There must have been something in the water today, but I had a slew of parents, 6 or 7 come share their perceptions about what we are doing as a school and the type of community we are developing.
One parent had recently attended an equity conference in another part of the state. This conference addressed how schools can build community and create a welcoming safe environment. She reported the strategies and environment readily apparent at IAA. are the same that were demonstrated and discussed at this conference. A teacher at IAA recently attended a diversity and equity training as well. While many other educators were concerned at their school's focus on this work, the IAA teacher was sharing a different story. She felt confident in her understanding of the issues and proud that many of these issues had already been addressed and continuously worked on at IAA.
Then I spoke with a couple parents of middleschoolers. They are reporting that teachers at the middle school can tell what students are from IAA. They can tell because they are reacting more maturely in social situations, they are avoiding the troubles associated with cliques and they are advocates for both their own learning and the learning environment of others. 10 years ago, teachers at the middle school identified our students for very different reasons.
I guess the largest takeaway from these conversations, is something I often come back to, we are working tremendously hard to create not only an arts based environment, but an environment of inclusiveness, safety and joy, and when you are so close to something, you sometimes lose sight. The staff in this community is amazing. They work so collaboratively with one another and they are willing to focus on student needs beyond just academics. Sometimes when you are mired in the work you are not aware of the impact of the efforts. It is reaffirming and reassuring to know that when students leave this building they are taking skills that we talk about and work on continuously.
Thank you parents for sharing these stories. They sustain the work we do. It demonstrates the impact of our direction and commitment as a community. We deal with myriad issues of heartache, difficulties and adversity in our school each day. Just like the larger world community, there are troubling events and environments that we can not control nor completely shelter our students from. However, when we focus on what's truly important in school communities (the social, emotional and mental health of our students) we can exemplify what community truly is and the skills necessary to contribute to and sustain a safe and inclusive environment for all.