Excerpted below is a blog post from parent Kenya Goldsberry, mother of Kayla ’19 and Maya ’22. Both girls are new students at Cannon this year. We loved what Mrs. Goldsberry had to say about their experience and wanted to share!
As I was completing our contracts for the 2017/2018 school year, I began to reflect on the reasons we chose Cannon in the first place. This year was our first year at Cannon – Kayla started in 10th grade and Maya in 7th grade.
It was Kayla who led our decision to come to Cannon. Through her friendships with Cannon students, she believed that Cannon’s culture was one of inclusiveness. Kayla believed that Cannon was a safe place for students to be themselves – that students were encouraged to express their individuality. She believed her classes would be more meaningful and enjoyable if diversity of thought was encouraged. She believed her school life in general would be more productive if she felt comfortable enough to be herself.
Honestly, I was skeptical. How would Cannon be much different than the independent school they were currently attending? Cannon offered other tangible benefits, like size, curriculum, infrastructure, etc. But I was unsure that the culture would be much different.
Seventh-grader Maya, flanked by friends Claudia Joyce and Erin Kohlhepp, enjoys a morning in Mrs. Thompson’s advisory.
From my first experience with Cannon – the Open House – I began to see that Kayla was right. Mr. Gossage spoke about his and the school’s commitment to diversity, inclusion, respect, and kindness. As we met with administrators, instructors, and students, I became more convinced that this was not just talk. When Kayla shadowed a Cannon student for the day, she remarked that other students were kind and had real conversations with her. We were encouraged by what we saw as we navigated the application process.
One day, about a month into the school year, Maya told me that she had started the morning feeling sad – that she missed her good friends at her previous school. But she said she quickly felt better when she remembered that, although it would take time to make good friends, everyone was nice to her.
People at Cannon are nice to each other. It seems like a small thing, but it’s a big deal. She felt like it’s an expectation that is nurtured by teachers and therefore by students.
Over the last 6 months at Cannon, I have witnessed the deliberate attempt by administrators, teachers, and students to make Cannon a school where individuality is encouraged and where differences are valued, not ridiculed. I was reminded of this when Mr. Gossage sent a letter this summer reminding the Cannon family that we must be respectful of political differences. I have been reminded of this when Maya has told me how teachers guide students – on the spot – about how to choose words that are more kind. I am reminded of this when Kayla tells me about the Cougar Talks that she regularly attends.
Of course, no place is perfect. We all can all falter and fall back into the comfort of sameness. We all falter and forget to be kind. It takes constant instruction, reminders, encouragement, and thoughtfulness to foster a culture that respects diversity and is kind. It is something that takes work and consistent nurturing. We have seen that the Cannon family is willing to put in the work. We hope that never changes.