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6-7s Building Study: Progressive Education

Welcome to MCS: The Anticipation of a New School Year

Welcome to MCS: The Anticipation of a New School Year

Sunday, September 15, 2019

The anticipation of a new school year is, after a lifetime in education, a familiar combination of great excitement and a few nerves. Summer passes fast and there is never enough time for the things I want to do like reading, being in the company of people who challenge my thinking and spending time in the Adirondacks without internet or cellphone. Time is almost up as summer rolls into fall and I write this letter for the last time as director of MCS. For one more year, I know I’ll be back in a community that rolls up its sleeves for children, never tires of redefining a school and is unapologetic about the purpose of education.  

It is hard to reconcile the importance being given to social and emotional learning in students’ academic growth and the call for educating the “whole child,” while witnessing the trauma children of immigrant families are enduring. I stayed preoccupied all summer with the ways racism relentlessly plays out in segregated schools that educate unequally. 

For two years I’ve enjoyed being a Pahara Aspen Education Fellow. In July, we read thirty readings on leadership, from Aristotle and Machiavelli to Frederick Douglass and Rachel Carson. Those anchored morning-to-night debates proved fruitful preparing for new staff orientation at MCS and the long list of educators already asking to visit. Honing a more formal framework for sharing the ways an MCS education privileges experiences, explores diversity and combines academic, social and emotional, and physical development will be a priority this year.

The MCS staff chose White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism as summer reading. I added Radical Dharma: Talking Race, Love, and Liberation and “Best Practices for Serving LGBTQ Students” compiled by Teaching Tolerance. The 1619 Project publications documenting the 400th anniversary of slavery redefine the origins of democracy in ways consequential for MCS. Staff meetings and committees are poised to take up the ongoing reflection on our community practices and the curriculum. Carrie Davis, New York City Human Rights Commissioner, is invited to facilitate the opening staff meeting that kicks off the new school year next Tuesday.

As summer wanes I trust that helping students develop strong identities, the foundation for empathy, will begin all over again even in the youngest classes. New staff members will join a community of peers who bring creativity and commitment to their work at MCS. I am energized knowing that MCS will speak up as a community, when a global youth movement mobilizes for a September 20 Climate Strike in New York City aimed at world leaders attending the United Nations Climate Summit. 

I am excited about sharing another year together. Welcome to new families and staff and welcome back to everyone else. The nerves always subside, as they will again.

Michèle Solá