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.