November has been extremely peaceful thus far (knock wood). I don’t want to push my luck by saying more…
Coming Around the Corner
Winter Concert – Please join us for our annual Winter Concert on Friday, December 6 at 7:30.
Open House – Our second Open House of the season is scheduled for Saturday, December 7, from 1-3 p.m. Please let Janet know if you would like to volunteer.
Painting – We are painting the exterior of the building over Thanksgiving break. If the weather holds, we should return to school to a fresh, updated look.
Thanksgiving Break – I hope you get the opportunity to relax during the holidays. Students have worked hard over the past few months and are looking forward to a nice break. Expect your child to sleep a lot, eat a lot, and spend time just chilling out.
Plans for the Future
Chloe’s Maternity Leave – Chloe, one of our wonderful Coyote Coast School Counselors, will be going on maternity leave starting in January. During her leave, we will welcome Casey Loughran, a member of the Coyote Coast team who has extensive working with adolescents, to provide coverage. I met with Chloe and Casey last week to discuss plans for transitioning Casey into the community, which will start with her being on campus, with Chloe, for several days in December.
New Lunch Vendor – After listening to your feedback, we have contracted with a new vendor for our hot lunch service. Flo’s Friendly Foods will begin lunch service in January. We will be sending parents details about how to sign up for lunches soon. I sampled some of Flo’s food last week, and it was delicious. I am looking forward to welcoming Flo and her friendly and tasty food to campus in the New Year.
Parent Support Group –
Parenting is the loneliest job in the world, and we recently decided that there was an opportunity for us to provide the OA parent community with additional support. This week I met with Jill Gorman and Rebecca Castelli, OAPG co-presidents, and Jocelyne Gardner, LSCW and OA Parent, to discuss creating a support group for OA parents. Jill, Rebecca, and Jocelyne are working on the details and will announce plans in January. After our conversation, I am excited about the possibilities for increased support and fellowship for OA parents.
I read an article recently about the fandom communities springing up around podcasts and the phenomenon of something called “parasocial” relationships. I’d tell you more about it but I stopped reading the article mid-stream, in part because it was stating the obvious (podcast listeners develop an attachment to podcast hosts and feel like they “know” them, and podcast hosts don’t feel the same way – duh), and in part because it was just plain depressing. All of us listening to podcasts, creating identities and subreddit groups and Facebook communities in response to the podcasts, and then realizing that maybe this isn’t real community, and blah, blah, blah. Sigh.
Actually, because I didn’t finish reading the article I’m not sure whether there was a realization that these communities aren’t “real,” or that maybe we’re missing something by spending so much of our energy trying to feel connected to people who have no interest in being connected to us. Maybe the takeaway was that these communities are great – who needs actual friends? – and that we should spend all of our time in a sub-subreddit group discussing whatever.
Regardless of the takeaway, the fact is many of us spend more time interacting online than we do in person, and many of us are lonely as a result. Of course, a virtual connection is a connection, sort of, just like ice cream is food, kind of, but at the end of the day neither are very sustaining or health-promoting. What we all crave, I think, is real human connection, even when it is messy and challenging, as many human connections are.
As our world becomes more digitized, and as we interact with each other more online than in person, I am increasingly grateful for our school community. Every day, throughout the day – and especially at lunch – I see students talking with each other, laughing, playing games (Uno and Bingo are popular at the moment), looking at each other in the eye, and just hanging out. More students than not are off their technology at lunch, and those who are online are often sharing the experience with a friend.
Because OA is so small, we see everyone every day. We say hello, we say hello again, we don’t say hello a third time because let’s be honest, we know we’ll see each other again in a few minutes so we don’t have to, and then we say goodbye at the end of the day. I can tell you where most students hang out at lunch, where small clusters huddle together in the mornings, and where they practice their Tik Tok dance routines at the end of the day.
At OA we feel connected throughout the day not because we listen to the same podcast or play the same game online, but because we are part of something greater than ourselves, a school that sustains us in community and also recognizes and values each of us as individuals. We have actual voices that can articulate actual opinions, and we give actual feedback to each other. Teachers and students creating an actual community – that’s what we do, all day long.
In addition to everything OA students learn in the classroom, they are learning something equally important as they participate in the community. They are learning how meaningful and sustaining genuine human interaction is, and that the person who exists right in front of them is more important than anything they have to do online. They learn that relationships are life-affirming and that what they are creating, and what is vital, are social, not parasocial, connections. Today at lunch, for instance, students were having so much fun with each other – face to face – and laughing so much that I got a headache, but this is the best kind of problem for a Head of School to have.
As we enter the holiday season, it is to the spirit and practice of community that I give thanks.
And to all of you…Thank you for being part of the OA community, and for being part of this wonderful co-creative community-building endeavor.