Renee’s Welcome Remarks at our Welcome Back to School Night:
Each year, as I prepare for this night, I try to find the words that will give parents some insights into our practice and our guiding principles. Each year, I try to find the words that inspire and instill certain trust. But there is little that seems certain these days. While uncertainty has always been inherently found in life, it now holds a more daunting and fraught tone. So I look for solace in certainties where ever I can find them – whether it is the certainty of family, my morning coffee or the feeling of fall in the air. It is grounding for me to hold onto things of which I can be certain.
As Greenhouse moves into this new school year, in a world filled with uncertainty, I wondered, “What are the things we can be certain of this year?” It is certain that the beginning of any school year is filled with equal parts excitement, anticipation and worry. For those whose child is taking their first step out of home and into this place called school, the beginning of any year is certainly tinged with both the longing to let go and longing to hold on. These are certain facts – in any year.
For those returning to school, in any year there is a longing for the consistency of a predictable routine, mixed with a sadness for the summer’s end. But this year – these dichotomies may be intensified by an almost nostalgic feeling of normalcy and your longing to keep your family safely tucked away inside the protection of your nest.
Certainly, these contradictions ring very true this year. I realize and appreciate the huge leap of faith you are taking by sharing your children with us as we re-open for the 20-21 school year. I am equally aware and deeply grateful for the faculty and staff’s leap of faith, too. Our successful reopening required both families and faculty to commit to Greenhouse’s safe reopening and it is in that coming together where I find my deepest example of certainty.
I am certain that Greenhouse, more specifically the people of Greenhouse (the families, the caregivers, the teachers, the staff), will do everything they collectively can to honor the leap of faith we are all taking and put forth a collective effort to maintain a healthy and safe school experience for our kids, families and our teachers. I am certain that our collective efforts some of which are found in these community agreements — to wear masks, to maintain social distancing, keep children’s social circles small, avoid crowds and indoor activities, stay home when you are sick, wash your hands, avoid traveling — these provide our best chance of keeping our school community healthy. I am certain — together — is the way to move through this; we all must do our best to adhere to these guidelines, both inside and outside of school. We can call it partnerships. We can call it home-school connection. We can call it community. Whatever you call it –it is inside of that shared, collective commitment and dedication that I find my deepest certainty – and steadfast assurance to move forward and leap myself.
That shared commitment to collectively do the most we can to provide a safe, warm, loving school experience then becomes the catalyst that creates a clear path to many other certainties. So when the uncertainties begin to creep in or gnaw at you and you are searching for something to ground you, I offer you these other certainties that I hold onto. This school year:
I am certain there will be time to explore.
There will be time to pretend.
There will be time to create, express and experiment.
There will be time to read and time to write.
There will certainly be time to share a discovery with a friend.
There will be time to run, ride and laugh.
These are the things I hold onto when I am faced with questions and uncertainties. They are the core of our values and our mission; and they must be what lead us in uncertain times. I am certain that it continues to be our responsibility to protect and honor our children’s right and access to a playful, joyful early childhood experience. I am certain — more certain than ever — that it continues to be our responsibility to make sure that all children and families can bring their full selves into Greenhouse and feel seen and valued. As a community, we must commit to being actively anti-racist in our pedagogy and work together to build the world we want for our children. I am certain that our kids remain capable and competent learners — no matter the environment. But it is in school — inside their classroom – where I am certain they bring their best ‘school kid’ self. They take risks, try new things, stretch their independence and feel like ‘big kids’.
The reality is there are many, many things to worry about, wonder about and fear. There are many things to be uncertain about. I can’t take away the uncertainties or the risks. But the things that I am certain of — the things I’ve just identified — they matter. They matter to our kids.
So you can be certain that inside our Greenhouse we will do all we can to nurture, protect and care for each individual child. We will give each growing, developing unique little person just the right mix of light, love and good snacks. Inside our Greenhouse we will cultivate the just right conditions for joyful connections and wondrous discovery.
It is in this certainty that I move forward and welcome you to the new school year.