Ps 119’s New Principal Considers the Possibilities with Next Jump, with Gratitude

After our announcement of adopting PS119 as Next Jump’s first school in the Adopt-a-School program, Michelle Montana, the principal of PS119, wrote us this heartfelt message:

Michele NJ“Dear Next Jump Team: Thank you so very much for inviting me to add my voice and thoughts to the possibility – such a perfect, bountiful word – of your adopting PS 119/The Dr. Emmett W. Bassett School. As the busy-ness of the school year ends and I quietly consider my new role, I find myself brimming with gratitude for and inspiration from even the work we have done and what we have learned from you thus far. Gratitude for what kindred spirits you are, and even more for the work you have done and continue to do to make the spiritual seeking I have always been drawn to in the workplace concrete, doable.

Possibility. What a freeing, inviting lens with which to evaluate and plan! When I spoke to the staff about your mission, I initially posed the guiding question as: what are we doing well and what could we do better? I realized, though, that that kept us thinking inside the box of our past actions, regardless, to an extent, of the underlying need that they were meant to address. I realized your phrasing, “What’s working and what’s not working?” moved us so much closer to getting to know ourselves and each other, considering our needs, then thinking clearly, honestly, and without limitations about the possibilities for addressing them.

I’ve been pondering the powerful parent workshop you led, because I have sensed that there are many possibilities in that. It has felt difficult for us over the years for us to empower our families to open up and have a strong voice in the leadership of the school, and we have often assumed it to be a cultural diffidence among many. But they opened up with you, and even more poignantly, they expressed a need for stronger community – the most crucial need I and many colleagues would have identified, and the very thing that was being strengthened by your simple but powerful session with them. It didn’t take a lot of complex thought and initiatives, either – all you did was ask. In that simple gesture to get to know them, you empowered them to open up and find their voice in the school leadership, and to begin to build the very trust they seek to strengthen our school. What a world of tremendous possibility you demonstrated there is in just getting to know ourselves and each other better, and in considering, simply but profoundly, how to help each be better people and a better school.

As I mentioned, I have long been drawn to the life and health of the spirit, both personally and at work. Last summer Joan and I had begun to read The Power of Full Engagement, by Jim Loehr – speak of the teacher appearing when the student is ready! It has been a challenge to put this striving into concrete practice, though, especially in a large, diverse, and multi-faceted community such as our beloved school. The approach you have shared with us — through the PEMS pyramid, Talking Partners, Situational Workshops, and so on – gives us solid legs with which to walk this very important walk as we go forward. Whether we realize our dream of an after-school community campus, with courses and activities for adults and children alike in caring for our physical, emotional, mental and spiritual health – we are grateful and healthier already for coming to know the Next Jump family. We are on the road to making a better world, and abrim with possibilities.

Thank you, and please stay in touch.

Michele”

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