Early last spring, just after the Stay at Home Order had gone into effect in St. Louis County, I wrote an email to the senior class—the Class of 2020—with a two-word subject line: “New traditions.” “While we will be working to preserve as best we can the senior spring traditions that you have long been anticipating,” I told them, “I thought it might be fun to create two new traditions in the meanwhile.” The first of these would be “a single-question poll on a different topic each day” to lift our spirits under lockdown. We kept those surveys going for 49 consecutive days.
Some of you may recall my writing about this experience last May, but what you may not realize is that our “new tradition” of community surveys at MICDS has extended into this school year as well, and with a broader base of participants. Two or three times each week, I send out a new survey to all students, faculty, and staff to provide just a little bit of relief from the pandemic. (Because our JK-3 students do not use MICDS email accounts, I send polls to them through their parents.) Each online form includes not only the survey question for that day, but also a field for suggesting future questions. In this way our community polls are self-perpetuating, and my role is not so much that of a creator as that of a facilitator of the surveys and their responses.
So what questions do our students, teachers, and staff want answered? Well, among other queries, is it preferable to sit at a table or a booth? Is a hotdog a sandwich? Where can you find the best brownie in the pan? If you could travel in time, would you go forward or backward? What’s the best place to go in Forest Park? Which one is the best dinosaur? Which one is the best bear? Does pineapple belong on a pizza? Which season of the year is best? Which color is best? Are you an early bird or a night owl? And would you rather be able to speak every human language or talk to animals?
In October, when the MICDS Board of Visitors convened to explore the concept of happiness and the role of happiness in schools, one suggestion that emerged from our discussions was that we should give students and teachers opportunities to celebrate one another in a public way. Thus began another “new tradition” to help us through this interminable pandemic: a collection of Ram Shout Outs solicited with each new community poll and published alongside the survey results. They are invariably uplifting to read. “One of my friends made me laugh a ton today!” “Ms. Hood was awesome as usual.” “Thank you Mrs. Bradford for researching chinchillas in class.” “I had fun making a leaf pile with my friends.”
C major is the most ordinary of keys, with neither a flat nor a sharp to distinguish any note along its white-key scale, yet the composer Arnold Schoenberg discerned unlimited beauty in it. “There is still plenty of good music to be written in C major,” he told his students at UCLA in 1940. Life in this pandemic can feel dull and undistinguished. It is composed in the key of C major. We must remember that there is still plenty of good music to be written in it.
As for the second “new tradition” inaugurated last spring with the Class of 2020, it was an accretive playlist of songs. That tradition lives on in these letters. I hope you enjoy this week’s addition to our Refrains for Rams.
Always reason, always compassion, always courage. I wish you a very happy weekend with your families.
Head of School