Jenny Rinn, Director of Lower School
During the first week of school, parent Craig Levine came into my office and said, “I just want this year to be a kind year. Because we need it!” His comments resonated with me in light of the work we have been doing over the last 18 months. In collaboration with the Institute for Social Emotional Learning, faculty, staff, parents, and students, we designed a guide to forming a community that is open and inclusive to all. Entitled "Seven Ways We Learn and Work Together," it outlines a pathway to a culture of civil discourse and meaningful relationships based on our Brandeis community values of kindness, integrity, and service so that we may nurture what Martin Luther King, Jr. called “the beloved community.”
Dr. King wrote, “Whether we realize it or not each of us lives eternally in the red.” Scholars who have studied Dr. King’s words believe this means that we are in debt to one another, that we need each other for human fulfillment, that “individual maturity and personal growth cannot take place apart from meaningful relationships with other persons.” Dr. King’s concept of the beloved community parallels the most significant programmatic initiative this year at Brandeis.
The seven ways we learn and work together are:
I share these with you not as someone who is always able to practice these seven ways, but as someone who aspires to do so. As a leader in this school, it is my job to believe that these seven ways can promote change and also to model them to the best of my ability. In the book Lifelong Kindergarten by Mitchel Resnick—which faculty and staff read over the summer—the author shares that learning is a creative spiral into which one may enter at any point. So, I’ll share publicly that I’m entering the spiral at two points concurrently: reflecting and learning from my mistakes. Upon reflection, it is clear to me that I am not always kind. While I am generally a kind person, I take things too personally, and I can become defensive. In those very human moments, I know that I can be direct to the point of being insensitive. I have recognized this area of growth for myself. While I can’t promise that I will succeed in every moment from this point forward, I can promise that I am reflective, and I try to learn from my mistakes.
I’d like to conclude by circling back to kindness by expressing gratitude to those who deserve it:
Thank you, parents, for choosing Brandeis and partnering with us to educate your children.
Thank you, students, who bring joy to this profession.
Thank you, Brandeis leadership team, for believing in me.
And the biggest thank you I extend to the faculty for sticking with education—a high responsibility, low pay, predominantly female profession—in a time when opportunities for women expand beyond just teaching and nursing. As we experience a nationwide teacher shortage, I am beyond grateful for your dedication to education, especially here at Brandeis.
Here’s to a kind year. May our community be a beloved one.
If you have not already received a copy, we have the Seven Ways We Learn and Work Together booklet available at the front desk. I invite you to pick up a copy and read through the ways we are creating a community that is open and inclusive to all.