Two preface announcements - the blog is after: 
1) A special email from me the morning of 6/8 inviting all families to observe the last day of school ceremony at 10:30am on Friday 6/10 at school. The annual ice cream social for students at approximately 11:15. Elementary families are especially encouraged to join students as early as 11:15 for the social or just to pickup and start summer break! And we need volunteers to scoop ice cream!(click to volunteer

2)Annual School Board meeting is 6/15! Cookout 530-630pm, and a presentation successes and bright future from 6:30-715. Come meet the board! RSVP here! (rsvp not necessary, just helps us plan a bit!)


And now, some thoughts on building a community... share a meal with each other! 

Last month I was discussing the school culture with a new employee who asked "Why do so many people stay so loyal working at Great River School?" 

Community is the answer, but there's two versions of the same answer to this question. The first is simple, and the second is the deep root of why it's revolutionary to approach school as a tool for building a peaceful society. 

The simple version: people have friendships here. Students, families, colleagues. We try to see each other as people first, and basing our relationships in what we share, we recognize each other. It's refreshing, and builds loyalty. 
If you want to stop reading here because summer is approaching and we all have laundry to do and calendars to organize, go ahead and stop. I just ask that you invite a friend to dinner and thank you for being a part of the Great River community fabric. Thanks! 
oh - and remember to connect with the Parent Engagement Group to stay connected!

Now, for anyone who wants to delve into a long answer to the work of the school...
The deeper version: building relationships is hard work - and we have work to do!  

I continue to work at the school for the hope that we can go deeper each year in creating an improved model for human relationships, recognize each other as important because of our humanity, and from that experience build a more peaceful society. I think many of the families and colleagues here
work together to share the value that we can do better for our children and their future. Better in terms of hope, and better in terms of a society of cooperation and solutions winning over a society of competition and a zero-sum game setup* that fails us all. Our school model builds experiences that are not zero-sum, but in fact demonstrate that when we cooperate we also generate new opportunities and resources that result in new solutions to shared challenges.

There is scientific, social, and poetic research that all supports this concept: compassion is the human trait that works in our favor as a society. And seeing others as sharing common traits with us leads us to be safer in the world by association. When we're safer in the world, we live longer, love more, make more money, and have less illness. If you have time, I invite you to compare the cross-disciplinary discussions below of poets, philosophers, and business consultants who all point to shared experience as a bedrock for success in business, in evolutionary survival, and as humans. 

(If you have a craving for a 20 minute deep-dive on human connection and it's interdisciplinary importance to our past/present/future**: it's Maya Angelou speaking of our connections, or author Simon Sinek discussing why sharing belief and connection is the essential moment in leadership and business, and philosopher Robert Wright identifying compassion as an evolutionary tool.)

And in the work of a school I see that we are just 6 hours of the experience our students have - society at large has 18 hours a day to engage each of us in a grind that is often not about connection. (Finances, calendars, the 24 hour news cycle... few of these remind us of our humanity.) 


The daily grind is a challenge. And folks - let me tell you - no place is the grind felt more sharply than in a classroom of young people, at a school, waiting for summer break. (And also make no mistake, I understand that summer is no break for parents!) So - the question is, how do we answer this overwhelm?  

Connection. Gratitude and recognition lift us up out of the muck and slog of the mundane. A graceful reprieve arises when we thank each other and see what we share together. The best part of my work-week is when I share lunch with a colleague or student at school, just to share what's new, what's challenging, what's appreciated. 

So when I invited that new employee who asked "Why. Great River?" to join us in our work, I told them the community was not a feature to take for granted. The community is forged and won through conflict, through finding a resolution to misunderstanding, and to having a faith that we share more than we differ.  It takes work. It takes dedication and persistence. And, it takes accepting differences while emphasizing what we have in common. 

And now, the radical invitation from a school leader. I want to invite everyone to get together and talk  to each other without me there to moderate or answer. And please, share a hot beverage or a warm meal. (Ha!) This challenge aims to build on the trust I have that we are all in this work together, and we want to share connection. The way we seek a stronger community is by seeking interconnection - shared interests, shared challenges, and a shared experience. It's good for our brains, and good for our children**.

I need you to join in a radical wave of gratitude for someone in this community. Remind yourself of why this community is a positive place for you or your student. And I'd like you to share a meal with someone.  


Beautiful Parent Engagement Signage - handmade!
Let's compliment the PEG by engaging in building
the fabric of our community - together!

And now, even a second challenge: share a meal with someone you don't know very well. Welcome a conversation about what we share. Attend a potluck or invite your kid's friends over and just share a meal with them. Learn who they are. ( I acknowledge this is easier for adults with elementary students. However, I've talked to the adolescents at school about this challenge - and they tell me it's a radical idea. It's reportedly radical because adolescents don't think their parents are *interested* in the lives of their friends. So prove them wrong parents! The embarrassment of having lunch with your teen and their friends is just a superficial hurdle to get past) 

What's the aim here? Radical acceptance. Shared responsibility. A cultural revolution of shared solutions for our children, their children, and the way forward in a society that collaborates and generates solutions. We are a strong community, but only as strong as the effort we put in to sustaining connection between ourselves, our children, and the partners at school who give every day to build and rebuild this community through triumph and through resilience. 

p.s. the Parent Engagement Group will be hosting some official meet & share events this summer! Connect with PEG to learn ways to get officially involved!

Notes: 
*Defnition for zero sum game - a competition in which one person's gain is equal to someone else's loss. This short video is so hillariously formal and "british economist" I couldn't help but share it. 

**These are really three tremendously complimentary sources for thinking about how our society could improve based just on the lens we use to look at our interactions, and our possibilities. And the way these thinkers speak about society and leadership really frames the job of a parent to think about the lens our children use to see the world. A poet (Angelou), a journalist-turned-philosopher (Wright), and a Business professor (Sinek) all telling us how important it is to recognize our connection as human beings. If only Montessori had recorded a TED talk... 
Posted
AuthorSam O'Brien