The Birney Buzz 01/11/2021

The Birney Buzz 01/11/2021
Posted on 01/11/2021
IB Learner Profile

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Hello Birney staff, teachers, students, families and friends,

It has taken me several days to grasp the impact of the events we witnessed on January 6 might be having on me, you, our students, our community.  Since my ‘happy new year’ letter on Sunday, January 3, our country and our democracy have been shaken to their core. The images from Washington DC repeatedly streaming on our televisions or social media are jarring and alarming for us to watch as we struggle to internalize the scope and consequences of those events. 

In the two days following January 6 at school, teachers listened for students’ needs to discuss what they were potentially seeing on television or hearing their families discuss. We do not necessarily initiate these discussions at elementary school, especially if we lack the context and perspective that time will provide.  Much of what needs to be discussed is best handled at home, with families being able to reassure our littlest ones that they are safe and loved. Still, our older students often feel the need to weigh in with their friends to process what they are witnessing at home, and this is where a classroom discussion might be appropriate; however, just as appropriate is the role our teachers play in carrying on a routine, maintaining a normality that might reduce anxiety students may otherwise feel, all the while providing parents time to deal with their own processing time.

Support for families discussing election-related issues can be found hereIn addition, on Thursday, January 7, our Superintendent relayed several resources to teachers so they would be able to wrap their heads around an appropriate response:

The Anti-Defamation League: 11 Ways Schools Can Help Students Feel Safe in Challenging TimesDiscussing Political Violence and Extremism with Young People

The National Association of School Psychologists: Guidance for Reinforcing Safe, Supportive and Positive School Environments for All Students

The Child Mind Institute: How to Help Children Cope with Frightening News

Facing History and Ourselves: Responding to the Insurrection at the US CapitolPost-election Support for Facilitating Difficult Conversations

The New York Times: Civil Conversation for Teens Challenge: Voting and Democracy 

From where I stand, the antidote for the current state of our democracy lies in education. The events we witnessed at the Capitol underscore the importance of educating our students about understanding others and their differences, government, media bias, perspective taking, action, tolerance, protest and privilege. We cannot shirk from the responsibility of providing our students with the tools they will need to resist the lure of misinformation and propaganda. I am reassured that our IB Program of Inquiry at Birney is created around the six IB units at each grade level which address some big ideas of humanity:  Who We AreHow We Express Ourselves, Sharing the Planet, How the World Works, How We Organize Ourselves, and Where We Are in Place and Time. These units help our students understand the world and the people around us. Further, our IB Learner Profile Traits encourage us, our students and their families to be knowledgeable, reflective, balanced, open-minded and caring inquirers, thinkers, communicators and risk-takers

In the 6 or 7 years of elementary education, we aim for our students to leave us prepared to consider multiple points of view, to stand up for their beliefs and to recognize that ‘other people, with their differences, can also be right.’  I struggle with this sometimes but what I saw in Washington DC on January 6 reinforces this statement, because the people who were scaling the walls and destroying one of our most sacred monuments, the Capitol Building, believed that they were right as well. It is the most confounding challenge for us in the ensuing days, weeks and months to understand those differences and seek to rectify the conditions which have created them, given that ‘both sides’ expressed a deep love for this country – clearly we have some work to do.

I hope you take some time for yourselves to be at peace, to appreciate the world around you and to believe that hope and love will prevail. Our next opportunity to be together will be Family Friday on February 5 from 2:30-3:30.  There is no Family Friday scheduled in January. I look forward to seeing you on February 5. 

Need to talk to me?  Question/Concern? Simply reply to this email! I am always available by email!  I can be found at [email protected] or [email protected]

Take care, Ms. Amanda

“The path to real greatness, it turns out, requires simplicity and diligence.  It requires clarity, not instant illumination. It demands each of us to focus on what’s vital – and to eliminate all the extraneous distractions.” Jim Collins

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