Hello, Poly Middle School community,

I realize that we continue to be surrounded by concerning news and a world that feels uncertain. As usual, our students are watching the adults in their lives very carefully; even when we think they are not listening or paying attention to us, they are. Therefore, the way we approach challenges and our overall messaging here in the Middle School will continue to keep the students at the center. During student meetings, I am mindful to talk about what we are doing and what is good about the times we are living in right now. Our students do not want to hear “how things would be if we were on campus,” or “normally we would be doing this to start the year.” We know that adolescents want to feel safe, and even in the moments when they might push us the most, these are the times that they are looking for structure and guidance. 

Although there will never be a replacement for the connections that happen in classrooms and hallways, we are enjoying the opportunity to continue to stretch the academic paradigm and to fine-tune innovative ways to connect and to teach. The teachers in the Middle School continue to embrace problem solving as we begin the school year in remote learning. Our goals as we begin the year are to focus on all aspects of our students’ lives by prioritizing personal connections, continuing to maintain a high academic program, and providing a sense of routine and structure. 

I am also excited to share our ongoing plans and conversations about bringing significant diversity equity and inclusion work to our students this year. We are proud that we have dedicated time on select Wednesdays throughout the year for all Middle School students and faculty to learn and question and focus on making our community a better place. 

A key component to this time will be the introduction of affinity spaces for Middle School students. 

I am sharing an excerpt from Best Practices of Affinity Groups in Independent Schools:
Affinity groups provide a space for individuals who share a common aspect of their identity to talk about their experiences from the "I perspective." They can provide people with the safety and comfort to own who they are, foster resilience, and empower them to engage deeply with other groups.  It can be affirming to share common experiences while also instructive to hear different perspectives, honoring the uniqueness of each individual.  For students or faculty of color in a predominantly white institution (PWI), an affinity group can create a critical mass that validates shared experiences, fosters greater understanding, and empowers its participants toward action.

Additionally, we have learned that even students who do not participate in affinity groups themselves, feel a sense of safety knowing they exist. 

Despite limitations, we are excited to be able to begin the school year. We know that there will be frustrations and unknowns to come, but as we approach decisions, we will continue to keep students as the focus.

I reiterate once again our immense gratitude for the incredible partnership among parents, teachers, and administration here at Poly; we are truly fortunate. I know that it is one of the central reasons that we have such a strong and uncommon community and I want to thank you all for your cooperation and abundance of goodwill.

Please let me know if you have any questions, and continue to take good care of yourselves and your family. 

Best,
Pat