By all accounts, this was a tough year–or, more accurately, from March 6 onward, it was tough. March 6 was the day that I announced first to the staff and then to the community the difficult but necessary decision to close TCK. Enrollment was declining more rapidly that we had anticipated. It became clear that this was a system-wide reality, and no solutions to this unfortunate structural challenge were on the horizon.
Reactions varied. Some people were sad, others angry. Some expressed an unusual sense of relief saying, “they (the school leadership) finally pulled off the band-aid” implying that the writing had been on the walls for years, and we finally admitted defeat.
Personal and professional lives have been disrupted. Many of the teachers who lost their jobs due to the decline in enrollment have found employment. Others are still waiting to hear from future employers; the administrative team is still writing letters of recommendation. A handful of families live so far from the Wilmington campus that they have decided to enroll in a local school.
Where do things stand today, three months after March 6? Admittedly, some staff, students, and parents have held on to anger, still voice protest, refuse to acknowledge or say hello to people with whom they disagree or don’t understand. Most, however, have accepted the new reality and are helping others do the same. They have demonstrated incredible resilience.
About two years ago, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s husband died suddenly while they were on vacation. She had the unimaginable task of informing her kids, then ages 10 and 7, of their father’s death. When asked how she managed to go forward with life, she shared a lesson she learned from another widow who said: “Yes. My husband died. But the rest of the parts of me, as a mom, as a friend, as a worker, didn’t die.” Ms. Sandberg found comfort in that insight and realized this: “We really become resilient for other people, not for ourselves. ‘Look, if I don’t find a way to move forward, then my kids are going to have a harder time recovering.’”
Not to compare the closing of a campus to the unexpected death of a spouse, but it seems that the students, parents, and staff who have demonstrated the resilience are the ones who have realized that other people are depending on them to create a positive future and re-imagine a vibrant consolidated school.
A number of students have stepped forward from both campuses to form the Student Culture Committee. They arranged tours of the Wilmington campus and now are planning community-building activities to take place in September and early October. The teachers that staff the Student Culture Committee realize that they set the tone for the students. These teachers are upbeat, optimistic, and comforting even as they are wistful. As a result, the students on the Committee come with a positive and adventurous attitude, ready to contribute creatively. They exemplify the power of resilience.
The staff in general is preparing for the year ahead. While marking FST’s and boxing up their supplies, teachers on both campuses have been meeting to standardize and update the curriculum. They understand that school is about the students, not the staff, and if they don’t refresh and synchronize the curricula, our kids will suffer. Department headships have been decided and announced in general studies (soon the Jewish Studies headships will be announced), and these teacher leaders are ready to roll up their sleeves and lead the way. They exemplify the power of resilience.
The parents who have stepped forward to help ensure a smooth transition for students have also been key. We had established, for example, bus routes and notified parents. Many spoke up to suggest that some of the routes were still too long. As a result, we increased the number of busses. They are helping our students move forward and navigate this difficult period of change.
Sheryl Sandberg was right. We become resilient for other people, not for ourselves. That’s proven true: parents thinking about the students, teachers thinking about the students, students thinking about other students–all of these stakeholders are exercising their muscles of resilience and helping TanenbaumCHAT forge a vibrant path forward to a unified school.
Students in Rabbi Michael Rootman’s class doing a final mysticism reflection in the contemplation (Kohelet) garden on the last day of class. Drawing on Russian dolls. Each layer representing a garment of the neshama. Action, speech and thought. The inner layer is blank representing the neshama.
“Tefillen Banquet,” the last day of minyan at TCK when we honoured those who helped sustain the daily minyan.
TCK havdalah kumzitz this past Saturday night.