Principals’ Message in a Time of Chaos and Confusion

January 7, 2021 / Andrea Wenger
Maria Archer and Justin King chat with Curt Stutzman, high school teacher (pre-COVID)
Maria Archer and Justin King chat with Curt Stutzman, high school teacher (pre-COVID)

On the morning of Jan. 7, 2021, Eastern Mennonite School principals shared a message with K-12 teachers, encouraging them to take class time (while in distance learning mode) to process the events of Jan. 6 in Washington, DC, as well as an announcement by school leadership that the school would extend its distance learning plan due to COVID-19 incidence and the need to review mitigation efforts. Read the letter by Maria Archer, k-8 principal, and Justin King, high school principal, below. See a video that Justin King and Debbie Katz, high school counselor, prepared for students and parents. Finally, see the update by Paul Leaman, head of school, to parents and students about distance learning and an updated school calendar.

To our teachers:

After the tragedy and chaos that played out in our nation’s Capitol building yesterday, we wanted you to know the following:

Although we support everyone’s right to protest and speak out against injustice, we condemn the violence and those that use their positions of power to incite violence, as contrary to the way of Jesus. We call and pray for nonviolence and peace. We believe there is value and appropriateness in marching and protesting… in fact, we believe it is one way of standing up for those who have little or no power. This is not what was going on last evening.

Use your IQEE Training to ensure a safe learning environment today. [IQEE is a program by Teaching Tolerance, “Speak up at School: How to Respond to Everyday Prejudice, Bias and Stereotypes.” The mission of Teaching Tolerance is to help teachers and schools educate children and youth to be active participants in a diverse democracy.]

Interrupt: If you don’t interrupt or respond in some way to an inappropriate or biased remark, it sends the message to students that it’s okay and acceptable.

Question: “Why did you say that?”

Educate: Hate isn’t behind all hate speech, ignorance may be at work. Explain the history. If you don’t know, admit you don’t know.

Echo: Empower the 2nd or 3rd voice that spoke up. “Thanks for speaking up, Allison. I agree that statement was hurtful and we shouldn’t say that.”

“Maslow before you Bloom”

It’s more than okay to spend class time talking about yesterday’s events with your students. In fact, in many cases, if you don’t address what happened yesterday (either the changing of our distance learning schedule or the events in DC), students may not be able to focus.

Help students find and understand their own feelings. Don’t preach at them. This is a teachable moment, a time to listen and clarify. Some of our students are going to feel isolated, alone, or confused.

Take your cues from your students, if they are done talking about it, move on, don’t continue to rehash it.

We support and believe in the sacred work each of you do. Know that we are phone call, text, or email away. We want to support you today, one class at a time. Do not hesitate to reach out to us for support, questions, or concerns.

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness shall not overcome it.” John 1:5

Be the light to each other today,

Justin & Maria

Check out some more photos from this story

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  1. Harvey Yoder on January 7, 2021 at 8:27 pm

    I like what you are doing and saying!

    • Andrea Wenger on January 11, 2021 at 1:30 pm

      Thank you Harvey. We appreciate the long-time support of pastors, community members, and former teachers like yourself!

  2. Craig Landes on January 18, 2021 at 5:41 pm

    Violence is never the answer as we all agree. That is why as to not appear that EMS is not bending to political biases, it would be wise to also acknowledge the riots this summer during the BLM protests. Multiple lives were taken and property destroyed. It was as much a travesty in the eyes of our Christian community as the Capitol riots. As to the controversial issue raised in the statement alluding to Trump inciting the riot he did say ‘peacefully protest’. Some may argue that K Harris supported the BLM unrest by saying that ‘it will continue and it should continue’ and then supported bail for violent protestors.

    EMS needs to stay even handed in addressing politically controversial topics.

    It is important to remember that 74 million people , mostly rural, in this country representing 1/2 of the voting public are not morally corrupt, racist, unwise, non- Christian, delusional, and needing to be re-educated. If that notion persists, we will never have the peace we desire.

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