Is your school a sanctuary? 

As we return to school for our new year, there’s an idea that I’d like to stress which I heard from my friend and colleague Dr. Stephanie Eberts. I was interviewing her for my upcoming book, which focuses on resolving school conflict, and she dropped a gem of an idea that I had to share straight away.

The reality of our situation in education is that we are facing a lot of unexplored terrain because we’ve had a lot of intense changes, but in our interview, Dr. Eberts explained how she and her team returned to her school after hurricane Katrina struck. The community was devastated, and things looked really bleak. So amidst that chaos, what did they do?

“We just made this decision together: that school was going to be a sanctuary. The curriculum became more collaborative, to create this environment of healing and connection.”

She and her team made the decision “to be a sanctuary” together. They were all on the same page from the start. They had a clear understanding of the atmosphere they wanted their school to have, and they had a clear goal that they all agreed upon. They didn’t ask for permission to do good deeds, they simply decided to unify and act.

Can you guess what happened next? That’s right, she and her team made that sanctuary real. They built their school into a foundation for local recovery efforts. In the face of an absolute catastrophe, they managed to turn it around and truly make life better for people in their locale.

The best teams I’ve ever been on had a really clear shared vision, and none of them needed permission to win. That’s what we need now more than ever.

So take this time now, while the year is still malleable, and get your entire team on the same page. Focus on a clear and simple concept that can unify your actions. Base that concept on the one thing that your school needs most.

Is your school going to be a sanctuary for a community that desperately needs a foundation? 

Could it be a hub for new ideas and innovations?

What if it’s a beacon of hope for the bright future that we all know, deep down, we can realize?

It’s up to you (and your team!) to choose, but one thing is certain: this year is a massive opportunity to step up and decide what education truly means to the people who actually work in education. We simply cannot continue to coast and wait for help from political leaders. It’s up to all of you, and honestly I can’t think of a better group to turn the tide and usher in a bright future.

JC Pohl, LMFT
President & CEO, TEEN TRUTH

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