Dreaming of Home
What’s happening at school this week?
The air is suddenly warmer than it’s been in weeks, maybe months. The sun is pushing
strong through the clouds, and a gentle rain is falling. Although it’s the last day of the Gregorian year, and just a few days into winter, it feels more like spring. Nonetheless, the quiet and the stillness of winter has taken hold of me. Mostly, I am living in the dark, in the unknown. Some quintessential part of me is away somewhere, out of sight, wandering in a broad, high desert filled with hidden pools of clear, cold water nestled among the rocks.
I miss him, that wandering prince. I think he may be my muse, the part of me that is capable of generating the inspiration upon which I so thoroughly rely. The world is grayer without him, and I anxiously await his return.
And so, these are the kinds of words I have to share today, meandering, obscure perhaps, intimate and personal and mysterious, especially to myself. What can I bring to my class, in such a time? How do I teach, if not by the grace of insight and inspiration? What does it look like to follow through, to carry on, to persist when the bright vision goes dark and the hills block the horizon? These are my sacred questions, mostly unanswered still. May my wrestling with them be its own lesson, its own kind of teaching.
On a slightly more tangible note, something that has been slowly formulating itself in my mind over the last week is the way my teaching has been shaped by the idea of the hidden curriculum. I often come up with an idea for a project or a lesson, thinking that I know what it’s about, and am surprised to discover that the learning that results from it is entirely different than what I thought. As this has been rolling around in my mind over the last week, I’ve begun to formulate a picture of the elements of the hidden curriculum, those ever present matrices of learning that influence and shape the children’s experience, whether or not I have included them in my careful plans. Here’s what I have so far, in order of their influence on the learning process:
The children’s inner lives: Their thoughts, feelings, histories, what they ate, how well they slept, their dreams and ambitions and desires, their relationships with themselves…
The children’s relationships with each other: Conflict, shifting friendships and alliances, support, envy, comparison, collaboration…
The teacher: My thoughts, feelings, words, and actions, my inner life and my outward expression…
The physical environment: Materials, organization of space, absence or presence of natural beauty, everything that can be seen, felt, heard, or otherwise sensed…
The process: How we do what we are doing, how we make decisions, who is working with whom, what learning styles are engaged or not, the quality and clarity of the container…
The content: What we are talking about, the thing that I usually thought I was teaching…
Of course the simple hierarchy here serves only to make a point; these factors move in and out of prominence all the time. Still, it’s clear to me that the more attention I give to my own and the children’s inner lives and the physical environment that holds us, the deeper and more meaningful the learning process becomes.
Update on our Winter fund drive
Thank you so much to all the villagers and supporters who donated to our winter fund drive! So far we’ve come almost halfway to our goal of $500 to cover our expenses for the winter. If you haven’t already, please consider donating to support this experiment in village based, whole life education. We deeply appreciate it!
What are we reading at school this week?
High Tide in Tucson by Barbara Kingsolver
We read a short essay about the perils of fashion and the importance of healthy self-esteem. We’ve been exploring a lot of material about identity, and as these middlers hurtle towards puberty (or in some cases begin to enter into it) these kinds of musings feel deeply relevant.
The Memory of Old Jack by Wendell Berry
This compact and poignant novel follows the twists and turns of Jack Beechum’s memory as he comes to the end of his ninety-two years of life, stretching back into the time of the Civil War. I read the first few pages as a brilliant example of the use of multiple tenses within a piece of writing, and also because I so love Wendell Berry and consider him a consummate teacher and mentor in place based living.
The Wind’s Twelve Quarters by Ursula K. LeGuin
We read the short story The Rule of Names, because its fun and exciting and it has a dragon! And of course, its Ursula, so enough said.