Loving school, from a distance
What’s happening at school this week?
It's a cold, clear, windy morning, bright sunlight is filling the valley, and I'm feeling excited in that particular late winter, crocuses blooming, gonna be springtime before you know it kind of way. More specifically, I'm excited to be back at school, after a week and a half of covid related quarantine.
For the first time this week, we had substitute teachers taking my place at school. It's been an exercise for me in letting go, particularly since school happens right outside my house. Even from my quarantine distance, I could still see and hear the drama unfolding. Substitute teaching is notoriously difficult, and I think that this week The Village School was no exception. I could tell from the glimpses I got of the action outside my window that the kids were feeling the difference in the container, that the energy was rowdy and unfocused. Of course, they were coming off of a week of quarantine as well, and had some steam to blow off for sure.
I learned this week that I need to prepare substitute teachers better for the on-the-ground reality of working with these kids. As a substitute teacher, it can be difficult to know whether the behavior you are seeing with the kids is as out of line as it seems, or whether that's just the culture of this classroom. Since most teachers (and most people) want to be liked, I imagine it can be tempting to allow behavior as a substitute teacher that you wouldn't tolerate in your own full time classroom. So, it's important for me to make subs aware of our cultural norms, what is and is not acceptable behavior in our classroom, and what tools they can use to guide the kids back into the acceptable range.
I imagine this might be even more challenging because our classroom is so different from most, and our behavior norms may be different as well. The most obvious difference would be the lack of walls. Just where exactly are the kids allowed to be, and when? And how do I get them back once they've strayed? Another big difference is that in my classroom, kids are encouraged to take care of their bodies by making themselves comfortable, fidgeting with something in their hands if that helps them to listen, and so on. They are also encouraged to balance this activity with the group's ability to focus on the topic at hand. I could imagine that as a sub, it could be hard to tell the difference between a class that is not listening at all, and one that is listening in the way that is most comfortable for them. It's often hard for me, for that matter!
Witnessing my class from a distance this week was a valuable lesson for me. It made visible some of the subtle complexities that I deal with every day, and forced me to think about the tools and structures that I use to address them. This helps me get clearer for myself, and it also feels like an important step toward a long range vision of mine to become a trainer and mentor for future teachers at The Village School.
In a lot of ways, it's been a blessing to have this unexpected break from school at this time. I've gotten a lot of important work done planning our upcoming summer session, not to mention some exciting projects around the house and a lot of sweet cuddly time with my daughter Esme. But now, as the sun streams into the shed, I'm feeling relieved, ready to pull my energy back from the uncertain and often stressful business of attempting to influence the future, and focus on my primary job as a teacher, being present and alive to what's happening right now. For this moment, and most of the time really, that's exactly where I want to be!
How can you support the school?
Come tell us a story!
There is still some time to come and tell a story of your journey through adolescence. What was it like for you, that turbulent and strange time? Where did you go, and how did you come through to the other side? What did you learn in that time? Please be in touch if you think you'd be interested and we'll work out a time.
Share some mechanical expertise
If you think it sounds like fun to build a dairy delivery cart out of salvaged parts, then please consider coming down to join us and offering some guidance and support to the kids as they figure it all out. I think another adult offering some help could go a long way towards motivating them and helping them to engage.
Donate money or leaps
Donations are always welcome, in any amount. Financial support is needed in order to ensure that the program remains affordable to all of our hardworking families here at Earthaven. Donating is easy and satisfying! Consider signing up as a patron with a monthly donation, as this predictable income is especially valuable in supporting the financial health of the school.
Share our fundraising appeal, and this blog
Forwarding the recent email I sent to the social list to your friends and family is a great way to help out with our fundraising efforts. And sharing this blog helps more people to learn about what we're doing and want to get involved.
What are we reading at school this week?
The List of Things That Will not Change by Rebecca Stead
Looking back from the lofty heights of twelve years old, Bea explores her memories of the time period following her parent's divorce, and recounts the challenges and triumphs she experienced as an 8-10 year old. This book is rich with useful tricks and tips for small people encountering big emotions, particularly rage and anger. Bea's relationship with her therapist is particularly insightful. In the end, Bea is able to look back on this difficult time with gratitude for everything she has learned, a soothing image for anyone struggling to see past the intensity of big feelings that seem like they will last forever.