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Mapping Our Future

Article first appeared in the 2020 issue of ‘Vine & Branch Magazine

What a year. It never goes exactly as planned, but 2019-20 takes the cake. Unforeseen circumstances made for one of the most unusual, challenging, and formative years in ROBS’s history. Of course, I’m talking about the novel coronavirus that swept across the globe and effectively brought life on our campus to a standstill. But I’m also talking about the happy surprises.

The astonishing strength and resilience of our teachers in learning a completely new way to teach. The remarkable patience and stamina of our parents who managed not just their children’s lessons, but their own jobs at the same time. The ingenuity of our volunteers, coming up with new ways to support programs interrupted by COVID… and by construction before that. On-schedule completion of our $65 million expansion project before school starts in August (I confess this did actually surprise me). Recognition from the U.S. Department of Education as a 2019 National Blue Ribbon School. Final blessing of the 2020 Strategic Plan (not surprising, but very exciting!). In other words, this year bred a lot of growth.

Growth isn’t comfortable, but I’ve learned it’s smoother with practice. And we at ROBS are diligent practitioners of growth.

Our strategic planning process, culminating in the Roadmap 2020, is a great example of practicing growth. The entire ROBS community engaged in dozens of discussions rethinking how to deliver our mission in a fast-changing world. The long and deliberative process required hours upon hours of design thinking. And because the plan is a living document, strategic planning never really stops. The promise of a superior educational program requires that we—both individually and collectively—are always learning, always innovating, always improving.

We have conditioned ourselves to ask: how do we adapt our program to achieve our mission? How do we have school without actually going to school? How do we celebrate our students without gathering in celebration? We have conditioned ourselves to learn, and the resulting growth still surprises me.

I didn’t plan, for example, to learn so much about my implicit role as a white woman in the systems oppressing people of color as we explored diversity, equity, and inclusion as an educational priority. Or how demoralizing the term “colorblind” is, dismissing the rich beauty of our differences. The learning and unlearning that has stemmed from this initiative has been eye-opening for me personally and game-changing for us as educators.

Our students are the politicians, teachers, lawyers, front-line healthcare providers, and protesters of the future. It is our responsibility to keep learning for them, and for our own future. It is why our academic leaders participated in the People of Color Conference last winter and the Diversity Leadership Institute this summer. It is why we have engaged a curriculum consultant to work with our academic leaders on lessons in cultural competence and racial literacy. It is why we will always keep asking, how can we do things better?

In this way, mapping our future means practicing growth. From long-range plans and bold visions to ROBS Homestyle and the Diploma Roadshow, I think you’ll see in this issue of Vine & Branch the many ways our community is mapping the future of ROBS.

Leanne B. Reynolds

Head of School

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