Eye to Eye with Elizabeth English
Friday, October 2, 2020
Pictured: Students perform during the annual Night of Dance in February.
As an independent school, Archer is a mission-driven institution, governed by a Board of Trustees whose job it is to safeguard that mission for future generations. With a few key updates, Archer’s Board voted to reaffirm our mission to empower young women to discover their passions and realize their true potential. As we approach this November’s election amidst political and civil discord, we can turn to Archer’s mission as well as our core values of empathy, integrity, and responsibility to connect as a community on this common ground.
With empathy, we recognize the pain of those who are victims of racism and social injustice; of economic hardship, illness, and loss due to COVID-19; and of social isolation and despair. As faculty, staff, and parents, we must have the fortitude to put our own struggles aside and focus our empathy foremost on our students and children. In a webinar I joined recently entitled Leading through an Election, I listened to the great Reveta Bowers, longtime Head of the Center for Early Education, talk about how we want our children to be hopeful and to find ways of turning hopelessness into action. While I see many examples of students doing exactly this at Archer, I know there are others who are struggling, especially due to the social isolation of living through a pandemic and of life lived through a computer screen. It is for this reason that we are focusing on ways to simultaneously foster connection, through our storytelling initiative, for example, and decrease synchronous or screen-bound learning. Toward this end, we are reevaluating our schedule, which was designed to accommodate toggling between an on/off campus approach that has remained elusive as L.A. County has not permitted us to reopen.
As the semester has unfolded, the value of Archer’s in-person program and the rich culture and relationships that sustain our students and teachers is amplified. Each week, Jane Davis and I call in to the L.A. County Department of Health for their COVID-19 briefing for school leaders. Two things are predictable about this call: the advice and regulations are ever changing, and educators and families remain frustrated. While waivers have been made available for grades K-2, priority has been given to the most vulnerable populations - students with disabilities, English language learners, and those who depend on school for nutrition. What I can tell you for now is that when we are allowed to bring students back to campus, it will be under highly regulated and constrained circumstances. This is where the value of integrity comes in as we endeavor to make good on our mantra “Physically distant, socially connected.” We have always been committed to being reflective and responsive to what is going well and what needs improvement at Archer. Toward that end, we’ll continue to survey your daughters about their well-being and adjust both our instruction and our schedule to reduce screen time, and we will be sharing those measures over the coming weeks.
Finally, as I think about the core value of responsibility, I have come to believe that among our most important responsibilities as educators and parents is to teach our students to think critically and to engage in analysis before advocacy. This distinction captured my attention also during the Leading through an Election webinar and was illustrated with a very simple example. Rather than asking our students how they feel or what they think about the fact that 40% of the nation supports President Trump, ask them why they believe 40% of the country might back him. It is the why thatrequires us to suspend our own position and extend understanding to those we might otherwise dismiss as our opponents or enemies. Our country is hurting and in need of restoration and redemption, if you will. Keeping Archer’s core values of empathy, integrity, and responsibility at the fore will give our students the foundation they need to transcend the divisions and polarization that we so want to move past.
List of 6 items.
Seeking Connection Through Our Diversity
Friday, February 7, 2020
In welcoming students at our annual Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Conference, I told the story of my father, Antonio, who was an Italian immigrant during a time when the ideal of becoming American was synonymous with assimilation. My grandparents did not read, write, or speak English. My grandmother, who had six children, cleaned other people’s houses, while my grandfather worked the railway.
Friday, November 1, 2019 There is no shortage of articles chronicling the dramatic rise in anxiety and depression among our children and especially among girls. If you have a daughter and a son, you’ve probably noticed that they respond to the stresses of their school and social lives differently.
When the history of The Archer School for Girls is written, the opening of the Diana Meehan Center will stand as a pivotal moment for the School, the moment when we ensured our home in Brentwood and secured our mission for future generations of Archer girls.
One of the major purposes of art is to help us transcend our day-to-day lives, see fresh perspectives, and experience thoughts and feelings that might otherwise remain dormant. Put simply, art deepens our sense of humanity and heightens our connection to others - and to the world in which we live. At its best, art arouses action in the face of ugliness and injustice.
When I was an undergraduate, a classmate in my American literature seminar asked the professor, “Is this an American lit class or a women’s lit class?” The first two novels we’d read were written by women. The professor responded by asking the class rather plainly, “If the first two novels we’d read were by men, would anyone be asking if this was a men’s literature class?” That professor was one of only two female instructors I had as an undergrad, and she was my hero.
Yes, we can! This is the rallying cry of the legendary civil rights activist and community organizer Dolores Huerta who, along with the late Cesar Chavez, founded the United Farm Workers union. In recognition of her fearless leadership in the fight for labor and human rights, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012. Huerta was among the many feminist luminaries and warriors who presented at TEDWomen2018 in La Quinta, CA where the senior admin team and I gathered to reflect on the state of the world and the role of women and girls in solving humanity’s most pressing problems.
The Archer School for Girls admits students of any race, color, religion, national and ethnic origin, sexual orientation or other legally protected status to all the rights, privileges, programs and activities generally accorded or made available to students at the school. It does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, national and ethnic origin, sexual orientation or other legally protected status in its hiring or in the administration of its educational policies and programs, admissions policies, financial aid programs or other school-administered programs.
The Archer School for Girls’ mission is to educate students in an environment specifically designed for girls. As such, the school will consider any candidate for admission who identifies as a girl. Once admitted to Archer, all students in good academic standing who abide by Archer’s code of conduct and who meet requirements for graduation will be eligible to receive an Archer diploma, regardless of any change in sexual identity or other legally protected status.