who we are and who we’d like to be:
- We resolve to persevere, to embrace mistakes and the idea that we’re not there yet in our growth and learning together, and yet we resolve to keep our community safe and informed as we still persevere through the pandemic.
- We resolve to demonstrate integrity, to speak up for ourselves and others, to be just and fair to others, to be role models, honoring our mission to excel in educating children as we empower our students to become lifelong learners.
- We resolve to foster respect, to treat others the way we want to be treated, to take care of ourselves and others, to accept differences and embrace our diversity, continuing with conviction the JEDI work started in 2020.
- We resolve to embody compassion, to be aware, to notice others, to be kind and inclusive, to be the kind of community that honors how each one of us needs to be safe, valued, supported and included.
These, after all, are not resolutions or recommitments to our values that we make alone. 2020 taught us that we are stronger together. Challenges may overwhelm us as individuals, but, as a community, we can be positively transported. Let’s continue together to put wheels on our prayers with renewed purpose in the new year.
I look forward to our continued work together as a community. I’ll see you as you drive up in the carpool line, one prayer at a time but one community all the time.
- Dr. Kreutziger