Here we are, staring October in the face. We lovingly acknowledge the beautiful weather, the falling leaves and the drop in temperature, but we're terrified at how quickly time is passing, our kids are taking up more physical space and the holidays are quickly approaching. Let's review what we've accomplished in 13 months.
We are a fully operational school, incorporated LLC with a 501c3 designation (and ECE program) with 23 kids, 5 babies, 12 payrolled faculty, staff and maintenance, 2 regular volunteers, 7 board members , various sub-committee and specialists, 2 leases and a couple dozen entire families. We've raised nearly 90k in donations and have a (locally sourced) lunch program, uniforms, 4 after-school classes, and in-school art, music and permaculture programs.
It happened because of community, and it happened because of love and faith that you all have expressed every step of the way.
The pandemic is 5 months older than we are. That's saying something.
Look. At. Us.
Look at what our community and one very stubborn, impatient and painfully idealistic teacher-turned-school-founder can do. A faculty member lovingly reminded me via email tonight as I was locking in last numbers for our Afro-Caribbean after school percussion class-
"Remember, we only have 13 drums..."
I chuckled and thought to myself...
"We can find more drums...Bet."
That's what it's really about. Finding a new way to do things. Because, we know what we've been doing hasn't worked for the most marginalized amongst us. Limitations are all around us, for all of us. Some of us, more so than others. We have a moral obligation to show our kids that the only limitations that exist when it comes to living our most meaningful lives, is what society has decided for us.
"At Morgan, kids don't follow bad rules, they make new ones that allow for universal success."
And, in order for kids to make new rules, kids should be competitive and love school with every fiber of their being. Their hopes, dreams, talents and passions should be supported and encouraged. All kids should have the opportunity to experience different opportunities. From music, to sports, to robotics and technology, to design and crafting and art. To growing and cooking good food and expression through theater and being able to explore the outdoors and the beauty it holds, if only we're quiet enough to listen. New mothers should have basic rights and support systems for a return to work, all kids should get an exceptional education, kids should be able to build bridges with those who don't share experiences, and teachers should get paid what they deserve.
We were talking about identity and intersectionality yesterday, as a whole school in our ARC (anti-racist) class. In science and permaculture, we're learning about parts of the plant, photosynthesis and respiration, the composition of soil, etc. So, while our word of the week is "identity," we drew flowers to represent who we are. Pistils and petals. The pistil was the biggest part of our identity. (The reproductive system) The thing we encounter every day- the part that defines us. The petals were the pieces that catch the sun and allow us to grow. Some kids were struggling with the petal piece. I heard a conversation with two kids who were buddies. One kid was white, one kid was black.
Kid 1: "I can't think of anything else that makes up who I am. I only have one petal left."
Kid 2: "Well, you have MANSION of a house. Definitely not a part of my petals"
Kid 1: *Thinks* "Well, you can always solve problems when problems really get me stuck and I get angry."
Kid 2: "That's because I've had to solve a lot of problems"
Kid 1: *Ponders* "What color are your petals going to be?"
That, right there folks- was a critical and formative moment in those kids lives. They'll never forget it. Even if they can't recall it later, it becomes a part of who they are. That is what school has the power to do if we break down socio-economic barriers and build bridges.
That's why we have mountain summer sleepaway camps for kids, after-school sewing and computer classes, theater classes and music classes. That's why we'll have workshop classes where kids can help build things, and that's why we say no to financial requirements that might be a barrier to many kids' opportunities. That's why we have weekly community wide COVID testing. It's why we developed an early care program.
We care about our community. We didn't build an infant and toddler program because we were bored, or for the money. We did it because we have community members who needed it. Teachers and faculty and parents who would not be able to come back to work as new mothers with no access to the financial requirements of early childcare without qualifying for subsidies. We offer 50% maternity leave not because we have swollen pockets, but because it's the right thing to do. And like the drums, we'll find the resources. We do all of these things, because we care. We do it, because we're showing our kids the power of humanity when we stop thinking about ourselves and how much we can get and how quickly we can get it, and instead think of our friends and all the gifts they have to offer if we give them the chance to grow.
All of this is important. And, it can sometimes get lost in the myopic hyperfocus we have in the moment. It can get lost when we make mistakes. And we make them.
All of this to say- We're doing something big here. We're attempting to do it with grace and love. We're doing it assuming positive intent and compassion with one another. We're doing it in a pandemic.
Thank you all for your unwavering support- however it looks. Thank you for your trust, even when you may not know all of the many, many moving parts involved in developing a school. Thank you for your children and the hope you all bring into a world that can often feel hopeless. I also want to thank my teachers- who often stay late, building and developing individual learning plans and lessons for every kid. I want to thank them for the care and love and enthusiasm and passion they throw into every piece of a school day. These people work hard. They work hard because they recognize the difference they're making in the lives of these kids and families and because they're getting paid well and have a quality of life that is reflective of the vast responsibilities they hold and the long hours they put in. It's not enough, but we'll get there. I'll keep raising salaries until they're making what CEO's of fortune 500 companies are making, because they deserve even more than that. It's time to turn everything around.
And, we can do it. Revolutions never started with people accepting the status quo. It's time we collectively recognize that ALL of our children are humanity's greatest assets and are more valuable than any commodity that ebbs and flows with supply and demand in an economically driven global society.
I'll leave you with this quote from an unknown person. (Please let me know who I can credit- and thanks Mark) "What we tolerate, we authorize to exist." And, y'all ain't tolerating nothin'.