Learning to be a community at a distance.
In September I shared the first of these on-the-ground reflections, hoping to bridge the distance between you and the school your kids’ call home for much of the year, giving you a window into Thacher and my work. In that first missive, I explained the choice to move my office from the second floor of the old dining hall building to the ground floor, with a front row seat on the hub of the Pergola.
“Last year,” I wrote, “after welcoming new students and their families, heading into the mountains with twelve courageous campers, and celebrating the start of the academic year with the community at our New Year Banquet, I found myself in my upstairs, corner office feeling far away from the action of school life.”
Last week, as I sat in my in-the-middle-of-it-all office, looking out on an empty Pergola and trying to align words like remote, virtual, distance, and online with my vision of Thacher life, I felt as if I were on the moon.
And I don’t like to feel far away.
I’ve made my life’s work boarding school because I believe the together part of the education equation is magic. I don’t just want to teach kids, I want to build with them the kind of relationships that come from living and working and playing together, from being seen and known and loved at your best, your worst, and everything in between. I want to do the work of learning and growing and becoming alongside them. I want to be accountable to them and help them be accountable to one another, to create with them a community committed to lifting up not some, but all. I want to have them all over to my house for cookies and quesadillas and bananagrams and Mario Kart and impromptu dance parties.
So, yeah, I like the together part of this deal.
And yet, here we are in a moment that asks one very important thing of us… that we be apart.
It wasn’t until I got a note from one of our parents—just a few lines offering support and camaraderie—that I saw what I was missing in my assessment of current reality. “I’m so grateful,” she wrote, “that we’re in this together.”
Just like that, I was no longer on the moon, but in the midst of community, sharing the burdens and questions, the challenges and opportunities of this moment with everyone connected and committed to this place.
In the coming days, we’ll publish on our website a virtual space of togetherness. Beyond all that we’re doing to recreate Thacher learning and living with classes and assembly and advisee meetings and virtual field trips, this space will be a dynamic digital hub for our community as long as we are dispersed. I hope you can help us get started by sending us insights, pictures, or videos from your lives—anything that captures the things you are doing wherever you are to cope, work, play, help, laugh, learn, and hope... you name it. Meanwhile, we're busy working on a way to share this and more with all of you.
As it turns out, I ended that first on-the-ground reflection with a truth that will guide me and, I hope, all of you through the days and weeks to come: “We’re all in this together at Casa de Piedra, and that’s exactly how it should be.”