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A Message From Louise Stilphen | Headmaster & Founder

Louise Stilphen

Greetings dear Sparhawk Families,

If I tell you I’m a bit of a dinosaur technologically it would not be far from the truth. But I am catching up fast on the receiving end- that is, I am now enjoying Sparhawk School online, and I am hoping to ramp up my skills on the delivery side. Perhaps I can figure out how to “go live”. For now, my strongest platform is the written word and the delivery system is “old-fashioned” email.

First, I must thank Kaitlyn MacDonald, Assistant Head of School, and our Upper and Lower School Directors, Yvonne Domings and Suzanne Atkins, for their quick response to the dilemma we faced when we made the difficult decision to do a proactive closure. The three of them led our staff, pulling them together with alacrity, enthusiasm for the possibilities, and support for anyone who needed assistance. And the support is ongoing. This is a lot of work. The challenge is how to continue to educate our children, to the best of our ability, in a way that retains as much of the Sparhawk "intellectual stamp” as possible, and to continue focusing on individual children’s needs in this new, distance-learning model. Amazing! It is absolutely amazing what they have done in short time, and they have more ideas brewing.

I thank all of you as well, Sparhawk families, for your calm acceptance of what was necessary despite the abrupt timeline reality dictated. I know you are working hard, too, helping your children navigate on-line Sparhawk and holding them tenderly in these anxious times.

Using Zoom and Instagram and other platforms for the first time, I am awestruck by the evidence of the caring and inventive responsiveness of our staff even in the face of the unanticipated and seismic shift in our world/school experience. I feel deep and poignant emotions of respect and gratitude. They are excited about finding ways to stay in touch with our precious students. You, our wonderful parents, have a lot on your plate, yet, many have shared their appreciation for what the teachers are doing. Some, and I thank you and invite more, have contacted the directors with suggestions about how we could streamline and enrich what we are doing. Please continue to send your ideas or concerns. We are all still learning.

Has it only been a week? So much has happened so fast that my sense of time is deeply skewed. We all must feel it. Only the week before last, we were updating our thoughts and expectations that changed by the minute, and that seems like eons ago. At home, we are all simultaneously busier and quieter as we establish new priorities nationally, locally, for our communities, families, and ourselves. We are more isolated than we have ever been in our lives and at the same time, so connected by technology. We know too much and too little. And the children, our dear children!

I once read that childhood is a sequence of revealed secrets. In other words, parents, at least for the last several hundred years in this country, had control of when to introduce certain truths to children at developmentally appropriate stages. We were sheltered. Naive. In the digital age, children are exposed to those "revealed secrets" earlier and at a more rapid pace than ever before and oftentimes many suffer anxiety because of it. TV, and movies caused tremors in society starting in the 1950s. Our children, and we, saw, among other things, real-time war and mayhem, but it was confined to TV news hours. Then came continuous news coverage, and 9/11. Day after frightening day, image after etched image, we watch in confusion, and fear was rampant. Recently, palpable and ubiquitous strife has been felt, if not understood, by children as politics took center stage. And now, we are necessarily focused on the worldwide spread of the potentially deadly Coronavirus. What can you do?

How do you deal with yourself let alone comfort your children? You know most of what I could suggest. I will limit myself to this. What I find most important in anxious times is taking action. Almost any positive action will relieve the sense of helplessness we all feel. Taking action to control what we can control, even if that sphere of influence is small right now, helps. Taking action, making decisions, gives us back a feeling of control, a hiatus from the fear this indifferent virus, this war with an unseen enemy, causes in us. Our scientists are hard at work. We will get past this time. Hard times can build character. Hard times teach us to value good times. Hard times help us put in perspective what is really important. Hard times pass. May we, the whole world, come out of this crisis with renewed empathy and a will to work together.

I miss you all.

Sincerely yours,

Louise Stilphen