- Upper Division
By Jason Snyder, Upper Division Principal
After the first two days of school, I sent an email update quoting psychologist Brene Brown, “What separates privilege from entitlement is gratitude.” In that email, I reflected on what a privilege it was to be back together learning in person. There is still much in the world that causes all of us trepidation. There is political and racial strife and, of course, there is a global pandemic that both threatens our health and our ability to live life as we are accustomed. We have already had one grade that was forced to quarantine this week. And there is certainly no guarantee that we will make it through this year without a school-wide shift into remote learning. Beyond that, I know that this school year will present its usual challenges. We will have students make errors in judgment as they traverse the difficult path through adolescence. We will have misunderstandings between teachers and parents. And I will certainly make my share of mistakes.
Opening school under these circumstances has not been easy. These past two weeks have offered many opportunities for frustration and entitlement. 12 months ago, I did not have to discourage our kids from hugging one another in joy on the first day of school. I did not have to stay abreast of how much sanitizer there is in every classroom and tweak the plan for students to clean their desks every period.
Despite all of this, I am keenly aware that the ability and opportunity to be together as a community makes us special. It is, no doubt, a privilege for which I’m exceedingly grateful. Why? Because for every moment of frustration there has been another moment of sheer awe at the way our students and faculty have leaned into our new normal. Because as good as our students are at self-advocacy and speaking up for their beliefs (and this is how we want them to be), they are equally respectful when we adults give them reminders to avoid congregating in the halls or have to say no to one of their ideas because it’s doesn’t meet our COVID compliance. Because high school seniors, who always face uncertainty and anxiety around college admission are cheering each other on, helping each other with their essays, and expressing excitement for next year despite knowing college could continue to look really different. Because our athletes, despite uncertainty about the upcoming seasons, are continuing to hone their skills and making plans for whatever those seasons bring.
While the vast majority of our families have chosen to send students to school in person, we do have some families streaming into our classes from home. We even have students streaming from Russia and Israel. Those students are in regular contact with their classmates, and their voices can be heard during class discussions. All of this is a testament to the power of the Denver JDS community. Our being together (either in-person or virtually) certainly does not solve all of the world’s problems. But it clearly provides a sense of grounding for us all and prevents our students (and our teachers) from becoming aimless or, worse, entitled. Our school continues to give students the ability to contextualize a complex world and a place where they can feel safe. And our school provides our teachers with the ability to do what they have trained their entire lives to do and what they love to do: make meaningful connections with students while teaching them valuable skills. And now, more than ever, Denver Jewish Day School gives me the opportunity to recognize what gratitude really means. Despite how vigilant we need to be to keep our community safe and still maintain community, it is a privilege to be part of this community, and I am grateful for every day that I get to spend with our students and faculty, no matter how different school looks right now.