Dear Benjamin School Community,
I write today not to update or report on schedules, programs, platforms or assignments, simply to reflect on these times and The Benjamin School community. First, I hope all are safe and well and continue to be so. Never have all the adages about health seemed more significant.
In my years as a head of school, I have faced many challenging moments- internal, local, regional, and national- yet, nothing compares to our present situation. Likened by some as sparring with a ghost, the virus is nonetheless very real and its impact ongoing and frightening. I believe the best way to respond is to recognize that reality and to remind ourselves we have the ability and spirit to overcome the fears and do what needs to be done to continue our teaching and learning and to continue to connect as best we can.
The faculty and staff have certainly done that. Becoming an online school overnight was never anticipated. Yet, with the support and skill of an incredible IT team, the faculty has managed to create a remote learning program, deliver it, and in the midst of all that, continue to review and revise it as we move through the learning curve. I thank them.
You have done what needs to be done, certainly different for each family, but you all have adjusted and made the most of this new environment. The reports I get from the faculty about the success of the lessons and the joy they see in their students as they connect in a variety of ways and activities is inspiring. I recognize that we have temporarily lost the battle over screen time, but it is a concession worth making to maintain the learning and sense of connection with teachers and classmates. I thank you.
And, I thank all who have continued to try to find ways to help the broader community. Early on, Upper School students inquired about using our 3D printers to produce face shields. Such thoughtfulness, looking beyond self and avoiding a “woe is I” attitude, exemplifies all we hope for in espousing the Benjamin values. I thank them.
Now, the future- the near future. I am an optimist, but I believe there is little chance we will re-open this year. In light of that, we will continue to provide the best online classes we can and adjust and refine approaches as needed. We also have begun alternative planning for all end-of-year activities, from exams to division and grade-specific events. For each of these plans, we will have contingencies. For your planning, we will communicate our intentions and plans, providing as much lead time as possible.
I would be remiss not to mention the economic impact of COVID-19 and the changed financial situation faced by many in our community and beyond. I addressed this letter to the Benjamin School Community; the TBS commitment to community is real. I realize that at this time, some of you may be facing difficult decisions regarding affordability going forward. Please know that we value every TBS family and will make every effort to help where we can.
Finally, in a piece I wrote previously, I mentioned a stack of quotes I keep for inspiration and writing ideas. One quote from Abe Lincoln I do not need to look for as it is short and very memorable: “The best thing about the future is that it only comes one day at a time.” How we come out of this unique period and experience is impossible to know. What we do know is that we have great skills, strengths and spirit in The Benjamin School and school community. Knowing that, if we continue to learn and grow and improve, if we continue to plan ahead while being ready to adjust, we will be fine. Most of all, if we take each day as it comes, and make the most of it, The Benjamin School will continue to be Second to None.
Thomas J. Reid