Our artisans joined us today with a wide array of holiday items displayed throughout our hallway. It was a pleasure to see the many items spread before us, ushering in the trappings of the season. But, the real highlight today was the wonderful sounds that warmed our hallway as staff caroling caused us pause as we were on our way to class this morning. A perfect way to get us into the spirit of the final week before we head to a well deserved vacation!!
Remember that we also have the Jingle Bell Fun Run this afternoon (Friday, 3:45p) after school! Santa will be there! Put on your running shoes and join us! See you in the new gym!
In reflecting on the last few days, my mind has turned to how we all faced adversity in what can only be described as complicated times. For me, walking into a clean, but “injured” building this week inspired a moment of consideration — How can we confront these challenges in a way that helps make sense of these events, while also learning from them? How can we strive to improve and get ever better in the midst of painful experience?
Our fire was small by all estimation. Approximately 8 square meters of space was damaged by flames and the associated melted plastic, quickly extinguished by the fire brigade, who responded in under 10 minutes. But, as previously reported, the smoke damage was significant, affecting areas associated with the school core including both cafeteria and library. The loss of our library and cafeteria is daunting in the final days before a vacation. While we are quite sure we will have them back up and running in January when we return, we will miss these spaces in the final days of 2016. The cafeteria has settled into our small gym and worked well in its trial run on Monday. We are confident that we can manage in this space for the next 9 days. The library will be setting up makeshift operation in the Elementary School Tower. With over 3000 books in circulation at the time of the fire, we expect that some redistribution of these books may keep us reading and sharing until the vacation. Maybe Christmas lists could shift a bit and accommodate a special book for a young reader during the coming holiday!
In many ways, while the hardship of renovation begins, we are all educators in our hearts looking for the lessons of how we respond in situations of this nature. We can look on the bright side of the equation, knowing that the damage could have been much worse, or the timing of the day could have caused more challenges. We can celebrate that the systems worked to keep everyone safe in the moment, that responders arrived in record time, and that key staff members were here doing their best to protect our interests. We can also feel a bit better that insurance companies have arrived and are providing favorable treatment to the school, helping us to navigate our interests in the face of contractors and specialists.
The more important lessons will come in the after action review, the deeper reflection on the systems and strategies that will keep this from happening in the future. This may be the most important lesson, gleaned from prudent and comprehensive investigation, that we may need to be more rigorous in our inspection and adjustment actions, ensuring that similar incident is avoided in the future.
But, despite all of the events associated with the fire and the work that lies ahead to bring the building back to normal by the time we return in January, we enter the final days of 2016 with the spirit of the holidays entering our hearts and minds. For those of us cut from the American template, the recent celebration of Thanksgiving brought the beginning of transition to the season of good cheer, a time filled with celebration and joy found through family and friends gathered in fellowship. In the coming days, we will celebrate with our children in performance and song – having finished the high school play on the weekend, we now enter into the holiday presentations of Choir and Instrumental offerings. These are special times for students who have worked hard to prepare their offerings through diligence and commitment. The performance part of these artistic pursuits are so important and fleeting that we need to give special attention to them and join the audience that will applaud their accomplishment. Join me on Tuesday and Thursday this week at 6:00 p.m. as we enjoy our Choir and Band performances in our Theater. Students have worked hard and they deserve a packed house for their offering of time and talent.
It has been a busy few weeks and I’m happy to report that we’re just about tying up the remainder of the Fall season of activities despite the fact we have now plunged into November.
First, United Nations Day was spectacular!! We can’t help by thank everyone involved for this wonderful and truly inspiring event that included all ages, the bulk of our community, and one destination after another throughout the school mastered by wonderful parents dedicating their time and talents to a truly powerful day. Diversity stands at the center of our mission and vision for a school that captures and values cross-cultural experiences that promote a global village pathway to peace and harmony. Parents modeled for students the power of our diversity and what our varied cultural heritage brings to an already robust conversation in our classrooms and programs. PTO and all of our parent volunteers should be thanked for their diligence in presenting us with one of our best UN Days on record. Our thanks also to those that organized the wonderful assemblies that allowed students to showcase their diversity in the performance setting. The Grade 2 and Grade 4 spotlights shown brightly as these grade levels mastered assemblies with dialog that wove friends and tolerance into powerful presentations. I can honestly admit to a small tear that was shed when the candles were lit, and I giggled with the rest of you when we heard the hoots and hollers as Ireland, and all of our countries, were announced to the cheers of those in attendance! 😉
After a wonderful vacation with a couple of extended days, we headed right into two very powerful events on the weekend.
The International Schools Theater Association (ISTA) was on campus for their regional conference for Middle School students, and the performance today was a powerful reminder of the talent and capability of our young thespians. Their final production on Sunday morning was a powerful reflection on the modern age, set again with some of the same themes we saw on United Nations Day, but with a more modern and theatrical presentation. They brought their ideas to life on stage in unique and interactive ways, capitalizing on their newfound friendships that found no boundary or barrier, despite the long distances traveled to join together in common enterprise. Mr. Stein achieved a long held dream to bring ISTA to our campus after attending many ISTA events at other schools. With Mr. Sidaway’s help, and the entire ASW support team, the dream became reality and we believe this sets a standard for regular repeat of events of similar nature in the future.
The Central and Eastern European Schools Association (CEESA) was also on campus the very same weekend for the Middle School Boys Soccer tournament. Like ISTA, boys from the middle years grades of schools throughout the region gathered to embrace the competitive spirit while making lifelong friends across borders and boundaries of distance and culture. While our own Warsaw boys felt a narrow defeat in the final game in tie breaking penalty kicks, the real special moment was at the awards ceremony when a representative of the Warsaw team handed a sportsmanship button to the winning Prague team to thank them for their graceful win and support given to their opponents, even in victory. It was a special moment capped a special weekend, where all can be proud of spirited play, and a mature demeanor that reached beyond their years. Our thanks to Mr. Matter, along with Mr. Sidaway and the Athletics and Activities Office for their diligence in making sure these two events were both successful despite their simultaneous timing on a single weekend.
For both of these events, a shout out to all of our host families. This was truly a feat worth remembering as the largest number of host families on a single weekend. We surpassed all previous records in the number of homes being utilized. I know we enjoyed having our two boys from Moscow and catching up with them during their stay. And, I know that all of you equally enjoyed your extra family members during this amazing weekend. Our sincere thanks to you all!!
Finally, for this post, I’m happy to announce that we have successfully launched our new website this weekend with tightened coordination of content and information. Best that you watch the video below to get oriented and enjoy the content that serves both the purpose of keeping our current community informed, and the associated purpose of introducing the American School of Warsaw to potential new students around the world. Please go take a look and let us know what you think! We are all very proud of this accomplishment, which will be followed by other improvements in communication and messaging. Thanks to Ms. Swietliczko and the team in Communications for their work on this wonderful achievement!
I would be remiss if I didn’t also add that we wish our teams well on the coming CEESA High School weekend with the following on the road:
Boys Soccer in Bucharest
Girls Soccer in Kiev
JV Boys Soccer in Moscow
MS/HS Cross Country in Tbilisi
Boys/Girls Volleyball in Prague
JV Girls Volleyball in Basel (SCIS)
And, of course, as we all know, Poland’s Independence Day results in a Friday holiday this week. Enjoy!