December Reflections

Dean Jed Lippard at School for ChildrenOne of my favorite authors, Mark Twain, once professed, “Make your vocation your vacation.” While my first fall at Bank Street has been anything but a honeymoon, I can honestly say that I feel blessed to pursue my work and to hone my craft in an environment filled with such profound learning, laughter, and love. While many of my friends and family members are on a perpetual quest to find meaning outside the immediate context of their work, we, as educators, need only awaken our senses—up, down, left, and right—to be reminded of the essential impact of our work. We see it in the faces of the children and in the vibrant creations that adorn our walls; we hear it in the voices of curious and eager children and in the song that radiates through classrooms and corridors; we feel it each day in the hugs and handshakes and high-fives and helping hands. In my brief experience thus far, I have found these things to be particularly true at Bank Street.

In the span of fewer than twenty-four hours this week, for example, here is but a sample of the many wonderful moments I experienced:

• On Tuesday evening, I attended the screening and discussion of “From Selma to Stonewall: Are We There Yet?” with nearly 100 other audience members.  We dug deeply into issues of justice, progress, intersectionality, and education as we grappled with the similarities and differences between the Civil Right and Gay Rights movements. Present for the screening were Director Marilyn Bennett and Reverend Gil Caldwell, an 83 year-old veteran of the Civil Rights movement (and close colleague of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.), both of whom are featured prominently in the film.

• The next morning, I found myself enraptured in the 5/6s Book Publishing Parties. All three classrooms were abuzz with the joy and excitement of young authors and illustrators sharing their work with friends and family. The learning was authentic, the engagement was genuine, and the pride was palpable.

• Minutes later, the entire Lower School family community—children, teachers, parents—were nestled together in the Auditorium for the annual Parent Band Assembly. Grown-ups with instruments played proudly on one end of the stage while all in attendance joined in singing many Bank Street classics: “Revel My Friends,” “This Little Light of Mine,” and “Ring It In.”

• Fast forward a bit, and I was in my office meeting with the new Admissions Director of one of New York City’s outstanding high schools and, along with Javaid, extolling the virtues of several of our eighth graders who have applied for admission.  In the conversation, it became clear that Bank Street kids are known and coveted for their critical thinking, their depth, and their decency.

• In transit between meetings, I happened upon a gaggle of 8/9s working feverishly to put the finishing touches on their Silk Road models, puppets, and letters—the culmination of a rich interdisciplinary study of geography, culture, religion, economy, and art (to name a few!). Children were on a mission—confident, poised, collaborative, and determined.

• Soon thereafter I was facilitating the Children’s Programs Leadership Team meeting in which we met with partners to reflect on progress against our developmental goals for the year, examined an early draft of the 2017-2018 school year calendar (wonderful news: we are likely to have an additional four or five days next year!), strategized how best to provide instructional support to and learning opportunities for teachers, and discussed the roll-out of a faculty-wide inquiry book (Everyday Antiracism: Getting Real About Race in School) in January.

• Next I found myself with the leaders of the six different faculty committees—Curriculum, Diversity, Scheduling, Technology, Service Learning, and Marketing and Communications—as we shared updates, wows, and wonderings and crafted a faculty meeting agenda aimed at triangulating the work of each committee by allowing members to provide and receive feedback to colleagues in other groups.

• I then had my four thousand six hundred and eighty-second conversation about lice.
I could go on and on, but what’s most unique about this snapshot is that it is not unique at all. I could write a similar summary for just about any Day in the Life of the Dean. That’s why my vocation really is my vacation.

So as we head into winter break, a “vacation” of a different sort, I remind you of another of Twain’s famous adages: “Don’t put off until tomorrow that which you can do the day after tomorrow.” Here’s to some shameless days of procrastination, relaxation, and restoration in the weeks ahead.

May 2017 be a year of peace, health, and fulfillment for all.

–Jed Lippard, Dean of Children’s Programs