As the first part of the school year draws to a close, it’s time to take stock of how things are going so far. With that in mind, I set time aside this week and last to meet individually with colleagues that are new to the school this year. First impressions are always invaluable and provide us with a fresh perspective on our identity and our way of doing things. In the same ‘taking stock’ mindset, we also sent a questionnaire to parents of newly enrolled students at The École– I will undoubtedly discuss those responses with you in a future letter.
In Praise of Co-Workers
You will probably not be surprised to learn that our new colleagues were unanimous in their praise of the generosity, kindness, and friendliness of their co-workers and all said it was a real pleasure to get to know the students. Otherwise, the question of school in a post-Covid world was the topic that arose most frequently. Since March 2020, our students have experienced a vast array of different learning styles and locations: homeschooling, remote learning (solo or in a pod), in person, in a cohort, hybrid, full-time online, quarantine behind a screen, in the countryside, in the city, in Europe, in the States, elsewhere, in a public or a private school, with a mask or without, in French or in English.
Our Common Culture
Squeezing all of those experiences into a small school like ours often feels like trying to put the genie back in the bottle. We have reviewed and re-reviewed–and continue to (re)re-review–our methods and practices to ensure that our students’ enthusiasm is transformed into a love of learning, living, and working together. To that end, we have introduced a new feature: biweekly school assemblies, when the entire student body comes together (for the time being, they take place on Zoom and Elementary and Middle School students attend) to reflect on our shared experiences and to pave the way toward rebuilding our truly common culture.
I am convinced that we will get there. The École has a deep-rooted, immediately identifiable culture. Our capacity to welcome, to accept, to encourage, and to motivate; our drive to dedicate time, to support, and to lend a hand; our passion to propose the most interesting lessons and to ensure the students are learning and taking pleasure in doing so are just some examples. I find that when we put all of these qualities together, they compose our identity–one that I think is perfectly incarnated in the person of Lauren Gagne. For almost 10 years, Lauren has been our Spanish teacher, our special needs teacher, our gardener, our guide to the MOMA, our ray of sunshine, and a part of our history. She is all of that at once and she is much more. I couldn’t even attempt to list all of the things she has done for our students and for The École.
Biding Farewell to a Colleague
I mention Lauren to you today because she has recently let us know that she will, unfortunately, have to leave our school soon. Those of you who know Lauren are aware that she has been struggling for some time with serious health issues, which–although they make her life difficult– she always speaks of with a smile and a strength that we all admire. The time has now come for her to rest and take care of herself. We are of course incredibly sad that she is leaving The École, but we are also proud of her and of the courageous decision she has made. We are also reassured to know that she has made her health a priority. Lauren and her husband are going to move to the great outdoors in Vermont, but she knows that The École will always be her home.