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Head's Corner, February 26, 2013
Greetings CMS Families!
I hope that you had an amazing February Break. I don’t know about you, but I needed that break more than you know. There’s something about the time between the holidays and spring that quite frankly seems unbearable. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, that time is particularly challenging for me and countless others. I can’t speak for others, but I truly believe that I am suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), also known as the winter blues. It is a mood disorder in which people that have normal mental health throughout the year experience depressive symptoms in the winter or summer (Wikipedia). Some of the symptoms include, but are not limited to, lack of energy, too much sleep, tendency to overeat which leads to weight gain, and some pessimistic feelings. I have trouble admitting that I have the blues about anything, let alone that I could be pessimistic. I am certainly “the glass is half full” type who understands that life is too short and it is what we make it. My dad always reminded us that every day is a gift as long as you are above and not below ground. While that is true, I am ready for spring, daylight savings, long walks at Castle Island and a chance to connect with people here at CMS and strangers in passing.
Humans, like animals, hibernate during the winter. They are not as visible or approachable when it is cold outside. We barely say hello to each other, as we are frantically in a hurry to find warmth. The simple things that we take for granted like greeting someone with a smile or making time for small talk are almost non-existent. I guess we are too cold to exercise our facial muscles. My week off was nice and certainly necessary. I did all that I could to turn my home into a summer oasis. I blasted the heat to 80 degrees (simply unheard of in our house), put on my Ray-Bans, drank virgin piña coladas, and jammed to Bob Marley while stretched out in my basement on a lounge chair. I even took out my favorite beach towel and draped it over my picnic basket that was filled with tropical fruit. I imagined that I was on the sandy beaches of Montego Bay in Jamaica, man. That was guaranteed to alleviate my winter blues.
In spite of my efforts to generate warmth and boost my mood, I realized that what I really missed was interacting with my colleagues and especially with the children. The children greet and smile at you no matter what. They could care less if it is scorching hot or bitter cold. They also take the time to inquire about your well-being while they pour out their hearts to you about everything from the lunch they packed for the day to a science project they completed in Passport. I wish that I could bottle their innocence. They don’t care about all of the things that prevent adults from interacting authentically. They don’t care about what color you are, what tax bracket you belong to, where you attended college or grad school, where you live, and all the other superficial inquiries with which we adults are so consumed. They interact with no fear. We adults do interact with no fear with those with whom we are most comfortable and with whom we have a lot in common. Same color. Same tax bracket. Same educational background. Same neighborhood. Same. Same. Same. Enough already!
I had to go into the office last week to work with Admissions and the Business Office. We had the absolute best time! Although we are different in so many ways, we engaged in the most honest conversation about race, class and culture while making financial aid decisions for next year. We also discussed the overflow of admissions applications. If you could have been a fly on the wall, you would have contacted one of the major networks to sign us up immediately for a reality TV show. We held no punches. Our conversation included a bit of Bill Maher, Bill O’Reilly, Chris Rock, Marco Rubio, Sarah Palin, Wanda Sykes, Michelle Obama, Mitt Romney, Hillary Clinton and Deval Patrick. You would have never guessed which personalities each of us assumed in the five-hour session. We could have given the Kardashians and the Housewives of Orange County and Atlanta a run for their money!
I love my colleagues. Some of us engage in conversations that so many people wish they could have but are too fearful. When we wrapped up the meeting, I finally felt that warmth that I had been seeking since our return from winter break. Perhaps I am not suffering from SAD. I am simply suffering from not having enough time to build relationships with the people with whom I spend a great deal of time. I thrive off of building relationships with people. I need that human interaction. It is the fire that keeps my wood burning all year round.
Tonight the Diversity Committee is hosting a dinner for Families of Color and their friends at 6 PM in the gym. I will be at that dinner because it is an incredible opportunity to build relationships with people whose backgrounds are similar and different from mine. We will break bread with one another and simply engage in conversations that will ultimately lead to establishing authentic relationships. We hope that you will join us. It is not mandatory, but it is critical to the future of CMS. Building relationships across cultures is not only beneficial to the parties involved but also to our children’s future. It is a 21st century skill!
Lastly, today marks the one-year anniversary of the death of African American teen Trayvon Martin who was gunned down by a white neighbor who mistakenly took Trayvon for a criminal. Trayvon was walking home while wearing a hoodie (sweatshirt with a hood) and baggy pants and was carrying a bag (of skittles). The reality is that in 2013, race, class and culture still matter. Let’s not pretend that because we have an African American President and live in a state with an African American Governor and you have an African American Head of School that we have arrived. We have not. As I shared with some of you before, I still get pulled over for DWB (driving while black) and followed in stores if I am not in business attire, and I am terrified for my 15-year-old son’s life when he leaves the house dressed similarly to Trayvon. Sometimes I forbid him from wearing his hooded sweatshirt, and we never allow him to wear baggy jeans. Skinny jeans only. I am not angry about this. It would consume too much of my positive energy. I am, however, driven to be the change I want to see by creating opportunities to talk honestly with people about perception and reality. Yours, mine and others.
I hope that you will join us tonight. We might not discuss Trayvon Martin. We may simply discuss what our children like and how we ended up at CMS. It’s a journey that begins with the very first mile. I really hope to see you tonight!