• Friday, March 12, 2021

Head of School Newsletter - March 12, 2021

Pandemic Silver Linings

It’s been a full year since the pandemic first began to have an impact in San Francisco. Re-reading the flurry of community messages that we sent out in early- to mid-March 2020 (March 6March 11March 13March 16) regarding Shelter in Place and the move to Distance Learning is like riding the roller coaster of emotions experienced as we barrelled into a great unknown with concern and hope that the situation might actually resolve in a matter of weeks. With 20/20 hindsight on 2020, that timeline now seems especially quaint. Meanwhile, our announcement of the community-compiled Core Values in February 2020 now seems prescient as a litany of the precise qualities that were needed to see us through these challenging times. Our school and our community have clarity around what is important, what is essential, and what will carry us forward no matter what we face: 好奇 Curiosity, 包容 Inclusion, 善良 Kindness, 毅力 Perseverance, and 勇气 Courage. 

I don’t think any of you need me to recount the many ways that the pandemic has been—as Lower School Head Kim Kaz put it in her newsletter at the start of school—“crummy.” Rather, I thought I might share some of the messages received in response to the request in my previous newsletter for families’ pandemic silver linings. A central theme among all of the messages is making the most of having extra time together. Even as we keep our guard up against transmitting COVID, I hope you can “catch” some of the positively contagious joy expressed in these quotes. 

Jen DePalma, Preschool parent

Embracing time with family definitely provides a silver lining. I hope some of the realignment in that regard stays as things normalize. There is obviously plenty of isolation these days but we were isolated from others in different ways before. When Kayda goes to school she asks me how I will get work done without my work buddy. I think it has been good for her to be a part of that part of my life.  

One of our silver linings was the cross country road trip Kayda and I took over the summer to and back from Pittsburgh, PA to see family. Kayda became a junior ranger in a number of national parks, including Mt. Rushmore, the Arch in St. Louis and the Grand Canyon. 

Wynne Kwee, 2nd grade parent

With shelter in place since March, we have been creative in adding home entertainment with an Asian flare. We bought a karaoke machine and Allyson has been steadily learning Cantonese, Mandarin, and English songs singing with the lyrics. We sang Jay Chou 听妈妈的话 (a song Ally learned from Yang Laoshi at school) and Hacken Lee 红日 (one of my favorite Cantonese songs from my college years). What a fun way to learn Chinese!  

I started to teach Allyson how to play mahjong since COVID. We have been playing with my mom on our biweekly visit. My mom has been isolated and we are the only people she’s seen this past year. It brings me joy when I see Ally and my mom playing mahjong together. So my mom (the grandmaster of mahjong) will oversee Ally’s hand and teach her game strategy (how to gain more points, what tile to throw or keep, how to win her hand, etc) all in Cantonese. How fun is that!

Helene Kocher, 7th and 5th grade parent

While a lot more work, I think one of our silver linings has been cooking more at home. While we do want to support our local restaurants, spending time in the kitchen together is good for our family in so many ways, good for the mind, body, and soul so to speak. The kids are learning to load and empty the dishwasher and learning more about cooking, meal planning, food shopping (well at least on-line ordering of groceries) and what it takes to get meals on the table. They are growing as members of our family and slowly learning that it takes all of us to make this house run well and smoothly.

Along the way we have found loads of new found favorite foods, “planted” a hydroponic garden resulting in lots of basil and herbs that then resulted in pesto making!!  We eat a lot more desserts too—but they are all homemade! Finding the perfect balance of chocolate (for Helene) and fruit (for Paul) has been our mission. There have been lots of tasty experiments along the way!

Margot Kong, 7th and 4th grade parent 

My dad Zak who lives with us got a long awaited kidney transplant in late 2019. Maybe being in lockdown was partly good as it is easier to avoid infection when you are forced to stay inside and away from others. Throughout the rest of the year he grew stronger and stronger. Now he goes out for walks (short ones) and can climb 2 flights of stairs quickly and not get winded.  

Every Saturday since the beginning of lockdown, Abby and her best bud Lusia have been baking together over Zoom. Their baking skills have really improved, and it has been a great way for the girls to stay connected outside of school. Unfortunately, the rest of us in the house are just gaining weight!  

José Madeiros, 8th grade and Classes of 2018 and 2020 parent


2020 did bring many life changes, finding new routines, discovering we are capable of more than we thought. It has brought me challenges that have forced me to change my daily routines in very significant ways. For a creature of habit like me, these have been challenging at first but, with every passing day I get more comfortable and happier. It has presented me so many more opportunities of where and how to live now that I have finally untied from the dock. 

Dori Beer, 8th grade and Class of 2014 parent

The two things that stand out as a family are our nightly dinners, with lots of varied discussion, some serious, some jovial, but always with sharing a lot and inevitably ending in some wonderful heartfelt laughter. The kids bring so much joy when you see them so happy themselves. At the beginning of the pandemic, we went on long bike rides as a family, some of us reluctantly, I won’t mention any names, but we all enjoyed it in the long run. And it was wonderful having my older daughter Dewi home unexpectedly for such a long time. She even signed herself up for an advanced Chinese class given by Oberlin, even without getting credit for it, since the Juniors were not officially enrolled until this past January.

Personally, I started going to a great exercise group outdoors at Ocean Beach, where you get a lot of fresh air and fresh views every time, not to mention the opportunity to meet new people or further develop friendships. And the pièce de résistance, several of us jump into the ocean, rain or shine (except maybe on a couple of the recent hazardous surf warning days), take a few dunks and feel even more wonderful from the work out/dunk combination.  I never would have started that if I had continued my exercise routine as usual as it was located in Dolores Park. A silver lining indeed.

Michelle Molfino, 8th grade and Class of 2019 parent

Yes, so many silver linings indeed. Teddy has developed a love of surfing that started during the first shelter in place. Zoom learning has helped him become a more confident participant in his classes. Whatever Henry lost from not being in school, he made up for by researching and attending various webinars and one-on-one info sessions about boarding schools. To have long one-on-one interviews was daunting for me, but he was so calm on all of them—probably 7 hours total so that’s great practice. He’s all set when he needs to do it for college! And he finished his inquiries with thoughtful essays. He was able to dive into self reflection and developed more confidence as a writer. Who knows what’s in store for him as we await letters of acceptance, but no matter what, we are so proud of all the work he has done on his own behalf. He certainly is finding his own place in this world.  


  • Chinese American International School


    Early Childhood Division (Preschool) | Alice A. Carnes Center
    42/52 Waller Street 

    Early Childhood Division (K-1)
    and Lower School (2-5)
    150 Oak Street 

    Middle School (6-8)
    888 Turk Street 

    San Francisco, CA 94102