2021 Fall Newsletter – From the Heart

Returning to school this fall has been challenging for everyone. I think we all felt like we had turned a corner and maybe we could get back to life as it was before the pandemic. When numbers were rising again, we knew what to do as a school to keep everyone safe. Though we’d made it through a year without a single case of COVID, there was an emotional toll. The long-term effects of pandemic life are more obvious in children as well. On a personal note, I lost both my father and grandfather this year. But you don’t have to face loss to feel grief — all of us are grieving life as it was, a loss of connection and normalcy.

Fear, uncertainty, grief, sadness are all normal feelings. The question is what to do with these feelings. The feelings are not the problem, it is how we respond to them. As adults, we each have our own coping mechanisms. I tend to bottle up my pain and use numbing to get through. Even positive habits, like exercise, hobbies, achievements, planning, can be used in unproductive ways. If we are using them to avoid our feelings, we are only making things worse. The highs and the lows of life become muted — at some point, we will have to face our feelings.

I recently had the wonderful opportunity to attend Brene Brown’s “Dare to Lead” training. It was a life-changing experience, and I was motivated to recommit to self-compassion and self-care. I want to live into my values and be my best self. We can’t do that from an empty cup. We can’t give others what we can’t give ourselves. We hear lots about self-care and self- compassion these days, but what is it? Is having a glass of wine and taking a bubble bath self- care? If it helps me to be vulnerable, embrace my feelings and move through them, it can be. If those internal voices continue to be judgmental and harsh, I need to embrace self-compassion. Kristin Neff writes about three elements of self-compassion:

Self-Kindness vs. Self Judgement – learning to recognize that we are all imperfect and face difficulties; being gentle with ourselves when life doesn’t meet our expectations

Common Humanity vs. Isolation – recognizing pain, suffering, and feeling “not enough” are things we all go through, rather than feeling that it’s “just me,” alone

Mindfulness vs. Over Identification – observing thoughts and feeling without judging, suppressing, or denying them while at the same time not being so wrapped up in our feelings that we are caught up in negative reactivity

My prayer for all of us is that we can find ways to truly practice self-care. For myself, I know that means slowing down, breathing, and taking time for things like meditation, connecting to nature, and yoga. These are the things that allow me the space for reflecting, letting go, and true self-compassion. I am wishing you well and hoping that you will make the time to know what self-care and self-compassion mean for you, and give yourself permission to practice them, so you can be your best and serve those around you, including the children in your life.

Gigi Khalsa ,
Head

Our Head’s Statement on COVID-19 & Beginning the School Year Safely

 
Dear School Family,

I hope you are enjoying your summer. We had a wonderful summer program and now our teachers are resting up before the new school year begins. We are excited to have your family join us in just a few short weeks!Despite the challenges of the pandemic, our School has thrived.

Thanks to our safety protocols, we are proud to share that we had uninterrupted in-person learning since reopening in September 2020. Our families’ continued caution and our teachers’ diligence in following health and safety measures helped us to achieve this goal. We were blessed to have had no cases of COVID among adults or children.

Thankfully, our teachers are now able to be vaccinated, and based on CDC and Austin Public Health recommendations, we will continue our successful practices and procedures until our students can be vaccinated as well.The CDC recommends layering multiple prevention strategies. Here are the health and safety procedures we will continue because they have worked so well:

Masks
– Students and adults wear masks inside when not eating or sleeping
– Mask breaks can be taken by students for brief periods of time indoors while using a face shield provided by the school

Cohorts
– Smaller numbers of students in a stable group to limit exposure
– Staggered drop off and pick up to maintain these groupings
– When two cohorts are together, masks are worn and physical distancing is maintained

Ventilation and Air Filtering
– The Church provided us with a new ventilation system that brings in fresh air to the classrooms even when doors and windows are closed
– HEPA air filtration cleans the indoor airMore activities are done outdoors, including snack and lunch, as weather permits

Handwashing
– Students wash their hands upon arrival and many times throughout the day
– Staff teaches hand washing procedures, visual routines are posted by the sink as a reminder, and timers are used to help students wash for at least 20 seconds
– Hand sanitizer is available throughout the school and used when washing is not an option

Staying Home When Sick and Getting Tested
– Temperature checks upon arrival
– Families use extra caution, keep sick children at home, and inform the office of symptoms
– Rapid antigen testing provided by the school at no cost, on request
– Children exposed to COVID quarantine from 10-14 days
– Students who travel by airplane, or other public transportation, quarantine for 7-10 days

Cleaning and Disinfection
– Frequently touched surfaces, including sinks and bathrooms, are sanitized daily using an electrostatic sprayer and an EPA approved disinfectant

We miss seeing families inside the School, and we had hoped that we could return to our community gatherings and events that we had prior to COVID. Due to increasing COVID numbers and a lack of vaccines for children, we will continue to have only staff in the building.

We look forward to seeing you soon.

Wishing you well,

Gigi Khalsa, Head of School

Spring Newsletter – From the Heart

I thought parenting would be easy. Learning about young children and teaching in the field of Early Childhood Education was my passion. The key to parenting was to provide unconditional love, and a sense of safety, with structure and limits–and then of course, I would have happy and healthy children. The reality of parenting humbled me.

The first big challenge was my infant daughter’s daily crying spells. Hazel would begin crying in the early evening and wouldn’t stop for several hours. I didn’t understand why nursing, or rocking, or singing, or swaddling, or shushing, or any of the other endless things we tried, wouldn’t comfort her. Was something really wrong, or was she just overwhelmed by too much sensory input in a world full of bright lights and loud sounds?

The crying jags stopped after a few months, but the parenting challenges continued. Then we had a second child, Wes, and he had his own challenges. Sleeping, potty training, friendships, school, mental health, screen time, and food choices–all would present struggles. When family life seemed chaotic and uncertain, I felt like a failure.

A book that really helped me explore new ways of being a parent was Nurturing the Soul of Your Family by Renée Peterson Trudeau. I began to realize that fearing others’ judgements, and the long-term consequences of my parenting choices, was not helpful. I needed to open my heart, be present, and accept each moment as it is.

Instead of resisting conflict, I needed to see that family is part of our lives to teach us; to help us grow and evolve. I had to shift my perspective and let go of my ego, and honor each person’s need to be heard, know that we matter and that we belong. Trudeau also recommends:

  • Self-care. You love and nurture the best in yourself so can you give that to others.
  • Healing. Being centered and calm models of self-regulation for our children means finding ways to begin the process of healing our own traumas.
  • Nature. Science has proven that being in nature is a powerful anti-depressant. For me and my family, it is also a way to tap into spirituality and the oneness of life.
  • Spiritual renewal. Breńe Brown defines spirituality as “recognizing and celebrating that we are all inextricably connected to each other by a power greater than us.” Share whatever that is for you with your children.

Parenting is truly the hardest job on the planet. I have to remind myself that I have the power to bring happiness and peace into parenting by being present and responsive. When I am flexible and forgiving, and focus on love and connection, I can recognize the gift of family life. My prayer for our community is that we can all find ways to nurture the souls of our families.

Gigi Khalsa,
Head

Fall Newsletter – From the Heart

 

When I was in second grade, my family went through a hard year financially. We moved across the country and we were surviving on a school bus driver’s income. Luckily, we had a roof over our head, thanks to a family friend who had taken us in, but I remember eating a lot of soup and buying second-hand clothes for $1.00 a bag.

I never wanted my children to experience the shame that comes from comparing yourself to others and feeling that others are looking down on you. As an adult, I had the privileges that allowed me to provide my children with a home that they have always lived in and an abundance of food, clothing, and toys. As they grew, I wondered if there was a downside to never knowing financial instability. How could I teach them to appreciate what they had, spark their desire to help and serve people who are facing challenges, and right injustices?

When my mom wanted to take my kids to deliver toys to children in need for Blue Santa, I was excited for them to have a first-hand experience where they might recognize their privilege and develop empathy for other people’s struggles. I remember my daughter coming back with wide eyes and excitedly telling me about a large family that lived in a small trailer and how happy and appreciative they were. I could tell it had made a big impression on her. It became a tradition that my kids eagerly awaited. Still, I wanted to do more than one yearly service experience.

Studies show that the benefits of gratitude for kids and adults include better mental and physical health. We are happier, sleep better, and have less stress and better resilience when we practice gratitude. Young children need lots of chances to see gratitude modeled, be of service to others, and be encouraged to reflect on what they are grateful for. We often ask children to talk about thankfulness around Thanksgiving, but how can we work toward developing empathy year-round?

• Daily sharing at a meal about something each family member is grateful for.
• Finding ways as a family to help others through donations or time.
• Practicing random acts of kindness and expressing appreciation when you see or receive acts of kindness.
• Taking a gratitude walk and using your senses to notice and appreciate nature.
• Giving your child age appropriate chores, working together as a team, and giving specific feedback, for example, “You set the table. That was helpful!”

Gratitude is especially important during this stressful and uncertain time. My prayer for our school family is that we can nurture gratitude in ourselves and in our children, not only during the holiday season, but throughout the year.

Gigi Khalsa ,
Head

Our Commitment to Social Justice

 

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at All Saints’ Episcopal Day School

As a faculty, we want you to know that, although this is a never ending journey, we are committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion. Our dedication to social justice and peace among all people is part of our Episcopal identity. It can be seen in our curriculum, service projects, and chapel themes where we nurture respect and love for the dignity of every human being.

As educators, we want to actively fight racism. The faculty is doing a book study together to start conversations that can sometimes be uncomfortable. We know that we have to examine our own assumptions and beliefs, and work to develop our personal knowledge and growth.

We commit to every child’s experience being seen and heard. We will continue to develop curriculum where differences in our bodies, families, and lives are acknowledged and celebrated. Research tells us young children do notice differences and if we are silent, we only communicate that there is something wrong with talking about them. As children start to recognize that differences are a strength, we will help them reflect on inequality and what we can do to work towards justice.

We commit to using literature for sharing and telling the stories of individuals because we know that increases moral growth, intellectual curiosity, and promotes respect and understanding. Having a diverse library will provide students with both mirrors and windows into the world. Brenna, our Red Room teacher and our new Librarian this year, has already added 20 new titles that include people of color, and she is dedicated to finding more titles that will help children become thoughtful and brave.

Ms. Mo, our chaplain, is committed to a new Chapel theme this year: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” We are going to use common language about the head, heart, and hands of each child. Our heads are used for thinking and learning, our hearts for loving and showing compassion, and our hands for doing and serving God’s people.

The command to “love your neighbor as yourself” will be the foundation of our Chapel lessons this year with a heavy emphasis on celebrating diversity, and the ways we can serve and stand up to the injustice in our community. UT’s adage states that “what happens here changes the world,” and we firmly believe that it’s our littlest learners who can make that happen.

This upcoming year we will be looking for even more ways to work on social justice as a school family. Below are some resources that may be helpful to your family in addressing these issues at home.

Please share any resources you have. Let’s learn together!

COVID-19 & School Year Update

 

Dear Families,

It is hard to be apart during this challenging time. Our All Saints’ School family is a source of comfort and support for children and adults alike. We miss you! We want you to know that we are planning and working hard to ensure that when we are able to come back together, we will have a safe, loving, and nurturing learning environment. It may look different than what we are used to, but it will still feel like home.

Our leadership team has been researching best practices for preschools to reopen. We have studied the recommendations from the Center for Disease Control (CDC), Texas Education Agency (TEA), and Southwestern Association of Episcopal School (SAES), as well as examples of national and international schools that are implementing new procedures. There is a great deal of information that continues to evolve every day, and we are flexible and ready to adapt as quickly as possible to changes that need to be made. We are committed to keeping you informed of our decisions and plans as they develop.

Here are some of the changes to procedures and calendar that we have determined are most important at this time:

HEALTH & SAFETY PROTOCOLS
The School is finding and investing in the best ways to safeguard the health of students and Staff. Some changes will include:

  • Increased cleaning and disinfecting with CDC-approved methods and cleaners
  • Temperature and wellness checks upon arrival
  • Increased hand-washing routines
  • Cleaning the air with a filtering machine and more ventilation
  • Masks for adults
  • Pickup and drop-off outside the building
  • Increased spacing, small groups and limited mixing between classes
  • Separate writing tools and craft materials for each child
  • More time spent outside
  • Rotating toys, and removing toys that cannot be easily cleaned and sanitized

CALENDAR
We are so proud of how quickly our Teachers adapted to online learning. It was a steep learning curve to quickly determine what content would be most important and the platform that would work best. Our Teachers used Zoom, YouTube videos, FaceTime, and activity packets as appropriate to the age of our students. As Early Childhood educators, committed to hands-on learning through play, we knew that it was not ideal. After reflecting as a Faculty on how it went for our students, we decided that next school year we would prefer to make up as many days as possible, and use online learning tools as a way of staying connected with our students.

To reach this goal, our calendar will start earlier and build in make-up days at the end. We will still have our typical number of instructional days, but there will be an extra 37 flexible school days in May and June that can be used in the event that we have to stay at home at any point during the school year. We hope the new calendar attached to this email will reassure you that your child will not be missing out on important learning time, and you will not feel pressured to provide home schooling, should we have to be apart again.

Please see the full calendar for a draft of our expected year.

We are blessed to have a loving and supportive community. Thank you for your understanding and flexibility during these uncertain times. We will continue to update you as decisions and plans become more refined. We look forward to welcoming all of you back to our sweet little school.

Wishing you well,

Cindy La Porte and Gigi Khalsa
All Saints’ Episcopal Day School

Mother’s Day 2020

 

I had the extreme good fortune to grow up knowing my three great grandmothers, two grandmothers and mother. All six were strong women who put their families first and believed in the power of love and prayer. They also all modeled the importance of being compassionate to everyone at all times, with no exceptions. As time passed, I acquired three other mothers – my husband’s mother, my best friend’s mother and another best friend’s older sister. They too were all cut from the same “mother mold.”

My mom was the last of my six biological mothers to die and that was in 1997 and yet I can still remember her encouraging words, her gentle touch, and her beautiful smile. Mom and I shared the same birthday and every few years, our birthday was on Mother’s Day. When I was young, I was sometimes sad that the day of celebration was not focused on me alone. However, after our son Marcus was born, I better understood the intense emotion my mom must have felt every time we celebrated our special days together.

My prayer today is that you and I can be the kind of inspiration to our own children, grandchildren or great grandchildren all my mothers were and still are to me. Or, that you can be the child who can, with thankfulness of heart, openly receive the love offered to you by your mothers. Wishing you the best Mother’s Day ever!

Cindy LaPorte ,
Head

Earth Day 2020

 

The sunrises lately have been spectacular. “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands.” (Psalms 19:1) Author Max Lucado suggests, “Nature is God’s first missionary. Where there is no Bible, there are sparkling stars. Where there are no preachers, there are spring times. Where there is no testament of Scripture, there is the testament of changing seasons and breath-stealing sunsets. If a person has nothing but nature, then nature is enough to reveal something about God.”

As a child I remember these as my favorite family times: lying on a quilt in our small yard and identifying shapes in the clouds as they floated overhead; fishing from a tiny pier that was across Corpus Christi Bay, next to a small cabin that we shared with other families; standing under the stars on Bob Hall Pier on Padre Island late at night watching the tarpon run; and hiking on the hundreds of acres that my dad and his hunting buddies leased every year. While many great things happened inside our home, nothing could compare to the times we spent together outside. These were quiet times perfect for reflection without interruption. It was quality time spent listening to my parents and grandparents share how they spent their childhoods and learning what they knew to be true about nature. The stories may not have been Sunday school lessons in the traditional sense, but they were certainly opportunities for developing an appreciation for all that God has created.

My prayer for us as we celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day is that we will never be too busy to teach our children and grandchildren why God had reason to be pleased after making the heavens and the earth. I pray too we will make an even greater effort to reverse climate change, reduce waste and plastic pollution, prevent harm to wildlife, and improve air and water quality. Let’s commit to making every day Earth Day!

Cindy LaPorte ,
Head

The World at a Distance

 

From a distance the world looks blue and green
And the snow-capped mountains white
From a distance the ocean meets the stream
And the eagle takes to flight
From a distance there is harmony
And it echoes through the land

You may remember this song, made famous by Bette Midler in 1990. In our current “distanced” world-so characterized by social distancing and all-distance learning, it came to my mind recently. The more the song stuck in my head (one of those times where you can’t seem to get rid of a tune lingering there!), the more I realized it spoke in remarkable ways to the current, surprising condition of our world.

Since we have all been at home, some unintended consequences have been taking shape in our environment. The air is cleaner, thanks to the absence of automobiles and airplanes, mountains have made shocking appearances in places where they are rarely seen in normal times, and there have even been reports of dolphins in the canals in Venice. While we have retreated inside our homes, the environment is experiencing a reprieve, the world looks at least a bit more blue and green.

The human response to COVID-19 is nothing short of remarkable. Indeed, it is a tribute to human agency, what we are able to do when we summon our wills, move beyond self, and look out for the well-being of others. We see it in what our faculties have been doing for students these past weeks, the daily, uncommon courage of health care workers and those employed by essential services, and now we see it, in unintended ways, in the manner in which the world around us has undergone a brief moment of healing as our carbon footprints have been drastically reduced.

There is one way in which Bette Midler’s song has never rested well with me: the refrain that “God is watching us, from a distance.” The spirit of human agency which we have witnessed so splendidly these past weeks is a tribute, in my mind and heart, to the immediacy of God at work, not to a God that simply watches from a distance.

A reminder: we have struggled and worked very hard over the past years to instill in our students a spirit of agency, to give them a sense, in spite of their reluctance, that they have the capacity to influence the world into which they are entering. These past weeks alone have given us a most poignant example of just that: we can make a difference.

What’s more, just as we have managed to make a difference-albeit indirectly-in our environment through our inaction, consider how we might take that depth of human agency, going into the future, and make a more direct, intentional impact on the well-being of our planet.

The Rev. Daniel R. Heischman, D.D., Executive Director
This message was sent to you from the National Association of Episcopal Schools.

March Newsletter – Spring at All Saints’

 

When I was young, we kids were upset when it got dark because it meant that our parents would soon be calling us to stop playing and to come inside. We celebrated when we were allowed to play hide and seek after the sun went down. Searching in the dark helped us learn to slow our pace and to draw on all our senses to guide us to success. Consequently, I’m sad when I learn that children are afraid of the dark. I have to wonder if some of that fear is the result of closed windows and nightlights. Although I would not advise that you go without air conditioning full time, I do believe that open windows at least allow children to become familiar with the night sounds.

I can remember my sister, brother and I being sung to sleep by the chirping of the crickets and cicadas. And, I recall being awakened by the leaves rustling or thunder in the distance. We would reach for the sheets and turn over with smiles on our faces, because both those sounds meant that a cool breeze would soon be blowing through the windows. We could also recognize the distinctive barks of the neighborhood dogs and knew when cats were on the prowl. Even unfamiliar noises were not to be feared; they provided us an opportunity to use our higher level thinking skills or, our imagination.

As adults, we travel a variety of paths in life. How we approach a path determines our success in reaching our destination. It’s easy to navigate when there are no unknowns and when we can see far enough ahead to adjust our route. Not every thing we encounter in life however is planned. So, we must also learn to draw on our inner strength and keep the faith that something previously unnoticed will guide us out of the darkness.

My prayer for us this month is that when something unexpected or unfortunate occurs, we will remember that the stars and moon are not visible in bright sunlight. And just as surely as the sun sets, it also rises.

Cindy LaPorte ,
Head