Head of School Blog | "2020 Mindset: Creativity, Compassion, Community"
Sherri C. Helvie, Ph.D.
Dear Orchard Friends and Families,
I hope this note finds you well, and enjoying the beautiful fall weather. As we have welcomed back students for our 98th year of teaching and learning, I have been reflecting on the mindset that has defined the work of the first two months of school, and will continue to frame the year ahead: creativity, compassion, and community.
Creativity reflects the new way of thinking we have brought to almost every practice and project at school: class procedures, lunches, health screenings, and building new playgrounds with outdoor spaces that extend our classrooms far beyond the school building. So many of our creative solutions have brought us right back to what has been foundational to Orchard from the very beginning: being in the natural world is key to inspiring imaginative play, curiosity, and the physical and emotional health of our students. We have also worked hard to find ways to keep students connected with our larger school community. Although all-school assemblies are on pause this school year, we found a way to enjoy a few minutes together while our whole school was physically distanced outside for a fire drill; we created a moment of celebration and playfulness as students followed their teachers back into the building dancing to the Cha Cha slide.
Compassion is reflected in our students’ recent food drive for the Mid-North Food Pantry, which supports our Indianapolis neighbors with healthy food and basic necessities. Compassion inspires the work that’s been led by Orchard fifth graders Lily and Joci to collect hundreds of pounds of bottle caps which will be used to create a new buddy bench to help students connect with peers. And compassion is reflected by our faculty and staff every day as they help a young child adjust a face mask, listen intently when a student shares a discovery or question, and offer encouraging words for colleagues and parents when we’re tired, struggling, or just need a kind ear when things are hard.
Community is reflected in the ways that we are creating and maintaining meaningful relationships with one another even when we aren’t able to gather together in quite the same ways. Our Parents’ Association recently organized Pumpkin Palooza as a way for families to celebrate fall with an evening walk through the Orchard woods, and a flu vaccination clinic where 325 members of our community received a flu shot. Our teachers have always been experts in building community in the classroom, creating routines and celebrations that are grounded in daily practices like morning meetings, and ensuring that every student is seen, known, and loved. We couldn’t miss the opportunity last week to celebrate our community and wish Orchard a very happy birthday on Founder’s Day. While singing happy birthday was off the table, our whole school hummed along at the same time during the first class of the day, and we all felt connected to our school community that has grounded us.
Creativity, compassion, and community will continue to drive our work in 2020-21, and I invite you to share the examples you see of this mindset in your Orchard experiences this year. Please send your photos and videos to firstname.lastname@example.org, and include “Creativity,” “Compassion,” or “Community” in the subject line. We look forward to sharing them with our broader Orchard community, and to a school year that continues to be inspired by our mission, vision, and values.