I've said before on this blog that I'm employed by a Quaker (Religious Society of Friends) school, and it occurred to me yesterday that perhaps it is time to tell a little bit more about that. It is a different environment from the public schools that everyone in our family attended.
A Quaker school generally falls "under the care of" a Quaker Meeting, and usually it is imperative that members of the Meeting comprise a high percentage of the board of trustees. The students attend Meeting for Worship once each week, and this is held in the Meetinghouse adjacent to the campus. Getting there involves a walk through the graveyard that separates the two campuses. At our school there are four different weekly Meetings, one for each division. Employees not assigned to a division are urged to attend whichever Meeting they like, and often a person who works, for instance, in the business office, will become a special friend of a particular class and accompany the children from that class to Meeting and sometimes go back to the classroom for a snack afterwards.
Everything at school, except perhaps the Halloween parade (no costumes associated with military or violent themes, please) begins with a Moment of Silence. Every committee meeting, assembly, class meeting, even many classes, begin with this MOS. When this was new to me, it seemed strange; over the years I've come to welcome it and have begun to incorporate it into some of the meetings I have had to run at my Lutheran church. It is a time to pause, to catch one's breath, to leave behind whatever one was doing, and to begin to focus on the present purpose.
There is an extra element of respect given to everyone at a Quaker school, and we hear quite a bit about looking to find "that of God" which resides in every person. Sometimes this can be more of a challenge than other times! Each year the Quakerism Committee at our school selects a theme for the year. Last year it was Peace; this year it is Equality. The theme is carried through in classrooms and in administrative projects as we work with intentionality towards a deeper understanding and practice of the theme.
Yesterday was an in-service day for everyone: faculty, staff, and administration. We began the day with breakfast -- an oatmeal and yogurt bar with imaginative and interesting toppings, and huge bowls of fresh cut-up fruit. The morning was filled with work on Equality-- we started with a movie about an African-American high school student who chooses to be bused from her inner city neighborhood to attend a school in an area of white privilege. We then spent an hour or so in small groups processing the movie, sharing our own feelings and experiences, and working on prepared queries. After this, boxed lunches were picked up and faculty went to activities prepared by their divisions and the staff gathered with the head of school to learn about a new agenda committee that is being formed to focus on staff issues. After a safety presentation by the school nurse, we went off to enjoy our lunches and then to do our regular work for the afternoon. The day closed with a cocktail party held at the nearby community art center, in honor of two employees who were retiring after many years of service.
It seems incredible that I was paid for yesterday!