Our Children Are Always Watching And Listening

A teacher reading a picture book to 2 preschool students

Dear Westside Community, 

Our children are always watching and listening to us and taking cues from the adults around them. Yesterday, our whole country watched in horror as hundreds of people stormed the center of our democracy, smashing windows and voicing their anger at the outcome of the Presidential election. These individuals were incited to do so at the moment our elected officials were peacefully exercising their duty and responsibility to preserve our Constitution. An angry mob attacked the home of our Governor here in Olympia and there were similar events in other state capitals.

We are heartbroken by these events. At Westside our ability to recognize diverse perspectives and communicate ideas is central to who we are. The violence displayed in our nation’s capital was deeply disturbing, and an assault not only on people and buildings, but on the very inner workings of what makes our country a democracy. The U.S. Capitol has always been a symbol of our Constitution and civil liberties. It has seen thousands of peaceful rallies and protests at its doorstep, but never has it had to be physically defended against the very people it is designed to serve and protect. 

We have been processing these events at our school and in our own homes, wondering how we talk to our children about it while trying to manage our own anxieties and concerns. Though it feels like we have had no shortage of challenges this past year to process with our children, that unfortunately does not make this conversation any easier. 

Our Middle School and Lower School administrators and teachers each held early morning meetings this morning to take a mindful moment, to process together, and to strategize on how to discuss the events of yesterday with our students. Meghan Waddle and Heather Moss, our Division Heads, will later today be sending parents more details of those strategies, how the day went in our virtual classrooms, as well as helpful resources for parents.

Our Westside teachers listen to our students, answering the questions they ask, and acknowledging when we are struggling ourselves and don’t have good answers to share. We reassert the values we stand for as a school community. We denounce the actions and violence our kids saw from these individuals as indefensible and ineffective in trying to communicate their message. We have conversations and lead by example with the way we use our voice, listen to differing views with respect, and how we respond when we disagree with an outcome in life that does not go our way. It is important we remember that these are not instinctual skills we are born with but rather ones that we and our children build throughout our lives through experience and reflection. These are the skills that make us who we are.

Yesterday’s events cast an even bigger spotlight on what we already know – that as a country there is an obvious difference in how we treat white people compared to black or brown people. We need to continue to do our anti-racist work and to find ways as a country to come together and have more civil, respectful discourse rather than divisive and unproductive shouting matches.

As we do every day at Westside, we will be intentional in the way we create environments to nurture our students’ voices and empower them with tools to talk across differences and be agents of change. We will continue as educators to model that which we are trying to foster in them. We will do this because we believe in their capacity to shape our country’s future and live up to the ideals of our democracy, and because we know they are listening and watching, ready to learn from us. 

Take good care of each other,

Steve de Beer
Head of School