Recently, near the end of our school day, a teacher-parent and student were leaving school for the day, and came across a small baby bunny by the TFC door. The bunny was huddling against the building, with no grown-up bunny in sight. (It did not seem to have gotten the memo that during COVID times we are not allowed any visitors from outside of our regular community…)
Our team immediately sprang into action—the teacher and child stayed near the bunny making sure it was safe. Another teacher found a basket to put over the bunny to protect it. We started preparing to shuffle the preschool class out of a different door to give the bunny adequate space for comfort. And while I tried to get someone on the phone from an animal rescue facility (which were all frustratingly closed, due to COVID), another teacher who was not on site that day checked in via cell phone and prepared to come in to school to help safely catch and care for the bunny.
While all of this was happening, the bunny rallied itself, escaped from the side of the makeshift cage, and ran away with purpose and direction. We assume it had a plan to reconnect with its family, and we were relieved and wished it well.
I’ve been thinking about this bunny a lot since then, both the bunny herself and our community’s response to her visit (for the purpose of ease of writing, I am arbitrarily assigning the bunny a female pronoun, though we did not in fact confirm her gender). It turns out this bunny wasn’t physically hurt or sick. Perhaps she was tired and needed a rest, or temporarily lost and using our entryway as a safe spot to reset while she got her bearings. But safety is not only about physical wellbeing; it is equally about emotional comfort. Our school was a place where this small bunny could rest and recover however she needed, a place filled with thoughtful, caring individuals ready to offer any support and guidance she wanted to accept while also giving her time and space to independently figure out what she needed. And isn’t this exactly what we wish for all bunnies who come to our doorway?
This year, as we prepared for reopening our school, it seemed harder than ever before to make sure we were consistently providing that emotional comfort and support that is so important for our students. We stressed that amidst the new regulations and safety measures, the constant cleaning and handwashing, we would not let the heart of our community get lost; underneath our masks we would be the same warm, caring educators and make sure our students felt those connections throughout the day. It’s been hard, but now that school has been open for a month, it is clear that this is what is happening. Our students feel both physically and emotionally safe here, just like that bunny did on her visit. They are safe to explore, safe to take risks, safe to express their feelings, safe to take the time and space they need to get their bearings, and safe to do all of this with expert guidance and support tailored to meet their individual and shared needs.
We are the same humans underneath our masks, and despite new routines and, I’ll admit, a bit more cleanliness, our school is the same school I fell in love with when I toured as a director candidate just before the start of the pandemic. I’ll admit, I was touring as a parent then as well, and when I entered the Sequoia classroom I knew that this was a safe and special place I wanted to send my own baby bunny. None of that has changed, even now that we are in the midst of a pandemic.
Earlier this week, I gave a virtual tour to a prospective parent who expressed how impressed she was with the warmness of our school, despite all of the restrictions we are faced with this year. When we are in the midst of it all on a daily basis, it’s sometimes hard to see, but she’s right—our school is still a place of warmth and community connection, the same school I fell in love with last year as an educator and a parent. And that is because it is filled with people who understand what children need and strive to keep them both physically and emotionally safe and healthy all day every day.
Just as TFC was a safe stop for this baby bunny on her journey to adulthood, I hope that is true for each bunny that passes through our doors. I hope that she and all the bunnies find that same warmth, connection, and support, and know that they can always return to us for comfort and safety, no matter the weather, crises, or climate in the world around us.