Students: Welcome to the 2019-2020 School Year

August, 2019

Dear high school student,

Welcome to or welcome back to ASD! I hope your summer provided opportunities to rest and relax, to connect with family and friends, and to continue learning in ways that the summer uniquely provides us.

I write to you on the theme of courage. One definition of the noun is “the ability to do something that frightens one.” Other is “strength in the face of pain or grief”. The origin of the word can be traced to Middle English (heart), Old French (corage), and Latin (cor). (Apple Dictionary App)

If you are like me, you at times feel courageous, and at other times, feel far from this way. This means you are human (so don’t worry). The concept of courage goes far beyond simple definitions found in a dictionary. We must unpack the word, to where it becomes an idea, and to where it has practical applications.

Brené Brown, author and university professor, who has studied courage extensively, starts with the concept of vulnerability. She believes one cannot have courage without vulnerability. This is a profound statement, in fact! Vulnerability means jumping into the messiness of challenging situations with your whole self, and with an open heart and with curiosity. Not easy to do, for sure.

Brown also speaks to the importance of self-awareness and self-love: “… it is less about who people are, and more about how they behave and show up in difficult situations”. Feeling fear is normal, and responding to fear with patience, compassion, and also assertiveness can be empowering, serving as an antidote to fear.

In the spirit of Brené Brown’s message, I ask you to show the courage to be vulnerable, to take care of yourself, and most importantly, to bring YOU to ASD. This is true courage. We very much want the authentic you to be on display at ASD, even if it is not always pretty. Trumpet your voice on issues important to you. Don’t apologize for who you are. Make ASD part of your own personal mission of school achievement and personal growth. We believe in you.

I would like to share with you a document that you may not be all that familiar with, but will prove to have a big impact on your education: the Student Profile. A group of students, teachers and parents came together last spring to refresh this description of the skills and characteristics we believe will allow you to realize the school’s mission, and to thrive in the future world you will enter.

Revised Student Profile (2019).png

A big takeaway from this revision is that you’ll see descriptors in there such as resilient, and self-aware, and empathetic. Traditionally not a big part of high school education in the past, these skills and dispositions are now deemed critically important, as the world you will enter will require you to be a continuous learner, where your adaptability-quotient (AQ) will be much more important than your IQ. You will need to offer the workplace something uniquely human, as you work side-by-side with machines (which will do its part). Are you ready for this? Don’t fret. ASD has the courage to continue to change and evolve as a school, to make sure you are indeed ready for this environment.

On behalf of the entire faculty and staff at ASD, we continue to be inspired by your generation’s passion and commitment to sustainability and service. Yours is so much more responsible than our generation, and we thank you for that. Whether it is continuing the ban of single-use plastic bottles, sourcing from the organic garden, caretaking the beehive, or many other opportunities to “go green” and support the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, or whether it is the inspirational service you have provided in Dubai or beyond, keep taking informed action to improve our current and future realities. And engage with the JUMP! Foundation Center for Global Citizenship at ASD in its new location next to the cafeteria. So much potential for good!

This year, across all of ASD, we welcome nearly 400 new students to campus. Please join me in making their transition to a new school as smooth as possible. Do you remember what it was like when you first arrived to ASD? Be kind (your compassionate self). Be available (earbuds out, please). Help our new students figure out how things work, and how we are expected to carry ourselves (hint: core values). For this, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Finally, we welcome back to ASD your highly-capable administrators, faculty, and support staff. We also welcome a fantastic group of new teachers, including five counselors, who are part of a “counseling reboot” at the high school, aiming to provide all high school students high levels of academic, college, and personal counseling.

I continue to be available to support your learning and development. Please do not hesitate to introduce yourself or say hello on campus (and you can always make an appointment with Ms. Gonsalves or drop me a note).

I look forward to meeting or seeing you again in the coming days and weeks. Here’s to a wonderful start to the school year and remember… Once a Falcon, Always a Falcon!

Dr. Richards
ASD Superintendent

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