School superintendents and principals across the region are preparing for their opening day speech to their faculties and staff. Here are some thoughts about our message.
This week we will start a new year with one of the most important jobs in the world, educating our children. In a short time, our impressionable students will be adults and our future leaders. Their values, optimism, sense of purpose, attitudes about race and equality begin now, while they are children.
As adults, they will make hiring decisions and help to create and uphold laws. They will be parents who will pass their values to their children. The influence that we have in their lives now while they are young will make a huge impression. White supremacists, members of the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazis were once children and sat in classrooms. We were given the opportunity to influence them and we failed.
It is easy to react emotionally and often angrily when confronted with conflict, racism, and bullying. Instead of reacting, let's work together this year to respond to hate by arming our children with ways to be empathetic and curious about others and the world, and giving them the ability to think critically about injustice. Reaction begets more reaction, and often ends in violence. Response requires careful thought and strategy and will be more successful.
How can we help our students take informed and thoughtful action to better our world? Find the teachable moments to help our students understand the consequences of their actions.
Teachers, you are role models for our children. When you advocate for equality and peace through your work, the noblest profession on the planet, you are changing the world for the better. Your students will be encouraged to influence others and will feel strength and comfort in speaking out, knowing they are supported at their school.
Talking about peace and standing up against racism and white supremacy are not political topics to avoid. These conversations are necessary for us to help our children grow into adults who reject racism and anti-Semitism. As child advocates, we need to be strong in our convictions to ensure our next generation is prepared for our diverse democracy.
Susan Kambrich of Glenmont is head of school at Woodland Hill Montessori School in Rensselaer.