Albany Middle School

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Letter from Principal

Dear Wonderful School Community,

We just finished our 5th annual Unity Week.  This week comes in the midst of a whole year of moments in classes, in advisory, and during lunchtime activities, where we work with our students to cultivate a climate of appreciation of differences and the belief that we must all support one another.  

This week celebrated and highlighted our programs with different spirit days, such as Monday "Everyone Counts," so staff and students were invited to come to school wearing a shirt with a number.  There were lunch time activities daily, such as cooperative games on the field where we saw all sorts of students in different combinations problem solving and laughing together.  

Every single subject matter teacher taught a lesson last week related to appreciating the differences between us, understanding what tears us down, and learning skills on how to respond when mistreatment is witnessed.  We do this in every class partially to send a message that this matters.  To all of us.  It matters so much that your math teacher has stopped teaching math for the day.  Your science teacher wants to talk to you about empathy, and your English/History teachers wants you to understand stereotypes, in the hopes that this understanding will bring better treatment of one another.

We do all of this at school and we know that you do much much more at home in your conversations with your children. We know that the context of our country right now has provided you with an even greater opportunity to talk with your children about what matters.  Overall our students are caring and compassionate and open minded.  But, they are still learning.  There are incidents where students say harmful things to one another.  We have had students make negative comments about one another's religion.  We have had students make comments about someone being deported.  We have had students use harmful language about another's race.  When this happens we take the opportunity to send a message that this will not fly in our school community, that we can and will do better.  And, we educate in the hopes that we can build greater understanding. When appropriate, we bring students together to build bridges and empathy.

Across economic and ethnic/racial lines, making hurtful comments to peers spikes between 7th and 9th grades as students developmentally notice differences and strive to fit in.  So, we must work even harder to help our children to understand that when they put others down, especially attacking an aspect of who they are, such as their race or ethnicity or religion, that they are not just bringing that student down, they are bringing themselves down.  And they are not just bringing that student and themselves down, they are bringing their community down.  At the bottom of it, our students are kind compassionate 11-14 year olds, in need of a little extra guidance.

Please, let's continue to partner in having these conversations with our students/your children to help guide them to appreciate the incredible diversity of their school community and to make kind choices.

In partnership,

Deborah Brill, Principal