Strength in Community

Jennifer Silver

During the inauguration yesterday, I stood in our Upper School student center, surrounded (socially distanced) by our 8th grade class and my colleagues. We stood silently as the 46th president took his oath of office. We stood together as a community, for the first time in months. Standing there, next to my son, it struck me just how much I have missed the physical presence of our community, and just how much I relied on the strength of our community, albeit remote, over the past few months.

I looked around, and it occurred to me that I have watched these children grow up together. I have seen them grow into active community members, learning to support one another, advocating for each other and themselves, and learning how to communicate especially when they disagree. Along with the regular myriad of daily social, emotional and academic milestones, we have experienced incredible joy and unimaginable loss, and we have shouldered it all, together. It is through these shared experiences, that we unknowingly prepared ourselves to weather the storm that was 2020. 

Regardless of when a student joins Sparhawk, whether it’s in kindergarten or ninth grade, they are quickly immersed in the culture of kindness that is the backbone of the Sparhawk community. Our culture has been built intentionally, over time, using the Sparhawk CREDO as framework. I found this tenet in the CREDO especially significant over the past few months given the worldly challenges we faced in 2020:

Courageous in the face of unknowns, they are willing to ask questions and persevere until understanding comes.

These challenges test the strength of a community that we have tirelessly created together, in-person for years. We are forced to innovate, and to take our community online. Each of us work collectively to make this new way of learning a success. We extend trust in ways we never comprehended, and ask to be trusted in return. Each day is a new unknown, and yet we face it, ask questions, and persevere. It is hard and we don’t always agree with each other. It is in those times that I reflect on this pillar of the CREDO: “Sparhawk students treat peers and adults with the kindliness they deserve.” Louise Stilphen couldn’t have known what the future would bring when she wrote the CREDO in 1994. However she did know that teaching our children, and holding ourselves accountable, to the type of behavior we choose, determines what kind of community we build.

Over the past few months I have heard countless stories of our community holding each other up. From students showing up early to class for “playdates” with their friends, to teachers delivering supplies to families, and fun events like Friday Movie Night with Matt. For me, I found strength in everything from the funny memes sent to me by co-workers on a stressful day, to the thoughtful holiday gifts sent by our incredible PTO, to the always hilarious weekly village meetings at the Lower School. 

As I stood in the student center, surrounded by your incredible children, I thought of the African philosophy, Ubuntu, which states, “I am who I am, because of who we all are”. Thank you for choosing Sparhawk, and for every little (and big!) thing you do to create a community that we now know, can weather any storm.