Silver Linings

By Dr. Kathleen Hanlon, Lower School Dean

On March 16, 2020 (the day we should have returned from spring break), I began keeping a "Silver Linings" Journal. I wrote down one thing per day that makes the current situation in which we find ourselves palatable, even enjoyable. Admittedly, most were self-serving (March 18 - "I can wear sneakers every day"), and others, utterly pragmatic (April 2 - "I can fold laundry while eating lunch." There was, however, the occasional day when my musings would take a more philosophical turn (March 30 - I have time, A LOT of time, to just think) and, then, on April 24, I found myself writing this: "I can choose how to define this year." Whoa...what? What does that even mean? Clearly, the 2019/2020 school year is for all time going to be "the year of the pandemic," "the year we did the spring at home," "the year when it all changed."

But is it? It would be naive to think that this year will not be largely remembered for what we are going through right now. However, I also hope that we can remember it as the year we all had to stop, decide what was truly essential, and come together in new and profound ways. I further hope, and pledge to try, to focus on the two-thirds of the school year we had BEFORE March 16, 2020. Yes, 2019/2020 is the "year of the pandemic" but it's also the year of the Thanksgiving Opera, and a butterfly release, and cross-country, and Colonial Days, and "Of Mice and Mozart," and basketball, and Nature's Fury robotics, and "SchoolHouse Rock," and Banned Book Day, and field hockey, and Australia Day, and soccer, and "Aesop's Fables," and Grandparents' Day, and the Camden Aquarium, and Grinch Day, and the 100th day of school, and food tastings, and the 9/11 Museum, and concerts, and Love to Run in the gym, and speeches and so much more. Even just writing the names of those happenings, some new and some long-standing, brings reassurance that they are what define us much more than this current situation ever will - they are the Lower School.

Despite this fact, we do currently find ourselves in a unique situation, replete with challenges that have to be met. And we are meeting them head-on and without hesitation. I have often said that a great professional sadness of mine is that I am a better administrator than teacher. Don't get me wrong, I am an ok (some might even say good) teacher, but my skill set and personality lend themselves more naturally to the demands of administration. I lack the authentic creativity that it takes to be a master teacher - it's just not in my toolbox. Never has this truth been more clear to me than in this moment. To see the, frankly, miraculous transition that our teachers have made in this new world of virtual learning is awe-inspiring. They have fully committed themselves to taking care of our students and to facilitating their learning in the most challenging of circumstances. Beyond that, they have found ways to keep our kids engaged and supported throughout this stressful and scary time. We still have some things to learn and will undoubtedly continue to evolve and grow throughout this process. However, our teachers have shown themselves to be more than up to the task. I am most grateful and proud to call these professionals my colleagues.

This is quite a paradoxical experience. We find ourselves at once in a space of solitude and community, isolation and connection, grief and celebration. For me, one of the most interesting of these contradictions to consider is that, despite so much loss, we are also in a time of great creation. Forced contemplation has produced some wonderful ideas that will greatly benefit our community.

This blog is the result of some of those musings. I would like to thank Tiffany Maakestad for creating this wonderful vehicle to communicate with our current and prospective families. Hopefully, it will help you gain further insight into the Lower School family.

These are uncertain and disconcerting times. We do not yet know when we will return to "normal." As President Rea said in his recent communication, "Regardless of what 'back to school' looks like this fall, we are committed to providing continuity of our mission, our academic curriculum and our community to our students and our families."I derive great solace from these words and from the knowledge that our Wyoming Seminary Lower School community is strong. Whatever the future holds, be assured of our continued support for your families. We are in this together and having you all on the team is the most silver lining of all!

Wishing you all safety, health, and happiness!