September 2020 Update from Pollyanna
September 2020
As we begin another month, we must pause, yet again, to write the name of another unarmed Black victim of police violence: Jacob Blake.  Pollyanna stands with the Black Lives Matter movement and all who demand systemic change and accountability for racist actions in our nation’s law enforcement.  We hope for Mr. Blake’s recovery and peaceful, meaningful protests everywhere.

September is often a time of “what if” thinking. Many of us enter the school year full of high hopes about coming back together with our communities. This month, as we did in the spring, it seems that we will need to continue to reimagine what some of our yearly rituals will look and feel like in the fall. 

Because of this, we need more “what if” thinking this September, not less. Amidst a stubborn pandemic, we need to be more flexible and radical in our thinking about how we bring joy and connection into our communities. Amidst an urgent call for racial justice, we must remain steadfastly focused on how we work together to create authentic equity that honors all identities. 

Ashley McCall, a 3rd-grade teacher in Chicago Public Schools, offers an exceptional set of “what if” questions in an article she wrote for the blog Chicago Unheard:

 “What if we listened? What if we made space to acknowledge the anger and demands of students? What if our priority was healing? Individual and collective. What if we respected and honored the work of healers and invested in healing justice?”

Last month’s Pollyanna Position Paper III offered innovative thinking and a challenge from students to do more for justice and equity in our communities. Earlier in the summer, our Position Papers offered advice for Heads of School from DEI Directors and Communications Directors. Next month, we will turn to parents and family members to ask: What is one piece of advice you would offer your Head of School to create a more racially just and equitable school community? If you are a parent or family member of a student and would like to contribute an answer to this question, please add your information to this Google form. We look forward to sharing the responses next month!

We are excited to share that Teen Pollyanna took off in a new form this summer. Students from several schools met via Zoom three times this summer to connect and support antiracist efforts in their communities. For more information, please see this video from Teen Pollyanna’s fearless leaders, Destynee and Addeson.

Our series of Educator and Family Forums are also returning. In fact, we held our first “back-to-school check-in” forum for educators last night! Our first Family Forum will be held via Zoom on Tuesday, September 17 at 11AM. These forums were born in the spring when our lives suddenly went “virtual” and we wanted to create a space for folks to connect in a discussion. We enjoyed them so much that we decided to plan more for this school year. We look forward to discussions that offer support, empathy, and strategies about timely topics. Please see below for a full list of dates and times for the year, as well as upcoming Zoom links.

This month, we will also continue to partner with the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) to survey school communities about their hopes for how their communities will navigate the 2020 Presidential Election. We have a robust response to our questionnaire thus far and will begin to publish a series of reports about the results this month, beginning with Heads of Schools. In October, we will share a toolkit of resources with schools based on the overall survey responses.

Please also see new guides for our offerings that we have linked below, including:
Please connect with us if we can be a part of your “what if” thinking this September. We wish you a new school year filled with possibilities and new discoveries.
All best,
Casper Caldarola

In the News

Pollyanna Hosts a Morning Discussion on Allyship
Pollyanna Board Chair Ashley Smyth interviewed Monique Vogelsang who led us in a thoughtful Allyship Breakfast discussion on July 29. We are so appreciative of her insights and the 75+ individuals who attended. Thank you for your commitment to learning, and un-learning, and developing a deeper understanding of your personal responsibility to show-up and take real action for marginalized groups in support of their voices and lived experiences.
"As members of communities and larger society, we all have a responsibility to be agents of change and contribute to the improvement of our spaces and lives — ensuring equal access to opportunities, safety, and civil rights for all.” Monique Vogelsang, Pollyanna Curriculum Specialist.
Teacher Resource
This Teenage Life is a youth dialogue and podcasting program exploring identity-based issues relevant to teens, preteens, educators, and parents. They’ve developed educational resources including conversation and activity guides to support educators and youth engaging in in-person or remote conversations that build community, promote inclusion, and combat feelings of isolation. 
If you are interested in using this podcast and educational resources with your MS and HS students, visit the website, watch the promo video, tune in on Apple Podcasts or Spotify, and/or email them at

What's Next

Have you downloaded our Curriculum? If you've downloaded it and hoped to use it, read it, used one lesson or implemented all the lessons in your grade, we'd love to hear from you! Please take a few minutes to fill out this survey. Thank you!
2020-21 Forums Return: We enjoyed welcoming friends and colleagues, and meeting new friends at our Zoom forums this spring: Equity in the New Normal and Parenting During a Pandemic. The forums were created when Covid-19 and distance learning presented many challenges. We expanded the discussions when George Floyd was murdered. Online discussion forums for parents and educators on DEI/current topics will resume in August -- monthly for educators and periodically for parents. Below is the schedule and the Zoom link for the first Educator Forum.
1. Educator Forums: Each one will take place at 5:15PM ET and will last one hour. Please mark down these dates: October 6, November 5, December 7, January 21, February 22, April 8, May 17 and June 22. Each month we will publish the Zoom link in this newsletter.
Educator Forum #2: October 6, 2020 05:15 PM Eastern Time 
Meeting ID: 924 8220 3345 and Passcode: Bally
2. Parent/Guardian Forums: Please make note of the dates and different times. Each forum will last one hour. September 17, 11AM - Back to School Check-in; November 11, 7PM; February 18, 11AM; April 13, 7PM; June 23, 11AM.
Parent Forum #1: September 17, 2020 11:00AM Eastern Time 
Meeting ID: 947 2776 4371 and Passcode: Bally
October 3, 2020 K-8 Racial Literacy Curriculum Professional Development:  Join us for a 3-hour overview and in-depth discussion of Pollyanna's K-8 Racial Literacy Curriculum. Monique Vogelsang, lead creator of this curriculum, will guide you through a discussion about Pollyanna's Racial Literacy Curriculum, which is designed to help students gain knowledge about race as it has been constructed in the United States. Employing lessons in history, literacy, science, geography –– with STEAM extensions –– the curriculum supports students in acquiring an awareness of their own racial socialization and skills for engaging in productive conversations about race and racism.
By the end of the workshop, participants will better understand how systemic racism is the root of current inequities and uprisings, and how we can approach the topics of race and racism with an anti-racist, growth mindset –– striving to maintain and embrace a sense of unity and dignity while doing so. Click here to register for the PD.
October 7, 2020: Harvard-Westlake in Los Angeles will host its 4th Pollyanna Conference. The topic this year is Courageous Conversations: Learning to Connect Authentically and with Compassion. Just in time for the election!
November 7, 2020: Far Brook in Short Hills will host its 5th Pollyanna Conference. Lift Every Voice: Centering the Student Experience in Building Anti-Racist Communities will be the focus of the day. The students have taught us so much this year, what a great way to honor them.
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Pollyanna works with academic and other institutions to achieve their diversity, equity and inclusion goals. Through its unique conference models, discussion platforms, and racial literacy curricula, Pollyanna increases cultural competence.
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