Dear Island Trees School Community,
A few days ago, my teenage daughter spoke with me about her concerns related to school closure. Like many children, she misses her friends, teachers and the calming routine that school provides.
She has been very troubled by the idea of missing weeks and weeks of school leading up to the Regents exams. I let her know that there has been a long history of student quarantine dating back hundreds of years.
In fact, I recounted the story of Isaac Newton and how he experienced his “Aha” moment during the Great Plague that led to many great scientific discoveries.
Although the core story was quite different than young Isaac getting bonked in the head with an apple and instantaneously developing the Theory of Universal Gravitation (this took 20 years), he was able to use his pandemic experience to open his mind to many fruitful insights into the principles of math and science.
What if Newton had Regents exams to worry about, would he have observed that falling apple in the same manner?
To my daughter’s (and our students’) relief, the 2020 Regents examinations have been canceled, which is one less worry for her (and students at Island Trees).
Over the last few weeks, I have fielded many calls and emails from parents concerned that their children will fall behind in their studies.
Naturally, I tried to reassure them that the students will progress during the school closure.
Admittedly, I wished I could have said more to them, but I didn’t have the anecdote or right words until now.
Last night, however, my wife shared this anonymous publication that has been making its way through social media.
“Schools have been out for over four weeks and if we go back in May, we would be out for over seven weeks. If they cancel the rest of the school year, students would miss 2.5 months of education. Many people are concerned about students falling behind because of this. Yes, they may fall behind when it comes to classroom education…
What if instead of falling ‘behind,’ this group of kids is advanced because of this? Hear me out.
What if they have more empathy, enjoy family connection, be more creative and entertain themselves? Maybe they love to read and express themselves in writing.
What if they enjoy the simple things, like their own backyard and sitting near a window in the quiet?
What if they notice the birds, the dates the different flowers emerge and the calming renewal of a gentle rain shower?
What if this generation is full of people that learn to cook, organize their space, do their laundry and keep a well-run home?
What if they learn to stretch a dollar and live with less?
What if they learn to plan shopping trips and meals at home?
What if they learn the value of eating together as a family and finding the good to share in the small delights of the everyday?
What if they are the ones to place great value on our teachers and educational professionals, librarians, public servants and the previously invisible essential support workers like truck drivers, grocers, cashiers, custodians, logistics, health care workers and their supporting staff?
That is just to name a few of the millions taking care of us right now while we are sheltered in place
What if among these children, a great leader emerges who had the benefit of a slower pace and a simpler life to truly learn what really matters in this life?
What if they are ahead?”
I don’t question whether they are ahead. I believe our children are going to be ahead.
Unlike Newton’s proverbial apple, they are not going to fall.
They are going to propagate, blossom and produce like no other generation before them. 350 years from now, historians will still be lauding their achievements and their appeal.