WATCH/LISTEN: In the second episode of the "Gnu Stories: Highlights from the SSFS Community" podcast, hear two recorded sessions from our Head of School Rodney Glasgow. The first recording is from his presentation at the All-School Welcome on September 1, 2020 during the Virtual OrientatioN Day for parents and guardians. The second recording is an interview conducted by Brenda Crawley, Head of Plymouth Meeting Friends School and former Lower School Head of Sandy Spring Friends School. The Interview was conducted in June 2020, prior to Rodney's first official day as the new Head of School.
Read the transcript of Rodney's opening remarks or listen/watch the presentation and the interview above.
Good morning and welcome to the 2020-2021 school year. As you heard, it's going to be an unusual ride this year. ..Lots of things packed in and lots of good, and also some challenging [things]. But if we know one place that can ride through the challenges [it's SSFS], as Charlene said, "where there's a will, there's a way." And as we say, in Quaker-speak, "A Way Opens". So we are absolutely ready for this year. You know, I believe the universe speaks to us in everyday moments. And if we pause to reflect, their are deep lessons in just everyday occurrences. And I thought about this morning, [there was] an every day and yet not everyday occurrence, that taught me something really important about this place. So the other day, probably about four days ago, I did my morning routine. I got up, I got in my car, I got here, and I parked. And then I went to grab my keys out of the car.
Now, we all know there are moments, there are days, where you are searching all morning long for your keys and you're like, "I know I put it right here. I know they were right here." And you say to yourself, "there must be some reason why I'm delayed. Thank you, Universe, for keeping me out of whatever trouble is delaying me today." But it's rare that you were in your car, you drove it, and then you couldn't find your keys inside the actual car. So, I'm thinking, "I know I couldn't have left the keys because the car wouldn't dry without the key." So I'm tearing the car up in the parking lot looking. [Upper School Faculty member] Nina comes by and goes, "Do you need some help?" I said, "no,... My key is somewhere in the car." Now, the key is not just the car key, it's the car key, the office keys, the house keys, on a carabineer, on a Sandy Spring Friends lanyard, and the car has nothing but me and my backpack in it. I still can't find the keys.
I decide, frustratingly, to come upstairs and I say to Marcia [Executive Administrative Assistant], it's already been a morning, Marcia. [laughter] it's already been morning, I can't find the keys." And Marcia, as sweet as she is says, "When you leave, I'll come down with you and I'll help you look for the keys."
All right. End of the day, Marcia and I are going down [to the car]. Marcia has crawled now almost under the car. She's convinced the keys have gotten stuck inside the tailpipe of the car. I'm [looking] under the driver's seat, the passenger seat. Then Marcia lays flat in the back of the car with the flashlight from a cell phone to look under there. We do not see these keys. Meanwhile, my brother has come down to visit me, so I'm like, "Marcia, let's see if the car starts without the key." And then it starts, no key in sight. So I drive home and I say to my brother,"This is bizarre. Have you seen my keys?" "No, I haven't seen them. But Let me help you look."
So my brother goes through the routine... we haven't seen the keys. Every day for four days, I looked for the keys. My brother looked for the keys. Marcia looked for the keys. There were no keys.I suddenly said yesterday morning.. I said to my brother, "I think I'm going to have to take the car to the dealership. They may have to remove a seat. It must be really stuck up under there." I go out to my car. I opened the passenger door to put my backpack in, and in plain sight, there are the keys. After four days of looking, I had to take a picture of it because it was so unbelievable to me, those keys could not have been there that whole time...How did those keys get there? It was something that I learned not to question, I just said, "Thank you, Universe, for bringing me the keys."
It's exactly how I felt when I found Sandy Spring Friends School. I reflected on it on the drive that day. Now, keys in hand around the corner to the school. And when I first got the Sandy Spring Friends school, I was looking for a place that was rooted in values of peace, and joy, and love... That was rooted in the exploration of deep, thoughtful questions, and authentic relationships with students and teachers, as you heard Irene talk about. And I [lived] seven minutes away this whole time. And when I finally got here, I thought, "how could this have been here all along?"
At some point, you may have had that moment when you were looking for a school and you finally found this one and you thought, "how could this have been sitting right here? How many times did I drive past that? How many times did I go by? How long have I been looking? And this-- this important key, has been sitting right here."
So this morning, I would love for us to reflect...on just that question. <<Rodney shares his computer screen>> This is called a poll everywhere, and so you'll see at the top, you can either go on your Web browser and type in that website or you can go to your cell phone and text to join us. And the question is--like my keys that was sitting in the car the whole time and looking and searching and searching and looking. And they were sitting right there--when you finally found this place for your family, what did you finally find sitting right here at Sandy Spring Friends School that was the key for your family? Once you text it to us, your answer will appear on the screen and we'll see sort of a running tally of what was your "this was here all along" moment.
...<<Rodney reviews comments from the poll everywhere>> Hmm, togetherness. Coming out of the Sandy Spring Friends Meeting and finding the school that is connected to all of that positive energy. Community. Personal connection. Internal peace--that sense of I can exhale. I'm here now. It's been waiting for me. the SPICES--simplicity, peace, integrity, community, equality, stewardship... Emotional safety and nurturing. Art. Being able to flourish... Acceptance.
As we look at these, look at how it's so much deeper. And school is deep, but it's so much deeper than A.P. history or Algebra II. It's the feeling you got when you thought, "this is a place I can send my kid and they'll be more than OK. They'll be better because of it." It's that feeling you got of "if they're not going to be with me, at least they're going to be with them and they'll be better because of it."
...As we soak that in, I think belonging, which is one of my favorite words. Belonging, will come up actually in just a minute. As we look at this, we want to think about in a year like this, in a year where we're so challenged, in a year where school feels so different, all of these things that you looked for that you finally found sitting right here all along are going to still be here. These are the things we know we can do even in the midst of a pandemic... How many times [did] community, acceptance, joy, love, belonging, Quaker values have come up in [the poll]? ... So this is who we are. And in some ways, it's an articulation of who we've always been, sitting right here on Norwood Road, since 1961. Founded in who we are, and who we've always been--who are we striving to become?
So, certainly there are teachers as mentors, but even deeper than that, this is a place where there are students and teachers leading and learning together. There's no way that you could hear Irene this morning and not affirm that not only is she a student, but she is an exceptional teacher on this campus. Your child, too. I asked the freshmen yesterday in their welcome [orientation], what did you come here to learn? And more importantly, what did you come here to teach?
A dynamic, rigorous curriculum centered on real-world questions--and this year will give us no shortage of important, pithy questions to wrestle with together about the world around us, how we better understand it, and more importantly, how we heal it. We know that questions are the foundation of Quaker values and Quaker practice, that deep inquiry, those important pithy questions that sometimes you just sit there, and rest, and settle. Some of them you don't answer. You simply ponder.
Experiential education--as Dewey, John Dewey, the great legend, the father of experiential education, envisioned it.Relevant, applicable, aspirational, and aimed at the promotion of humanity.
When we think about experiential education, sometimes we think about outdoor education or we think about experience out in the field. But this kind of experiential education, especially as relevant this year, is more about life experience. How can what I have experienced in my space teach you something about what you're experiencing in your space? And how can I show you something you haven't experienced and then that's teach[ing] you something you would not have known had we not bumped into each other? And then, what do we do with that, for the greater good of humanity?
And finally, a place that creates belonging. And you saw up on the wall. Some of y'all came here and you found it here, that was the key you were looking for all along that was sitting right here. Is that sense of belonging. I say belonging is different than feeling welcome. When you feel welcome, you feel like you could come in, and you'll be OK and you could, to a degree, make yourself at home. But when you belong, you already are at home. You know where the milk is kept in the refrigerator. You know where your favorite slippers are. When it's time to lay down, ...you might have a key, even if it isn't your own home. This is a place that creates belonging.
When you talk to students about what they love about this campus, it's most everything, but they also have a spot that is like their spot. And it's different for each group of kids, where they like to go, and they feel, "this is my place." When you hear them talk about their school, when you hear them raising concerns, or praising things that they love--they praise it with a sense of belonging. This is their place. And at the same time, we acknowledge that for some of our students from non-traditional backgrounds, getting to that feeling of belonging is a heavier lift. And we're going to lift that with them too. We will be a leader in diversity, equity and inclusion. We already have everything baked into the sauce to be that. We will be a place that just as you felt, everyone will feel, "I finally found the keys." And at the end, although we know your experience never ends, you become alums or alum families, and we keep you very close. Lifelong-- we're in this lifelong. You will experience as well as your student will experience transformation.
I've had the pleasure this summer of bumping into and talking to alums about any number of things, some of them quite ordinary. But because I'm getting to know them, I always start with what did Sandy Spring friends do for you? And to a person, there's a pause. There's a deep quiet. And for several of them there are tears, about what this school did for them. And the constant refrain is, "I wouldn't be who I am now if it wasn't for that place, and I may not have known it when I was there. It may have taken me a while to see and discern it, but the person that came there as is not the person I left as." You will feel that, too.
And so, in this important year, ayear like no other, we want to ask you--How will you be different because you've been with us? How will you be better necause you've been with us? And I personally want to thank you--in a year in which safety, love, joy, community are at the center of what we're all looking for--that you chose us as the place where you knew you could find it virtually, in real-time, and then strong presence right here at Sandy Spring Friends School. So blessed and honored to be here with you, and I will say, one of the things about belonging is that if you need something and a place where you belong, you know that if you ask for it, you will receive it. And so this year, if there's something you need, I implore you to ask for it, knowing quite genuinely that we're going to do our very best to deliver.