The Commons: Our Blog

Timely, sometimes tough, questions and insights from NAES and Episcopal school leaders on leadership, governance, Episcopal identity, community life, and other issues.

Where the Magic Happens!

When last school year commenced, I felt an unusually big relief. At that time it seemed as if we were getting ahead of the COVID 19 pandemic. Most of our school personnel had been vaccinated and many other states were following suit. I assumed that I would walk into the new school year with COVID in the rearview mirror.

This, of course, was not the case. We started the year, almost where we left off. Cohorts and learning pods, hygiene stations, masking and protocols and procedures for navigating the school day. We are a testing site for faculty and students, attend weekly COVID meetings sponsored by the county and create an endless list of protocols and procedures for our community to abide by. And then the delta variant. I couldn’t help but think, when does this end? Will it ever end?

But then magic happened and school began. It started with teachers showing up to prepare classrooms and review curriculum. We had a great inservice week before school began, complete with workshops, meetings on school wide initiatives around DEI, student orientation and of course food. 

Then the students showed up for the first day of classes and my nerves began to calm. The joy in their faces was enough to melt your heart. They were happy, nervous and excited all at the same time. The children sprang from their cars, barely saying goodbye to their parents, reuniting with friends and classmates and I was able to focus on the most important thing; the children. 

Opening the school year together with a chapel in our sacred space after almost two years of not being able to gather was a sight to behold. Albeit brief, I was able to share with the students how excited I was to see them and have them back at school in person. I let them know, “I am inspired by each and every one of you in this room right now. I love the way you show up-ready to take on the day ahead no matter what. The courage, strength, willingness, compassion and love you exemplify is what makes you the Pride of Saint Andrew’s. Thank you. Thank you for being you, for being wholehearted.”

At Saint Andrew’s we define ourselves as a Wholehearted School: Complete, Balanced and Inspired. It is a blessing to be able to start this year in person in a more normal way than we have in the last two years. And we have a lot to look forward to. We have managed to provide a safe haven for teaching and learning during the most challenging time in our world’s history. 

Instead of wallowing in my own challenges, I have been intentional about celebrating the victories, big and small. I work with an incredible group of educators. I have the support of our incredible community. My administrative team is one of a kind and is composed of some of the best minds when it comes to problem solving and collaboration. I take the time often to affirm that we are going to be okay, that God loves us and that we love our community-faculty, students and families. 

This reflection of our students as “the creation of a loving God” is paramount and drives me to be a better leader. Episcopal Schools house incredible students who are poised to create an inclusive and loving community for all now and throughout their lifetime. We are beginning school once again in a very uncertain time, but the faith of our community will see us through as it has before. We have open minds and hearts that will receive each other lovingly even in the midst of so much change. I feel proud to be in a space where there are so many people to share this journey with. Thank goodness I am in an Episcopal School.

Khadija Addel Fredericks is Head of School at Saint Andrew’s Episcopal School in Saratoga, CA.

Begin With Goodness

Begin with goodness. This is something of a mantra I use at the start of something new—a new morning, a new school year, a new class or faculty meeting, a new encounter with a colleague, student or stranger. Begin with goodness.  Read More »

Pilgrimage to Elmina

One does not go on pilgrimage to perpetuate suffering, but discomfort is part of the process. By positioning ourselves in discomfort we are able to shed the burden of the superficial. We lose identification with class, gender, nationality, our physical bodies, until we are overcome by the divine. Read More »

The Excitement of a New Year

I remember very clearly the “roller coaster” of emotions that accompanied the start of a new school year (both as a student and a teacher). Feelings of eagerness and elation would give way to feelings of doom and despair as each precious day of summer vacation was crossed off of the calendar.  The whole roller coaster ride would repeat itself several times a week (sometimes, even more frequently). Although honestly, I was always more excited about the first day of school as an employee as opposed to my days as a student.  Read More »

The Mysterious Elsewhere

Frank Lloyd Wright once reflected, “I’ve been about the world a lot, and pretty much over the country, but I was totally unprepared for that revelation called the ‘Dakota Badlands.’ What I saw gave me an indescribable sense of mysterious elsewhere—a distant architecture, ethereal… an endless supernatural world more spiritual than earth but created out of it.” Many summers of life I spent working alongside the Oglala Lakota in Pine Ridge, South Dakota. As soon as the Badlands and other signs of entry to the reservation were in sight, I felt the world kind of fall away. What were essential—the moments for connection and relationship in a sacred place—took precedence and were the only things that mattered. Holy encounter met me. Read More »

The Repair Shop

One might say it's a cop-out to just blog about whatever I've been watching on television recently. As the person tasked with editing this blog, I am constantly wowed by our writers' depth of lived experience or vast wealth of highly nuanced texts from which they draw inspiration.. However, these are the times of Covid, creative pickings are slim, and so I will continue doing what most of us have been for the past year or so—making do. Read More »

Jesus of Nazareth Walks Into a School…

One of the most vexing questions in an Episcopal school is how to be authentically Episcopal and welcoming of all. This question is especially vexing when it comes to religious pluralism among and within the school’s many constituents: students, parents, faculty, trustees, alums, and, if your school is associated with a parish or cathedral, parishioners and Episcopal clergy. Read More »

Becoming a Nobody: an Ash Wednesday Reflection

One of the many reasons I have enjoyed being Chaplain in Episcopal Schools is that I probably spend more time than the average parish priest reading, thinking about, and teaching from wisdom traditions other than Christianity. I’m a Jesus guy at heart—and I know where my allegiances are—but my experience teaching the great wisdom traditions of the world has opened my mind to new ways of thinking and approaching problems that arise in life. Occasionally, I learn something from another tradition that feels entirely compatible with my Christian faith, so much so that I have to remind myself it doesn’t appear anywhere in the gospels. Today I’m referencing the Buddhist idea of nirvana. Read More »