I’m so thankful to write this message to the community. We are in the closing days of 2018. Our time together this autumn has rooted the new building spaces in care and love - it is a wonder to behold. As adults, we should not take for granted the highly unlikely prospect of so many students ages 6 through 18 find meaningful agreements and respect across that 12 year span. The wonder of our school sprouts from the manner in which students regard each other generally with respect, with care, and with understanding across the community. These meaningful relationships - spreading out as families, and as school faculty - tie us together as roots that feed the life of the building we inhabit. In many ways, I look at this fall 2018 as a time that is much less about moving into a building, and much more as a time of settling into and discovering so many newly formed and forming relationships.
In January, February, and March I’ll be sharing several posts of data and student outcomes actress ages, ethnicities, and backgrounds. Our school does better than most in the state and nation at supporting academic growth among all types of students. High performing or not, struggling before the year or not, coming from affluence or not; Great River provides a space where we see that students make academic growth at a higher rate than the state average. I believe this is the result of an emotional world where we are less concerned with counting points and more concerned with commending humanity.
And so we are in a season of winter. Shorter and shorter days of sunlight, and longer stretches of the moon in the frosty sky, until the tilt returns sunward for us northern dwellers. Also a time of tension between celebrating humanity, spirit, gratitude for our loved ones, and the material mania of gifts. With ripe invitations and consumer encouragement abounding, I was shocked to learn of so many more ‘special’ days to purchase something for someone I love. Especially on ‘Green Monday’ or ‘Local tuesday’ or ‘if you care at all Thursday’.
And, frankly, my virtuous desire to abstain from materialism broke down last night, as it often does this season. Honestly, the virtue of abstinence in this scenario is completely self-serving, as my kids are as gaga for shiny new things as anyone around. I found myself contemplating which snowglobe would elicit exuberance from my kids while I stared at a Target shopping display, when I realized the advertising copy of the tinsel sign was above, asking me “How much can you show your love this holiday season?”
And I thought of the words “How much” in purely actuarial terms of estimating quantity. And what befell me was such a depth of grief for the difference between the boundless quality of my love for my kids, and me participating in a “How much” game of actuarial science represented by a snow globe choice. This led me to consider the differences between quantity and quality, and membership vs. collection. For we have membership in a family, and in a community, and in friendships. We have collections of objects, resume points, and things. I would venture to say that this very tension of material vs spiritual in December is along the same train track of difference that lies between accounting for academic points, and commending learning as a lifelong practice of relationship.
Remember & Recollect
I was out too late one night this past October. It was early in the month, and I was visiting a conference, and had made new friends. I was just walking the line between late enough to not be worth sleeping before my red-eye flight, and an elder told me “This is what you’ll remember from this time with these people - not the days, not the notes, not the words, but this feeling of being a member of this time. This is to remember. This is what will be with you when you are on a deathbed or in a time of deep care - this time we are spending with each other. It is different from recollecting. Remembering is the feeling of knowing the people who are members of your personal network. You don’t recollect memories of people. You remember people. Stay up, and make this a time you will remember each of these faces before you leave.”
Well, a typical end-of-professional development it was not. “Re-member” is what we are miraculously able to do with each other. Re-member is to go through your experience and re-connect the relations of your life through stories. If we were to get picky, we would note that recollect is something we do with facts, figures, and things. We don’t “collect” people, we create respect for people as members of our life and the place we live. They have membership in our lives.
You could look at the language of gift giving and recognize that we have deeply entwined our connection between things and people. Collecting items for ourselves and holding regard for a member in a community are different in the heart, and different on the tongue. I’ll invite you to consider how that “recollect” and “remember” difference plays out in your own life. And gifts are wondrous ways of showing that love and care… it’s just likely that the most loving gifts can’t be purchased. They likely display some part of the heart that isn’t often seen.
May it be so that we are able to show how in manner we love our families and students and teachers this winter, and be a little less concerned with how “much” we show that quality of love.
Be well all!