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Message from our Superintendent

Life of the Mind

Dear ASFM community,

Alfonso Reyes

Like many of you I travel to school on Alfonso Reyes almost everyday, but I have never questioned who is Alfonso Reyes. Randomly, my mom reported that she was fascinated by Alfonso Reyes’s writing and was now reading her second novel by him–he was a prolific writer. Naturally, I wondered whether he might have a message to help me with my Friday letter! I asked our able librarians to help me and they dug up some great quotes:

"La subsistencia de la sociedad es indispensable a la subsistencia de cada ser humano y de la especie humana en general."
 
"El primer grado o categoría del respeto social nos obliga a la urbanidad y a la cortesía."
 
"La paz sólo puede dar todos sus frutos donde todos la respetan y la aman."

 

All three quotes relate to my last Friday letter with the idea that we build a more cohesive community with a clearer shared vision for the future with individual efforts to make that community better–it takes all of us. We have to be careful not to normalize the things that detract from building the community and school in which we want to live, learn, and be happy.  
 
Fundamental to building a great learning community, dedicated to the life of the mind, is to have high expectations for participation in the community. In order to attain high levels of performance in every area of school, we must have high levels of attendance. Of course the pandemic interrupted everything and also became an easy excuse for explaining why attendance was low. Over the last three weeks we’ve had exactly two cases of sick students from COVID. We’ve had more adults sick from COVID than kids! Over the last three weeks did an attendance study which reveals that our community, on our best days, attends at only 83%. I’ve attached here the minimum expectations for school attendance in Scotland. Why Scotland? I have a friend who lives there, and he happened to have this document.
 
Scotland’s minimum expectation for school attendance is 95%. If you’re missing school at the 80% level that means more than 36 days of school over the school year have been missed. Over time this student will be well below grade level. Currently at ASFM we have students below grade level. We’ve expanded PLT time and encouraged, and even required students to come to extra help sessions with teachers.

The Middle School is now requiring students to come on Saturdays to make up for the learning time they missed during the week. Our teachers and staff are going to herculean efforts to address academic achievement and ensure our students don’t end the school year behind grade level. But maybe I’m viewing this all wrong? If a student does not attend school at least 95% maybe they lose the privilege to see their teachers outside of class? If a student can’t meet a minimum expectation of attendance (let’s set the bar really low at SEP standards–80%), maybe we should charge that student extra tuition in order to meet a teacher outside of class? Currently, as a community, students are attending school at roughly 83%. Let me personalize this. The average 12th grade student is missing 30 days of school a year. From our three week study we can extrapolate that our average student is missing 29 days, or six weeks, of school a year.
 
Is this ok? I serve the community (you), and I can tell you, it’s not ok by me. Our minimum standard should be in the 90% range.
 

ASOMEX

We have 8 valiant volleyball players battling in Tampico in the first ASOMEX tournament of the school year. These players are awesome. Love their spirit. Send them your support. It’s interesting to note that across the ASOMEX schools we’re seeing record low numbers in participation in athletics. I generally focus my weekly letters on academic matters, but it’s an empirical truth that across the league there are many fewer students participating in sports. How do you interpret this?

Today is a “consejo tecnico” day which means the teachers are working together to improve learning for your children.  Specifically, teachers are looking at math data to design math support for what I think is a noticeably high percentage of students who are currently not meeting grade-level expectations. We need your partnership, however. You have to show up to catch up. Teachers are redesigning our wellbeing curriculum to ensure it cultivates healthy habits that not only support general wellbeing, but also address academic achievement.

Finally, two weeks ago I offered three words that I find fun and thought provoking: syzygy, chiasmus, and kairos. I received creative responses from teachers, parents and students to my challenge of trying to use the words in an email. One respondent offered the words in a poem:

Act only when you know the moment is right
Or is a moment known as right only after you act?
Though thoughts twist into chiasmus and no course seems true
May all who yearn for kairos not wait with bated breath
For as unlikely as all the syzygies of the world are
They happen all the same

Chinese  chi, sheng, jing.

Here is another trinity of words from Chinese medicine: chi, sheng, jing. Each word can be translated as "spirit" or "energy." Just as each member of the Catholic trinity can be called "God." Jing is the most physical part of the body, it is associated with the part of the body near the kidney. I interpret this as at the center of your body. Chi is more about movement and dynamism, and the mind and enters the body through the nose–breath in life. Unlike chi and jing, shen is not inherited but acquired, nurtured, and cultivated over time with the helping hand of music, dance, creative activities and problem solving. It is about an all-encompassing awareness of and a search for truth. There is a strong message in these words that in order to achieve balance you have to commit a certain amount of rigor and discipline to the task of being your best self. Show up. I’ll look forward to your future emails and occasional poems!

Onward, George
 
PS If you don’t know Alfonso Reyes’s poem "Romance de Monterrey” you really should read it.  This is the most quoted  verse: "Tan mi lugar nativo que no sé cómo no añado tu nombre en el nombre mío."