A Message from Mr. Steve Morris
Posted 03/03/2017 10:11AM

Dear Families,

This coming Thursday, March 9, we will have our annual "Mix-It-Up" Day in Middle School. Planned and organized by our Student Council with Mrs. Cannon and Mrs. Dupont, the school day will include a performance by Mr. Morgan Andrews, a legally blind actor, and carry the theme Overcome blindspots! Gain insights! Our focus will be on abilities and disabilities and our awareness of how we are differently abled. As always on Mix-It-Up Day, we will ask questions about how we can bring the benefits of diversity to life in our community and strive to learn how to be more empathetic and understanding in our interactions with others.

With Mix-It-Up Day in combination with other events like today's Chapel presentation from Mrs. Mindy Menkowitz Scheier and the DancEAthon, we hope to build a thoughtful and positive tone at EA, explore differences, and engage with each other to overcome blindspots. We will strive to help members of our community get to know each other better and through that, hope to build a more understanding, welcoming and inclusive community.

We are a four-time Mix-It-Up Model School, a national honor conferred by Teaching Tolerance, and our immersion into the day has transformed over the years. We tried a new format last year and it worked well so we are sticking with that schedule with some new themes for 2017. We kick off the day with Mr. Andrews with a performance for the entire Middle School community. After receiving t-shirts in homeroom, Mr. Andrews will perform his one man show CONES, based on his vision impairment and experiences in childhood, school, and onward.

After the performance, we will assemble by homerooms to engage in activities designed to build understanding, respect, and appreciation in our community. Some of the activities include writing and sharing reactions to Mr. Andrews, playing community building games based on t-shirt colors, role plays and some follow up videos and discussions that prompt students to think about how ability can frequently frame our perception of others and how blindspots exist for each and every one of us.

We have already laid some groundwork for the day with a t-shirt design advisory, Chapel announcements and a discussion session with advisories after watching these videos:

Our hope is to get students thinking about our awareness of others, their challenges and the ways in which we can be inclusive and supportive of others despite our differences. Overall, our goal is to make our school a safe, welcoming and inclusive place for each member of our community.

On Thursday, students and faculty will receive a certain color t-shirt (in homeroom) with our Mix-It-Up slogan for 2017 that they will wear throughout the day. (Students should come to school in regular dress code.) The t-shirt colors artificially divide us for the day and help us experience the different activities and discussions in a structured but split environment. The final design for the t-shirts is still a mystery, but it will be revealed on Thursday. The t-shirt colors and the presentation by Mr. Andrews along with the mix it up lunch and some afternoon academic period videos and announcements will blend to promote thinking, discussion and experiences that are intended to build community and thoughtful interaction with one another.

We hope that the experiences of the day will heighten awareness and encourage each one of us to think about our blindspots and get us to work more mindfully to positively interact with one another. We will have a "mixed up" seating arrangement at lunch to prompt students and faculty to interact with people outside of their regular social circle and increase awareness and sensitivity to some of the boundaries (social and otherwise) that exist in our community. We will end the day with our regular sports block with the coaches looking to mix-it-up a bit in that arena as well.

At the end of the academic day on Thursday, I will share with you (via email) the text of the announcements and video links that we are using at the start of the afternoon periods. If you look for that email, it will give you some context for conversation when your son or daughter arrives home at the finish of the day. I ask you for your support, conversation, follow up and feedback as we organize and implement this event in Middle School. It is crucial that we all go into this event with a positive and thoughtful mindset. Mix It Up Day is a simple call to action that can reap a great reward. Using this day, students can learn to understand the impact of labels, meet new people, make new friends, create a greater understanding of difference, show empathy and support and become better able to work and live amongst people of all types. Students who have experienced Mix It Up Day have noted the value in this experience and I expect this year will be as impactful as ever. I appreciate your willingness to be a part of our efforts.

Thanks for reading,
Steve