Category: HOS Blog

Shine On

Yesterday and the day before were rainy and bleak around Atlanta. Somehow the darkness of the days made the stress of isolation and social distancing harder for me, and I imagine for others. With the rising cases of COVID-19, continued closures, and stay-at-home orders for the City of Atlanta and City of Decatur going into effect, the new realities loomed larger, especially as the rain and clouds shrouded the sun.

I thought about our GVP newcomer students and their families often on these dreary days and wondered how they were managing from moment to moment when they couldn’t even get outside and when I knew that I wasn’t faring well myself. They are certainly resilient and resourceful, but this is an enormous amount of stress for any person to process and cope with, and for each of them this new stress compounds existing stress and trauma related to loss, displacement, acculturation, language barriers, and poverty. All of the students at GVP qualify for Title I educational support services. All of the students and families at GVP have experienced some kind of trauma.

Thankfully, our GVP School Support Specialist reached out and called all of our school families on Monday and Tuesday. Many reported doing well and some were even celebrating—a birth and a marriage--but many more had questions, concerns about work and health, and wanted to know when things will return to “normal.”

Today, the sun is shining again. It’s a new day, and that sunlight makes all the difference for me. I am reminded of the power of light. At GVP, one of our favorite songs is “Shine On.” Written by Terri Garthwaite and taught to us by our amazing artist-in-residence, Elise Witt. The song speaks to light’s power to bring change, hope, peace, and love: 

I can see the light
Like a brand new day
Like a bolt of lightning
It takes my breath away.

I can hear the sound
Like a charmin’ bell
Like a soft reminder
All is well
I can feel the beat
Like the wings of a dove
Like a heart on fire
Full of the light of love.

Burnin’ bright, making day from night
It’s such a welcome sight, here comes the light
Here comes the light, here comes the sun
Here comes the heat–this is heaven!

Despite the challenges, despite the obstacles, the people in our global village shine on, and together we spread light in the darkness.

Global Village Project is a strengths-based school, and we use trauma-informed and restorative practices and holistic approaches in our learning community. GVP is also an arts-integrated school, and we embrace the arts as powerful tools for communication, creativity, and community building.  We aim to continue these practices now in our new online communities and believe these may make all the difference during these difficult times.  

GVP’s Social and Emotional Learning & Wellness Program is core to our work and one of the 4 main pillars that strengthen and support our model. Over the years, more and more educational research has shown that social integration and positive relationships are consistently the two most important factors in educational attainment and success. At GVP, we recognize that while we are dedicated to our mission of providing an excellent education for our students, we must also provide for their social and emotional well-being and growth. Students are humans first, who learn in and through community and relationships with others.

Well-being and social, emotional, and physical wellness are essential to learning. According to Maslow, social, emotional, and physical needs must be met in order for growth to occur and for a student to reach her greatest potential. GVP has been and remains committed to holistic education. Our School Counselor and SEL Coordinator is setting up group counseling sessions online and told us today that she is working to set up physical fitness groups as well.

For years at GVP, we have called our families when students were absent. We have hired interpreters for all of our intake interviews, enrollment days, and conferences so that we could communicate with parents. We have used buses to bring parents to conferences and events because we know that parents are powerful and essential parts of the school community. In this time, we will continue to do all that we can to support them as well. We will call each family every week, and we will continue to deliver food for as long as we are allowed. We will provide connections to resources and ensure that students and their families find community and help through our global village.

We are committed to making sure that what we do now reflects our core values, mission, and vision. We intend to shine on and invite you to join us in spreading “the light of love” in these days.

You can see and hear our GVP students singing “Shine On” below and view more videos on Ms. Elise’s website. I feel sure this will bring a little light to you today. 

 

A Time to Dream: Welcome to Dr. Amy’s Blog

For at least four years now, I have thought about starting a Head of School blog. When we updated our website last year, I thought I might finally get around to making it happen. Now, as we face new times and uncharted territories, it feels imperative to write, to document, and to learn—and to do it online.

Nations across the world are united in a fight against a novel coronavirus. This new day of social distancing requires a renewed commitment to the common good and to community, while at the same time physically separating us from one another. Now, we are forced to realize and utilize the power of technology to transform our ways of living, learning, and relating to one another. Some, like me, are being pushed into new ways in these new days.

One week ago today, our school was bustling with students, teachers, administrative staff, and health volunteers. We worked together to prepare GVP students for the changes ahead and the challenges to come. We practiced logging into new iPads and programs for learning. We talked about homework packets and flu prevention. We ate together, sang together, and sent students home on the buses with plenty of materials and supplies for at-home learning, as well as new thermometers for monitoring wellness and can openers for coming food deliveries. We called each family at home and spoke with parents about what was happening and what they might expect. Then on Friday, staff members delivered food and additional supplies to students and families from our GVP school buses. They checked in with students and picked up completed homework packets. This act of care and connection reinforced our ongoing commitment to students and their families in and out of school.

Today, the school is empty, but we have made it through our first week of the COVID-19 crisis with a focus on flexibility and lifelong learning and a commitment to our mission and community. As a school devoted to serving refugee young women with limited English and interrupted education, we do things differently. Our unique mission and model makes us even more determined to do all that is necessary to provide powerful education in these times, despite the challenges.

There has been recent debate online around issues of equity and educational justice, as schools have closed and nearly 8 million students in the U.S. are missing out on school or moving to remote learning models. Some write about the impossibilities of equity for students with the greatest needs—those with learning differences and disabilities, those who are learning English, those who live in poverty and without access to technology, food, or shelter. There is genuine concern over the intersections of COVID-19, social justice, and education. Some argue that solutions such as online learning further exacerbate and accelerate the gaps between those who have and who do not. I even read a recommendation to end online schooling. While I do not disagree with the arguments made around the inequity of our present educational circumstances, I do also want to suggest that these are not new problems for us. Despite ongoing research and reform, inequity permeates our educational system in the U.S. leaving black and brown students and those living with poverty with consistently lower rates of graduation, college enrollment, and standardized test scores and consistently higher rates of discipline referrals and expulsion.

Educational disparities persist, and Global Village Project exists for these very reasons. The mechanisms for education are not equitable for students like ours at GVP. Refugees are five times more likely to be missing out on school than same age peers, and more than 130 million girls and young women are out of school everyday. Those who do make it to school too often are not provided the step up and the support that they need to succeed. More than 75% never graduate high school. Back in 2009, some very determined dreamers and courageous community members decided to do something completely different—to create a space for educational justice and equity in Decatur, Georgia. GVP is that place.

At GVP, we dream a world, one girl at a time. Over the past decade, we have supported the learning and changed the lives of more than 260 young women. When I think of what each one of these young women has done and will do, when I see the ripple effects of their dreams on our world, my hope for the future grows and I am reassured even in these unsure times. We cannot predict how the spread of coronavirus ultimately will affect schools, but at GVP we are committed to building up students and communities, to bright ideas and creative innovation, to promising practices, and to learning and sharing. I invite you to join our global village, stand in solidarity with our students and families, and dream with us a world where educational access and equity exist for all students.

Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.
--Harriet Tubman