Dear Rieke Families,
One of the things I love about this time of year is the generosity shown by our community in support of community members. Thank you to Melissa Light and Ian Johnstone for organizing our annual holiday giving outreach and thank you to all who have made a donation - my office is filling up with gifts for families who are in need of extra support.
This Thursday is our annual Writer’s Tea. We are looking forward to celebrating the writing accomplishments of 14 students in grades 1-5. We are very fortunate that each year Katie Unflat generously transforms the library into a tea room where we can welcome the students’ special guests.
Last week several staff and myself met with a small group of parents to discuss ways to help Rieke become as inclusive a community as possible. I am hopeful by the level of engagement and the sense of urgency that was expressed. One goal is to have our students be allies for one another, not just while they are here at Rieke, but as they continue on to Robert Gray and to Wilson. We hope our families will become allies as well. We are focusing primarily on issues around race, gender identification and ability as these appear to be the most common areas in which some of our students may become “othered” or experience some type of discrimination or negative remarks or attitudes.
We are addressing these in a variety of ways. I will be posting and sharing resources for families on the Rieke website. Our staff is continuing to focus on the issue of race during our monthly late openings. We discuss ways to ensure instruction is culturally relevant and meaningful for students. We are also working to ensure that as instances of racist comments or behavior occur with students it becomes a teachable moment right away, not something that gets put off until a “better time” to discuss. Staff are working on putting more gender neutral language in place and finding ways to work around curriculum that may be out of sync with wording we know does not fit all of our students. Our use of Community Circles in classrooms is a powerful tool for students and teachers to be able to discuss topics around these issues. We have had students share their specific experiences with gender identify, with racist comments, and with instances of bullying. Our students are very insightful and compassionate and these opportunities to hear the perspectives of their classmates goes a long way towards building a shared purpose and a close community that looks out for one another.
I would like the conversations we adults are starting to have to continue this school year and look to have another one in February/March. They are open to all and I will give plenty of notice prior to the next meeting.
I hope you enjoy the sun it looks like we’ll get to have for the next week (comes with cold, but at least it’s dry).