“School is my swimming pool, the kids, parents and teachers are the beautiful tropical plants that give out the oxygen I need to breathe.” - From a letter I wrote to the school in 1979
In my last week of school, I was finally granted the title I had long asked for at my school: Master of Ceremony. And in that role that I have assumed without title through my years of school, I led the closing ceremony seated alone in my beloved music room, where I have probably spent more waking hours than in any other space on the planet, including my home. That was the place I needed to be and when the ceremony was over and the screens were shut down, I allowed the tears to come forth in the presence of the walls, cabinets, instruments filled with the soulful vibrations of so many miracles and wonders lived in that room. Just one of many tears of loss and blessing mixed together.
Here’s the talk I gave to the kids sitting in my pink chair in my beloved music room home:
Summer is here and we hope things will open so we can spend some time at the pool or lake or ocean or park or backyard. We will certainly want to get out of the house! But as I said here, we’ve made a school that mixes hard hard work with the feeling of frolicking in the pool. Even sheltered in our homes, we still made time for fun trivia games, amazing races, parents dancing with their kids, virtual campfires and talent shows.
This time has tested our belief in the flexibility of the human mind and then adaptability of the human spirit and the capacity of the heart to care and love. We have discovered we’re more powerful and determined than we knew. Our very mission is based on the intellectual, imaginative and humanitarian promise of each and every person and we kept that in the forefront of these last three months of school. Looking on seesaw or schoology, I scrolled through hundreds of math sheets and science investigations and cultural research. In a time when some seem to revel in their ignorance, a sharp, critical and analytic intellect is more important than ever.
And then imagination, perhaps one of the most important faculties as we try to imagine new solutions to new challenges. And also find comfort in the act of creating something new that didn’t exist before. From new lyrics for the Stay at Home blues to the many extraordinary poems kids wrote to stunning artwork, music compositions and extraordinary plays put together and performed as films, we learned that to create is to take charge of our world, to actively take what feels like chaos and shape it into something beautiful, moving, funny.
And finally humanitarian promise. We cannot wholly glory in this life-giving oxygen we breathe when the broken parts of our country keep its knee on the neck of beautiful human beings and deprive them of the breath that is theirs. Our care, our concern, our courage to grieve and speak out and act, is a central pillar of the house of justice we are trying to build here.
Uncertainty is our new companion and how I wish I could just say, “Happy summer!” and imagine coming back together in the Community Center in August to march under the flags and ring the gongs and pour the water and sing the songs. And who knows? Maybe it can happen!
But we’ve learned to be open to any possibility without assuming it will be, how to dig down and pull out that resilience. But no matter what form the school takes, that sense of us as lush tropical plants by the poolside giving out the oxygen we need to breathe will prevail! Thank you for who you’ve been, who you are and who you are yet to be.