Letter from the Principal

Letter from the PrincipalComments Off on Letter from the Principal

Dear Janney Families,

Wednesday, November 6 marks the beginning of the second advisory of the school year.  Teachers and staff spent the previous two days in professional development with teachers from other DC public schools and at Janney reflecting on our current practice and planning for upcoming instruction.  Advisory 1 report cards will be sent home via THT on November 19th.

Thank you to all who attended our Halloween parade last week!  I appreciate your patience and flexibility as we revised plans.  The students had a great time and I hope you enjoy the picture of our admin team (Principal Lutz, AP Barnhart, and DSL Beumel) dressed up as rainbow unicorns!

For the month of November, school psychologist Dr. Margaret Mallory will write our Student Support Services column.  I am only including her column this week to underscore its importance as she writes about how to talk honestly and in a developmentally appropriate way with your children about Thanksgiving.

The remainder of the newsletter includes a letter from the PTA presidents with many important updates.  Remaining content includes: the announcement of The Little Mermaid Jr. as the Janney Spring Musical; an announcement about photo retake day; information about WinterFest and the Winter Market Vendor registration; notice that the Yetis are coming; and, information about our upcoming 5K race.

Enjoy your week!

Student Support Services Column
As we as a school community focus on equity, it is important to address how we speak with our children about the story of Thanksgiving, which is fraught with controversy as many of the facts have been diluted or completely erased from the history books.  As children we learned one version, and as adults, it took time for most of us to become aware that the story we were told of the first Thanksgiving and why we celebrate it has a limited basis in truth.  At the same time, we want to teach our children to enjoy the holiday as a time to celebrate with loved ones and to pass our traditions on to them.

If you’re not sure about what really happened, here is the short version:  There was a feast that happened in 1621 at Plimoth Plantation. The pilgrims, who referred to themselves as separatists at the time, were there, as well as members of the Wampanoag tribe. There is evidence, in the form of a colonist’s letter, to suggest the feast did happen as the Wampanoag had taught the settlers how to farm and they were there at the time of harvest. The actual holiday of Thanksgiving was not declared, however, until a couple hundred years later, following a recommendation by the writer Sarah Hale, as a way to unite the country during the civil war.  In between, there was genocide, slavery, and disease that wiped out many of the existing tribes.

In talking about the reality of Thanksgiving with children, with young children, the focus doesn’t have to be on the first celebration, but on being thankful.  Talk about the bigger picture of gratitude and coming together with people you love.  With older children, don’t let the negative aspects take away from enjoying the season and spending time with family.  It provides an opportunity to have children think and reflect on what they are thankful for.  One activity for children of all ages can be decorating a jar and having the kids fill it with notes about what they are thankful/grateful for.  They can then take turns reading them during Thanksgiving dinner.  Parents can add their own notes so all family members are involved.

To expand your children’s knowledge about Native people, there are books that celebrate Native American tribes and how they give thanks in their culture.  For instance, there is Giving Thanks: A Native American Morning Message by Chief Jake Swamp, and The Very First Americans by Cara Ashrose, which is great for young children and provides an overview of several different Native American tribes.  For older children, The People Shall Continue by Simon J Ortiz tells the story of the indigenous people of many different tribes from creation to the time of the invasion.

You can also increase your children’s understanding of the journey of the pilgrims by going to the Plimoth Plantation site (https://www.plimoth.org/learn/just-kids/thanksgiving-interactive-you-are-historian).  Plimoth Plantation is a Massachusetts-based living history museum about the Plymouth Colony, and provides an award-winning and free downloadable Thanksgiving activity that is appropriate for children of all ages. The site introduces children to a Wampanoag child and an English settler who lead them on their journey to uncover the truth and debunk popular myths about the first Thanksgiving.  It provides different points of view on important historical events that happened between the Wampanoag people and the English settlers leading up to the first Thanksgiving in 1621 in an interesting, high-tech way.

In talking with your children about Native people, talk about specific tribes, rather than “Native Americans.” For example, discuss the people of Nambe Pueblo, the Turtle Mountain Chippewa, the Potawotami.  Ideally, choose a tribe with a historical or contemporary role in the local community.  This will provide children with culturally specific knowledge (pertaining to a single group) rather than overgeneralized stereotypes.  For example, when discussing cultural artifacts (such as clothing or housing), the Plains tribes use feathered headdresses, but not all other tribes do.

Lastly, please keep the conversation going about Native people beyond the month of November.  According to Bettina Washington of the Wampanoag tribe, “We always get called in the month of November and then we’re not here the rest of the year…The positive thing about this time of year is that we are thought of.  That opens the door to greater learning and understanding.”

Alysia Lutz, Principal

  • Janney Calendar

    February 2021

    Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
    • Beginning of Third Advisory
    • No School for Students, Teachers, Staff
    • DCPS Virtual School Day (No In-Person Learning)
    • Nando's Janney Night (40% goes back to Janney!)

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