Day by Day

by | June 12, 2020

Yesterday, I spent the afternoon at school. It felt really good to be there but very strange, too. I sat in my office with a mask on, signing student transcripts and recommendation letters for high school, paying bills for GVP, and preparing for the June Board of Directors’ meeting. My tasks were all pretty typical and mundane but felt so unusual at the same time. While much remains the same, so much has changed. 

Our board will meet together using Zoom again this month and will discuss and approve our 2020-21 fiscal year budget. Crafting a budget and estimating our revenue in this uncertain time has been a real challenge for me over the past month. I hear news of rising unemployment, political unrest, and stocks rising and dramatically falling, and I don’t really know what these things mean for the future of this unique and unusual private school. At GVP, refugee students and families pay no tuition and no costs of any kind. We are dependent on fundraising that comes almost entirely from friends, partners, and foundations to provide tuition for our students. We have to raise more than 70% of our annual budget every year, as we don’t yet have endowments in place. A strong and generous community of support surrounds us, so I remain optimistic–but struggle at times these days to do so. Times are tumultuous and turbulent, and I feel like I am trying to stay on top of the waves of emotion and change and trying to find some certainty amid the unknown. Thus, I am deeply thankful for the COVID response and relief funding that we have received or will soon receive. I am grateful for the generosity of the philanthropic community and our GVP family of support that ensures our continued work towards our mission.  

While I am not sure of much these days, I am certain that GVP is made up of amazing people. Volunteers, donors, partners, and mentors have been ready and eager to help. The staff has done an extraordinary and exceptional job of taking all that we do into new spaces and in new directions. Their resilience and abilities to adapt are awe-inspiring, and I am constantly reminded of the greatness and the goodness of our team and our community. 

It is hard to express what it takes to be an exemplary educator. Doing it well takes an incredible amount of intentionality, planning, preparation, creativity, energy, effort, and love. It also requires making time for rest and reflection. I am both thankful and concerned about the amount of preparation that the staff is doing and must accomplish this summer to make sure that we are ready for reopening in August. There is so much, but we all also need time for restoration and renewal, especially in this unprecedented season. 

I see many social media posts about the fatigue that people are generally feeling and facing these days. This COVID-19 crisis, alongside the recognition of deep and persistent racial injustice that is fueling the Black Lives Matter movement, has created layers of mental, emotional, and often physical stress along with a deep passion for change. For teachers and educators especially, these recent events are deeply entwined with plans for reopening and the care and support we offer for students and families. Many of our families need our support now more than ever. This is a transformational time and change can be worrying and wearying. Of course, change can also give us renewed energy, hope, and visions for a better future, but right now, I can feel the fatigue among many in our group and the need for some real rest.

Today I will send out those transfer packets and transcripts we prepared yesterday to mentors. I am deeply grateful to all the mentors who have supported GVP students and families through these transitions. I have more worries this year about how our graduates will handle entering high school in this unusual time. I am so very thankful that our community support and mentoring group are so strong because I know our students will face even greater challenges ahead. Navigating a new school—a big, public high school—is already difficult, but this year will certainly be very different, as registration goes online and class schedules and structures are yet to be determined. 

I was hoping to hear from our local school district this week regarding the reopening plans, but that did not come. For now, we continue to run our online summer club meetings for students and complete intake interviews with new students and families. We also completed another food delivery route this week and plan to do more in the coming weeks with support from a partner. We appreciate that we can provide this additional support right now, as it is one less thing for our newcomer families to worry about. I also worked today with our Curriculum & Assessment Coordinator and School Counselor & SEL Coordinator on a virtual presentation for the National Coalition of Girls’ Schools conference in two weeks. We were scheduled to make a presentation in Philadelphia this summer on SEL and arts integration at GVP, but we regrouped to create something specific to these unique times. We recorded a Zoom presentation entitled Strengthening Voices, Creating Communities: An SEL and Arts Integrated Approach during COVID-19. We have always been committed to sharing what we learn, do, and find to be valuable with others, and continue this commitment now. While we are tired, we continue our work day by day with excellence, courage, and creativity, taking inspiration and strength from the students, families, and communities that surround us and from the fights for equity and justice that call us to action. 

“Just don’t give up trying to do what you really want to do. Where there is love and inspiration, I don’t think you can go wrong.” – Ella Fitzgerald

“You must do the things you think you cannot do.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

“If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way.” – Martin Luther King Jr.