As winter break inches closer, we can almost hear a collective sigh of relief that is about to echo throughout the independent school ecosystem. COVID-19 has  continued to be a force to be reckoned with, and our jobs have become infinitely harder. In several weeks, we will end our second year of a continued global pandemic that has changed the face of our society – and dramatically changed how we teach, learn and lead. 

Educators, marketers and admissions professionals continue to  summon an extraordinary amount of courage, empathy and common sense to navigate our respective leadership roles. My wife is a 30+-year veteran of the upper-school Chemistry classroom at a day/boarding school, and I have witnessed how she and her colleagues have had to rethink their approach through remote-, hybrid- and safe, in-person teaching. 

I’m a firm believer that everyone needs to take some time to step away from our day jobs for self-care. Focusing on ourselves, family, friends and our spirituality has never been more important as our holiday season continues and we move towards the end of 2021. 

Taking care of ourselves isn’t the only thing that’s critical at this particular moment in time. Civility and empathy are needed more than ever. We see the lack of these vital qualities on our Twitter feed, in lines at the grocery store and, of course, threaded through most news headlines.   As a country, tolerance is, sadly, in short supply. 

I believe that we must all set the example for the respective communities we lead to ensure that all voices are respected and loved this holiday season. Respect is the core of civility and empathy. We may not agree with one another, but we need to continue to listen to differing opinions with respect. 

Last year, a friend of mine put aside his traditional “Happy Holidays” greeting. Instead, he offered a powerful and simple greeting in his digital correspondence, one that is worth repeating in 2021: 

Holiday message on a gold background

It’s respectful, empathetic and, most important, it recognizes that our communities are a beautiful collection of religious diversity. In that diversity, we find the best of our humanity – and our hope. 

May all of us enjoy the final weeks of 2021. And may your winter break be restorative and joyful.