Dear Stevenson Community,
At 11:00 a.m. yesterday, Dr. Kevin Hicks ’85, president of Stevenson School, sent the following message to the faculty and staff at both campuses urging us to “hold fast.” It struck me as the kind of message that many might welcome hearing right now.
The message also engendered a feeling of gratitude for you, one of our most loyal donors. Your support over the years has built this ship and, pardon the extension of the metaphor, provisioned its crew. Our phenomenal teachers, who Kevin addresses in this letter, not only teach, coach, and advise expertly but also have the mental fortitude to handle this type of challenge with tenacity and grace.
Thank you for your support of these teachers, our students, and this great school.
Amy W. Elmore
Director of Advancement
As one of you wrote to me soon after the county’s shelter in place order was announced, “we are ordinary people doing essential work in an extraordinary time.” And just as we are being tested on this unanticipated journey, so too are our basic social institutions—like governments, with their myriad agencies and apparatuses at the federal, state, and local levels. Some of these institutions may falter or fail in the face of COVID-19. We must all of us—each in our own way—do our best to ensure that we hold fast.
Hold Fast, as you may know, is an expression that comes from nautical life, and it associates with the rough weather axiom "One hand for you and one hand for your ship," meaning essentially: take care of yourself so that you can perform your duty, and in doing so keep the ship we're all on together afloat. Hold fast, Pirates, and when all is said and done we will surely be counted among those institutions that proved equal to this challenge.
If ever there was a team capable of understanding the significance of such a continuing commitment to the greater good—especially at a moment when the fundamental reality we share with our students and their families and all the world's people has been radically upended—it’s our team. Pirate Nation.
Doctors and nurses, with truly heroic courage, will honor their oath and place themselves in harm's way by tending to the ill. Teachers (and those whose efforts support their work, like our amazing IT department!) will help young people sustain their healthful connections to our community and to one another by providing students with relationships and routines that are engaging, nourishing, and reassuring. In doing so, we will help them be better people, better friends to one another, and better sons and daughters, which will help their parents and guardians be better to one another and to the people around them. Thus, we will help sow the seeds of our planet's healthiest possible future.
In T.H. White's The Once and Future King (1958), Merlin provides this advice to Arthur:
"The best thing for being sad," replied Merlin, "is to learn something. That's the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honour trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then—to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting. Learning is the only thing for you.”
Whether our students are with us for three or four years or fourteen years, whether they are right in front of us or tiled on a WebEx display, this school is their world. Whether they are five or eighteen, whether they live in a dormitory or at home, whether they are from down the street or the other side of the globe, this school is their world. This is forever one of their homes, as it is ours, too, and with them dispersed to the relative safety of their families, it is now for us to defend this place—primarily by our fierce commitment to our craft, our core values, and to one another.
With all of this said, I know that we are all in different frames of mind this week. A few have thus far met their challenges with aplomb. I stand in awestruck admiration of these people, and have to continually resist the easy temptation to compare myself to them. Many more of us are struggling mightily and in tremendous good faith to adjust: to the new cadence of work; to the sudden destabilization of our always already precarious work-life balance, especially for those of us with school-age children in our homes; to the technical challenges associated with remote instruction and conferencing. And a handful of our colleagues, we must not forget, are keenly aware of the unique risks that they and their loved ones may face from COVID-19.
So, wherever this note finds you on the continuum this morning (as opposed to yesterday or tomorrow), I hope you can receive it in the spirit it is offered, and that it will inspire you to remember that:
Whether we teach or provide invaluable support to those that do, we’re all going to be spending much more time sitting at desks and eyeballing screens in the coming weeks (and possibly months) than is either normal or ideal—so, two thoughts in closing. First, make sure that, as soon as possible, your workspace is comfortable and ergonomically appealing—because we're going to be in this mode for a while, it now seems clear. Second, please reserve time to get outside and be in nature (to the degree that your circumstances permit you and/or your immediate family to do so, and with disciplined respect for proper social distancing practices). Wearing your Stevenson garb (hit up Clymo if you need a t-shirt!), stroll the beach. Hike in Garland Park. Tidepool. Surf if you surf. Run if you run. Ride the bike. Stare at some grass or a bug. And when you pass by fellow travelers, give them a friendly smile and a wave. Keeping your distance, remind them to be kind, to be brave, and to hold fast.
We are each of us surrounded by a constellation of support;
This is a moment we must face together, if we are to do so well;
Even as we adhere to the restrictions now in place owing to the county's shelter in place order, we should continue to reach out to those colleagues and friends who can provide us with the answers, help, support, or empathy we need to stay afloat today and build towards firmer strokes tomorrow.