Message from the Head of School

“Without courage, we cannot practice any other virtue with consistency. We can’t be kind, true, merciful, generous, or honest.”

Maya Angelou

Over the past months of challenge and uncertainty, a depth of kindness, mutual commitment, mercy, generosity and honesty in the AFS community has shone through every adversity. Facing the challenges of the COVID era has been really hard in many ways. The technical challenges of re-imagining teaching and the curriculum, the uncertainty of how and when all of this will end, against the backdrop of deep division in our country and continual reminders of racial injustice and inequity, have been daunting. And the fundamental issues of safety and well-being, fear and vulnerability to the virus, have raised the stakes of all decision-making in ways that hit very close to home for faculty, staff and families.

And yet, what I see over and over in our community are the beautiful virtues that Maya Angelou lifts up. It is the consistent practice of these virtues, as she notes, that courage and heart make possible.

Allied with courage is the power of hope in the presence of difficulty. Vaclav Havel noted that hope is not an optimism that all will turn out well, but rather the strength of aligning oneself with what is good and true and trusting that it is the right thing to do no matter the outcome. It is ultimately a heartfelt commitment to the needs of our students that has fueled the ingenuity, perseverance and steadfastness of our faculty and staff. It is the hope of seeing children thrive in our Friends school environment, masks and all, that has led our community forward. And that hope has been realized in the opening months of our school year. 

Hardship can diminish or strengthen a community. The capacity to strengthen under any kind of stress is the definition of resilience. Time and again in history, we’ve seen the human spirit suffer but yet rise beautifully in times of challenge. Studies identify a few common characteristics of resilient people and resilient communities. First, there is an acceptance of the current conditions rather than being mired in wishing them to be otherwise. Then, there is an orientation to what is possible, what can be done. There is always a way forward and resilient communities find that way together. These communities find a sense of shared purpose, knowing that their actions in moments of uncertainty matter and have a lasting impact on the future. And resilience is often found by being grounded in a reality larger than the self, one often spiritual in nature, such as the heart of our Friends school.

The story of AFS in 2020-2021 is one of courage, virtue shining through, hope and resilience. We have had to go deeper into our well of spirit and essential strengths this year and have found them, like the fishes and loaves in scripture, to be abundant and beyond what we had known before. What a gift that this hidden blessing brings to the education of AFS children. You, the wider AFS community of alumni, families, faculty and staff, Meeting members and School Committee, are our boundless resource and support this year. Thank you for all of the gifts given so generously, in so many ways, to ensure that this is a year of strength and accomplishment at AFS in the midst of challenge.

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