We will have our first ever virtual Middle School Thanksgiving Assembly tomorrow. This is bittersweet, like so many things these days. On one hand, the connections that we can sustain despite quarantines, health restrictions, and losses are especially poignant. And on the other, virtual gatherings and scaled-down celebrations remind us of what we’re missing. As one of our coverage helpers said to me this morning, this - of all years - is the one we need the comfort of company the most. And Thanksgiving is a complicated occasion even in typical times. It's a time for reflection and togetherness. It's also a national celebration of a history that was exceptionally violent and unjust. Our assembly - like our classrooms - will try to hold both of these truths.
We will share gratitudes. Middle schoolers' gratitudes have been compiled and will be read by eighth graders. A sampling is below:
I am grateful for my helpful, supportive and caring friends.
I am grateful for the scientists that are working hard to make a vaccine of COVID-19. They have our backs.
I am grateful for my pets - my dog makes me so happy.
I am grateful for essential workers. It makes me remember we are all in this together.
I am grateful for my older sister. If I ever need someone to talk to, she is always there.
As I will soon say to your children, one of the most beloved parts of this holiday for me is the opportunity it affords to spend time with older members of our family circle and to hear their stories. Listening is a great gift. As the oral history organization StoryCorps’ founder Dave Isay says, “It tells people how much their lives matter… If you’re curious, treat people with respect and have a little bit of courage to ask the important questions, great things are going to happen.” Here are some prompts I will share with your children for initiating conversations (in person or online) with the adults in their life over the coming holidays. We will listen to a few stories including the ones below, which are a treat in and of themselves, and also provide a good inspiration for getting your own family talking.
Finally, for the first time, I will open our assembly with a Land Acknowledgement. I’ve included it here so that you can read it. I have learned about Land Acknowledgements recently and find the practice to be powerful. While I am new to it, I didn’t want a lack of expertise to keep me from engaging in something meaningful. If you’re interested in learning more, here is a good starting place.
Every community owes its existence and vitality to generations from around the world who contributed to making the history that led to this moment. Some were brought here against their will, some were drawn here in hope of a better life, and some have lived on this land for more generations than can be counted. On behalf of all of us assembled here today, I now make an effort to acknowledge what has been buried by honoring this truth: We go to school and work here at LREI which is on Lenapehoking, the unceded traditional territory of the Lenni Lenape, Munsee Lenape and Carnarsie people, also known as the Delaware nation by the colonial settler government. I pay respect to the Lenape peoples, past, present and future, and to their continuing presence in the homeland and throughout the Lenape diaspora. I also pay respect to the enslaved and free Africans who lived, worked, and contributed on Lenapehoking. I would also like to acknowledge the indigenous people who continue to live, work, contribute and create in communities on Lenapehoking. This acknowledgment is the least I can do to honor the broken treaties of the colonial government and is one of the steps that I have taken toward correcting the stories and practices that erase indigenous peoples history and culture. This is a beginning and not an end. Please take a moment to consider the troubling legacies that bring us together here today. And please join me in a commitment to speak out against the myth of discovery. As Jefferson Keel (Chickasaw), 20th President of the National Congress of American Indians said, "We were a people before 'We the People'".
In keeping with another positive Thanksgiving tradition, I am proud to report that in just two days the Middle School collected over 600 pounds of food for City Harvest in our "Flash Drive." The goods were assembled and picked up with the help of our eighth grade student reps today. Well done, everyone!
I hope you all enjoy your conferences over the next few days. Be on the lookout tomorrow for an email from me with the Fall Curriculum Updates - a statement about the curriculum in each of your child’s classes thus far that will help give context to the conference.
Have a safe and delicious holiday next week. Enjoy telling and listening to each others’ stories.