Back To School Night

Principal Ellen Borenstein spoke to parents on Back to School Night in mid-September. These are the remarks she prepared.

Recently I have been thinking about the actions of Colin Kaepernick, the San Francisco 49er who has taken a knee during the playing of the Star Spangled Banner before football games. I thought about the many injustices we witness daily in the news and how we cannot be complacent. It took me to my middle school days in the late 1960s when I stopped saying the pledge but rather stood silently. Or when I was the first girl to wear pants to school because it was February and below zero and I thought it was ridiculous that I had to wear a skirt and my mom came to school and defended my right to do simg_1403o.

And then I started thinking about my entreé into social justice which brought me to being a child in April 1963, when Martin Luther King was arrested in Birmingham and was jailed along with other clergy members. Birmingham was considered the most segregated city in the country and so Dr. King decided to march there even though he was warned not to do so.

I was a second grader at the time. Our telephone rang in the wee hours of the morning and my dad accepted the charges of a collect call. My rabbi was jailed with King and my father, who was the treasurer of our synagogue, had to wire through Western Union, the money to bail Mike out. This was the first of many protests I either observed or was a part of during my early to late teens as well as into my adulthood. Out of Dr. King’s arrest came the famous Letter from Birmingham Jail. He wrote:

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly… Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds.

These powerful words resonate today as illustrated by Colin Kaepernick. His quiet action spoke volumes about the trials we still face today. And we are lucky to live in a country where we can use words and take peaceful and nonviolent actions to hopefully raise the consciousness of others to effect change.

But as I thought more and more about these words, they apply to this community at ICS directly.

This school was founded on three major core values. One – a coherent curriculum; you will learn more about this as you go to your child’s classroom. Two on the importance of the social and emotional component of child development and its impact on learning and lastly, diversity. If I were to deconstruct Dr.King’s words I would examine each word because words matter.

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. This means that there needs to be a sense of fairness and equity. Without this we are open to all injustices. Here at school we want to be fair – but it may not always be equal. We will be fair and just so that each child can feel safe and have opportunity. By giving your children the tools to become critical thinkers aimg_1404nd pose questions we are increasing their chances to create options for themselves. Options create opportunity.

The second sentence…

We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. This is the “it takes a village” mentality that is necessary for our kids. Raising and educating kids is the toughest work there is. And hard work pays off. But we can not do this alone. No one can. The partnership of being in this together, the partnership of home and school, that ever important connection is what is needed to move our kids forward and stay true to the school’s mission and vision.

Third, Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly… This is the physics lesson of the evening – that every action has a reaction. At times we don’t see how the one little thing we do or say can impact another person or sometimes a community. But, how we act in front of our kids and what we say to one another, does have an impact. We are modeling the language and behaviors that we expect from them. Everything from how we say good morning to getting here on time for drop off or pickup are an indication of how you feel about this place and its importance in your child’s life.  

And lastly, Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds. Here at school that means that we are all part of this community; that regardless of age, race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, or any other other human quality or condition, that this is school is a place where we are inclusive. At times we may not understand one another, but it is our job to work towards understanding.

So, welcome or welcome back to everyone and enjoy your evening.