The far-off land of Adulthood
What's Happening at School this Week?
After a couple of bright and beautiful days, a brief preview of spring's promised riches, we're almost back to February weather, though its still quite warm out here in this wonderful shed classroom. I am so grateful to be able to step out of the house each day and arrive at work almost immediately, in this beautiful, quirky little building that I built with my own hands, surrounded by beloved blankets, the firewood shed and field, the ducks softly quacking behind me as I sit down to write these words. I can't imagine a better place to work!
This week at school, we have begun to embark on our final projects, exploring the mysterious territory of adulthood. What exactly do adults do with their time, with their lives, and why? What does it mean to be an adult? Since adulthood is, for these young people, a far off and somewhat inhospitable land, we are approaching it carefully, obliquely, as visitors and explorers rather than inhabitants.
In seeking to understand adulthood, we are working with the suspicion that being an adult has something to do with finding your unique gifts, and figuring out how to give them, and who to give them to. What is a Calling, and how do you find it? Who do we know who's got one (or two, or several)? In order to explore this theme, I've taken what feels like a big step forward in my own life path as a teacher, designing a complex series of projects spread over six weeks, slowly building piece by piece the skills necessary to achieve and complete the final project. Its a level of step by step planning that until now has been just out of reach, with so much of my energy going into establishing the container and the rhythm of the program, my head just barely above water but my arms and legs fully engaged just staying afloat.
Creating this project, and talking with the kids about the meaning of adulthood, has really highlighted for me just how grateful I am for my own calling to the path of education. To have work that I care about this deeply, that engages so many parts of my complex and ever-changing self, that challenges me and pushes me to grow and learn in so many ways, is a gift that I could not have imagined just a few short years ago. I remark often that I (and perhaps this is true of humans in general) am a terrible predictor of what is actually going to make me happy, and this has been a remarkable example. To have a path open up before me, that I did not necessarily choose but for which I have been preparing in many seemingly unrelated ways for my entire life, has led me already to so many beautiful places. I can only imagine the depth of contentment it could lead to after following this calling for the next thirty or forty years!
The project itself has been a new kind of challenge for the kids as well, both academically and in terms of understanding and following through with a complex set of instructions over a longer period of time. The basic idea of the final project, which we will start working on in a couple of weeks, is to make a gift for an adult here at Earthaven that reflects that person's unique gifts to the village, and present it to them in a special ceremony. In order to prepare for that somewhat daunting project, we are employing the pedagogical technology known as "scaffolding". I first broke down the project into steps:
Choose a person
Interview someone close to your person about their gifts. Take thorough notes in order to present to class.
Present interview findings to class
Brainstorm potential object and container designs: What object could represent the unique gifts of your person?
Choose an object and container design and create a design document
Present design, integrate feedback until design is approved
Design presentation ceremony (as a group)
Present container to your person: Present story of the item, design process and documentation, and story of making the container, at the end present container itself
Then, for each step, I created a list of component skills that would be needed. For example, in order to effectively conduct interviews and learn about their person, students will need to be able to take clear, legible notes quickly, and use those notes to remember what they heard. In the weeks leading up to the final project, I am designing activities during our school days that allow us to practice each of these component skills. This Monday for our Deep Dive, we focused on note taking. We did handwriting and speed writing drills, talked about abbreviations and listening for keywords, took notes on short reading selections, and practiced taking visual notes (no words allowed) during an improvisational lecture on proper nose-picking technique!
I've been glad to see the kids confidently stepping up to the plate as we push this edge of complexity and academic focus. They seem, for the most part, eager to sink their teeth into this challenging project, ready to drill and focus and build their skills, and proud of each accomplishment along the way. As always, I'm extremely excited and oh so curious to see what amazing things they will come up with next!
How can you support the school?
Come tell us a story!
In this unit on adulthood, coming into our gifts and finding our unique path of service in the world, it would be wonderful to have some personal stories from villagers about their unique life path so far. If there is a story bubbling in you about where life has called you that you may not have suspected, please get in touch and we'll make a time for you to share it!
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.
For our upcoming summer session, The Village School is in need of the following items. If you have any to donate they would be greatly appreciated. Please get in touch with me and I can come pick them up!
Ground blankets (so called "mexican blanket" style, or other similar thick woven blankets)
"Zafu" style meditation cushions (Round, firm, thick. Particularly sturdy ones)
Farming and gardening tools of all kinds: Pruners, hoes, rakes, shovels, pruning saws, wheelbarrows, etc...
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?
Loretta Little Looks Back by Andrea Davis Pinkney
Told in the voices of three generations of the fictional Little family, this recreation of African American oral history tells a story of resistance and cultural transmission in the face of sharecropping, Jim Crow, and the white conservative backlash during and after the Civil Rights Movement. Based on members of the authors own family, the Littles tell their story in a voice and style all their own, and convey not only the history, but also the lived experience and the creativity and generative "soul-force" that grew and blossomed through the generations in their family, both out of and despite that experience.