March 5, 2021
Harborlight is a learning community, and this applies to the adults as well as our students.
Today, our faculty and staff are engaged in a variety of professional development activities. Early this morning, teachers were engaged in remote learning in small socially-distanced groups. Today also marks the start of the two-day American Montessori Society Conference, and many of our teachers and staff are attending those virtual sessions.
This is just one example of the adult learning that goes on year round, as we engage, as a whole faculty, in small groups and individually, in growing our knowledge and professional skills. This important work is supported by our professional development budget and by an active Professional Development Committee, made up of teachers and staff.
Harborlight is also home to Montessori Institute-New England (MI-NE), which, since 1996, has provided high quality professional training to individuals aspiring to become Montessori teachers. MI-NE graduates teach in Montessori schools throughout New England and beyond, and in our own classrooms.
Just two recent examples of individual professional development (out of many): Hiromi Sudachi, our Infant/Toddler Director, was the recipient of a two-year Emerging Leaders Fellowship from AMS, and Adrienne Frautten is currently enrolled in the AMS Instructor Academy, a rigorous two-year course which prepares Montessori teachers to teach future generations of Montessori educators.
Our learning community extends to parents. We provide a variety of parent education opportunities; and this is something Zoom has actually made easier to do. Finally, in a remarkable moment this past week, Harborlight parents, trustees, faculty and staff joined 9,000 peers from 127 AISNE schools for the webinar with Ibram X. Kendi, the largest event AISNE has ever produced.
One of our goals is to encourage habits of lifelong learning in our students. We are modelling this in many ways.
Be safe, friends,
February 26, 2021
Kindness, respect, and a commitment to justice and equity are core values of our Harborlight community. But how do we bring that commitment beyond our school? How do we look at ideas and institutions we've known all our lives through a different lens and objectively evaluate them against our ideals?
Earlier this week you received an invitation to a March 3rd webinar talk by Ibram X. Kendi, the best-selling author of Stamped, and a professor and historian, who, since July 2020, has directed the Center for Antiracist Research at Boston University. The event is sponsored by the Association of Independent Schools in New England (AISNE), and will be attended by parents, faculty and staff, and trustees from 120 member schools. Registration is free and available on a first-come basis.
Kendi’s talk is titled: Go Beyond an Awareness of Racism: Contribute to the Formation
of a Truly Just and Equitable Society.
I know that these conversations, which many of us are having in our workplaces, our schools, our faith communities, in organizations we volunteer for, and in our own families, can be difficult and often uncomfortable. They require us to get past preconceptions, and be open to introspection.
One of the most important traits we hope to nurture in our students is self-awareness. The better we are at that the more they will be able to engage openly in life’s tough conversations, and to contribute to a more truly just and equitable society.
I hope you will join us on March 3rd.
Be safe, friends,
January 29, 2021
What is school going to look like next year? As one of my colleagues on our weekly heads’ calls said: “Anyone know where I can get a crystal ball?”
I will know we have made it through when the Middle School is back in the pizza business and Grades 6-8 are off on the yellow bus to ski Mt. Wachusett on Fridays. When Upper Elementary and Middle School are back at Gloucester Stage Company for two weeks of set building, lighting design, rehearsing, and staging a play. When we are working in the field (or the watershed) with Salem Sound Coast Watch. When we go to the pumpkin patch.
In the meantime, we brought the pumpkin patch to campus. Holly has students doing lots of creative work in the art room, and Jay Daly is doing an amazing job of teaching band on line, while Elaine’s socially-distanced ukulele group is thriving. Elisa’s library is open for business. Students at all levels are engaged in their work and happy to be together in school. Upper Elementary has been studying Greek gods, and one class is about to do presentations of their work. In the other UE class, students just wrote their own “I Have a Dream” speeches. Some really good stuff happening.
We are planning our summer programs, at all levels, with the assumption that we will be on campus, in small groups, and masked.
As for the Fall, our goal is to get back to the traditional three-year cycle in Children’s House and Lower Elementary as quickly as possible, and to do so in a way that provides continuity for teachers and children. We know that is doable. In the upper grades, we see this year as an opportunity to take a good look at how we really “do Montessori,” whatever the circumstances.
So, at Harborlight we do have a crystal ball.
Be safe, friends,
January 22, 2021
Watching President Biden’s Inauguration, I was struck by how the complexion of the group on the dais has changed in my lifetime. When Dwight Eisenhower took the oath in 1953, Margaret Chase Smith of Maine was the only woman in the Senate. The cabinet members were all White males, as were the justices of the Supreme Court.
Four years later, in a first, Marion Anderson, the Black opera singer barred by the DAR from singing at Constitution Hall because of her race, sang the National Anthem at Ike’s second inauguration.
The next “firsts” took longer to come. In 1966, Edward Brooke of Massachusetts became the first Black senator since Reconstruction, and in 1967, Thurgood Marshall joined the Supreme Court. It was not until until 1981 that Sandra Day O’Connor became the first woman on the Court, and 2009 that Sonia Sotomayor become the first Hispanic Justice.
So, looking at the faces on the dais and the photos of the President’s cabinet nominees this week, I was encouraged, but also keenly aware of how many “firsts” we are still checking off. “Firsts” are important milestones, but only if they are followed by seconds and thirds and so on, until we get to the point where the wonderful and powerful diversity of our country is reflected in our leadership, both public and private.
As the remarkable young poet Amanda Gorman challenged us, there is much work to be done, for “…being American is more than a pride we inherit; it’s the past we step into and how we repair it.”
Be safe, friends,
January 15, 2021
I have thought a lot about the power of words recently. Words can paint pictures, and bring smiles, laughter, or tears. Words can heal or hurt, they can inspire or incite. Whether used intentionally or carelessly, they have impact.
A really good author or orator can elevate prose to poetry and make the words even more powerful. This is true of both the written and spoken word, but I think the spoken word has more immediate impact.
Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address was only 271 words and took just two minutes to deliver (it was an afterthought to the main speech of the day), but to read it is to read powerful poetry.
John F. Kennedy’s inaugural speech, with passages like, “Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans,” and “Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country,” inspired my generation.
Both were powerful, inspirational speeches. But the most powerful speech I have ever heard was delivered by the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. on August 28, 1963. King spoke from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial to over 250,000 peacefully assembled civil rights supporters and to millions more by live television.
“When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, ‘Free at last! free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!’”
I listened to that speech live, and Dr. King’s words inspire me still. You can watch it on YouTube, and you should on this particular weekend.