Dear Gordon Community,
As white members of Gordon's Leadership Team and Gordon's Board, we are writing to talk about Gordon's work, and the week ahead, in the context of the recent killings of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and George Floyd, and the national outpouring of grief that has followed.
The Gordon School unequivocally condemns racism and racial violence. This particular time of tragedy comes during a global pandemic which has disproportionately ravaged communities of color. As individuals, and as a school community committed to the values of equity and justice, we cannot remain silent.
Too often, when traumatic racist events are in the national news, people of color carry the burden of having to frame the historical context, explain the anger in the community, and communicate the way forward. Tonight, in consultation with our Head of School, we are trying to remove some of that burden by writing to you.
Time, intention and collaboration
Gordon School's mission describes a racially diverse school that fosters an empathic spirit and stimulates a drive for positive societal impact in every student. That's why teaching and learning about equity and justice happens every day, at every grade level, both on Maxfield Avenue and in the Online Learning Community, regardless of the news. This is the work of the school.
However, teaching about equity and justice, and race and racism, is not the same as teaching about trauma and violence. Classroom conversations about trauma and violence require time, intention, and collaboration, in the context of a carefully paced, developmentally appropriate curriculum. On the Civil Rights Trip, for instance, Gordon's eighth graders visit the National Memorial for Peace and Justice, "dedicated to the legacy of enslaved black people, people terrorized by lynching, African Americans humiliated by racial segregation and Jim Crow, and people of color burdened with contemporary presumptions of guilt and police violence." Crucially, that visit only takes place in the context of a year-long humanities curriculum, and a schoolwide conversation about equity and justice, that prepares them for the experience.
While Gordon teachers take pride in connecting classroom learning to real-world issues, they have learned that responding to the current events too quickly, no matter how well intentioned, can cause unnecessary pain, particularly for students of color.
This is not the time for students to be directly taught about the recent senseless deaths and their aftermath. The one exception is in eighth grade, where students discussed the events last week, drawing on their emerging grasp of the historical context of systemic racism. In the fall, after having the time to thoughtfully and appropriately plan, Gordon's faculty will revisit these specific events in developmentally appropriate ways.
The week ahead
Here, then, is what will happen this week: Gordon will care for its students, some of whom are struggling with anger, grief, and confusion.
The Online Learning Community has already established a rhythm of opportunities for students in every grade to connect with one another and their trusted teachers. In addition, the Division Directors and the school psychologist, Dr. Judith Gnys, are available by appointment.
In Early Childhood and Lower School, teachers will acknowledge students' feelings in developmentally appropriate ways as they surface in conversation. In these classrooms, it is daily practice to acknowledge student voices, to respond appropriately, and to follow up with individual families as needed.
In Middle School, Gordon will also offer safe spaces in affinity groups for students to process their feelings if they choose to do so, and their teachers will help them seek healthy ways to manage these feelings. Students of color have a regularly scheduled Common Ground meeting with Luke Anderson, and Gabe Burnstein and Veronica Jutras will also offer a meeting for white students who want to process their feelings.
To the people of color in the Gordon community
As white members of the school's leadership, we want Gordon's families of color and our colleagues of color to know that we will strive to support you. We will grieve with you. We will listen to you.
We acknowledge that from our positions of privilege, we do not fully understand what it is like to live with the constant threat of racism and the specter of violence. We will not pretend to know what it feels like to worry about the safety of our children in the ways that you do. We will not conflate our empathy with your lived experience.
What we do know is that it is the responsibility of white people to end racism and racial violence. That truth is central to our commitment to Gordon School and its mission.
members of Gordon's Leadership Team
News on summer camps
from Dr. Thomas López to POSOC
The last days of the year
Long term planning
Two Fridays off in May
Gordon closed through end of the year
Short-term and long-term financial questions
Phase two begins Monday
Zoom, security and Gordon
Noni and Gordie's video
Five weeks of online learning
Preparing for April 1st
Link to day one certificate
The spring 2020 Q&A
Daily structure of online learning
A move to online learning
It's still spring break
What's up on campus over break
Carnival, Grandfriends' Day
Gators cancelled next week
travel advisories expanded
just for fifth grade families
new travel advisories
importance of the travel form
family out of self-quarantine
clear and open communication
school closing process and policy
prepare for remote learning
a family is in self-quarantine
spring break travel form
precautions underway at school