With Election Day just days away and polarizing public debate continuing to build, many are concerned that the contentious discourse may increase with the results on November 3. As we have seen over the course of the last number of months, this election will be unlike any we have experienced before.
I am thankful that I work in education. I am grateful to be a school leader. Schools remain one of the most hopeful and optimistic of environments, where we are reminded every day of our brightest possibilities. This is particularly true at Park, where our community is guided by our institutional mission which in part states:
Central to our mission is an appreciation of similarities and differences of perspective and the interdependence of all people. As a family school, Park is a community in which the dignity of each child, teacher, and parent is respected.
This articulation of purpose and objective embodies the shared values of the community we aspire to be. Whatever our individual differences, whatever differences we encounter in our communities beyond Park, it is our job as a school and a community to be prepared for whatever the outcome is next week and to support our students and each other no matter that outcome.
I find myself thinking about this often these days, as I hear reports of various factions expressing fear, resentment, anger, frustration, and so much more. Many of us are feeling uncomfortably rudderless, and for many, emotional investment in the outcome of this election weighs heavily. I am particularly grateful, therefore, that we have Park’s mission to fall back on. Our community and our mission can be our rudder in unruddered times. In committing to membership in the Park community, we commit to living the mission and to the quality of critical thinking and empathy it calls for.
The Park Portrait — another anchor — directs our students to be joyful learners, mindful leaders, and skillful communicators. It challenges them to be compassionate collaborators and creative problem solvers. It asks them to be practiced advocates — for themselves and for others. We aspire to nurture these characteristics in our students, and we see evidence of their growth in these areas every day.
The Park Portrait speaks to us in the adult community too. The current moment challenges us — individually and as a community — to be mindful leaders and skillful communicators. It challenges us to be compassionate collaborators, to discern and to solve problems creatively, and to fiercely advocate for what’s right and what is core to the values of our school and our community.
Whatever the days ahead bring, let’s keep our children’s experiences at the center, and let’s support one another. We are living in a time of struggle and hardship affecting every level of our being. Let’s lean on the guiding principles of Park, let’s put our students and our children at the center of our decision making, and let’s make sure to make time to care for ourselves and others. As we have seen throughout the COVID crisis, the strength of the Park community is most evident during times of uncertainty and challenge.
In the days ahead, we will engage with our students about the election in developmentally appropriate ways, and as we have modeled this fall in our response to COVID, we will strive to make school as safe and normal as possible amongst the noise and confusion that will likely come in the coming days and weeks.
The Park School Library team has created this collection of resources to help families talk about the election with children of all ages.