Archive for August, 2011

Headwork: Second 2011 Thesis

(Fairhaven School  graduated seven students last June. As a way to celebrate the class of 2011, over the next month, we will be posting the theses that they  successfully defended. In italics below is a brief description outlining how somebody earns a Fairhaven diploma, followed by the second thesis. Enjoy!

Students who have spent at least three years at Fairhaven School may earn a diploma by defending the thesis that they have prepared themselves to become effective adults in the larger community. Diploma candidates must declare their intent to graduate and answer questions at a special winter Assembly of parents, students, staff and public members. They also meet with their individual graduation committees, and defend their written theses before a Diploma Committee made up of three experienced staff members from other Sudbury schools. A majority of positive votes from the Committee is the final requirement of  the diploma process.)

HEADWORK

My name is Ginger Engel, I’m sixteen years old, and five of those years have
been spent at Fairhaven School.  It’s been five years of ups and downs, highs and
lows, and too many experiences to tell.  It’s been quite the adventure and
although I’ve enjoyed it, I’m ready to start a new adventure; an adventure
outside of Fairhaven.  But I didn’t become ready overnight.  I’ll start at the
beginning.

When I was twelve years old I was enrolled at Fairhaven with nothing to
lose, really.  I had no real direction in my life and no idea what to do with myself.
Fairhaven seemed like a good place to figure those things out.  I spent the first
week or so of school mostly just watching people.  The only other person I knew
was my older sister, so I had to make new friends, something I’d never been good
at.  But after spending so much time just watching people I fell in with a group of
people that I still call friends today.  I spent the rest of the year trying to get
better at interacting with people.

My second year started off much like my first, talking to people, hanging
out, and trying to figure things out.   During that year I learned how to crochet (a
type of craft, similar to knitting, which involves a single thread and a hooked
needle).  At the time it was just a hobby that I did in my spare time.  It wasn’t
really a big part of my life.  In the spring, Fairhaven held an arts and crafts fair that
my friend and I registered for.  We sold pillows and stuffed animals, all of which
were hand sewn.  We made a considerable profit and it was a lot of fun. That’s
where it all really started.

The following December I registered for a craft fair at a church with my
mom and sister.  I didn’t sew anything this time but I had gotten good enough at
crocheting to make scarves and hats to sell.  The fair was successful and I really
enjoyed it, but crafting still seemed like a hobby more than anything else.

It wasn’t until almost two years later that I considered being a crafter to
make a living.  Fairhaven held another Spring craft fair, which I was quick to sign
up for.  That’s when I decided to start entering craft fairs on a more regular basis.
That same year in late August I registered for an ongoing fair in Silver Spring called
The Fenton Street Market.  This turned out not to be the best idea, it being back–
to-school time.  In October I registered with The Fenton Street Market again and
got a better turn out, but still not great.

That December I registered for a fair at the church that I had registered
with years before.  I wasn’t able sell anything I’d made.  But I met the person who
I now think of as my only role model, despite the fact that I don’t know her name
and she’s about 60 years old.  I met her when I was walking around the fair to
look at the other vendors.  She caught my eye because she and her husband were
selling crocheted scarves and gloves.  I walked over and she and I started talking.
She told me about how she loves to crochet and it’s what she does with most of
her time. But it was two words she said to me that still stick with me.  “Keep
crocheting” she said.  I’d never felt that kind of support and inspiration from
anyone else.  I decided to keep that bit of advice and keep crocheting no matter
what.

After the fair in December, it occurred to me that fairs may not be the best
place to try to sell crafts.  So I decided to start selling online.  I’m signed up on
Etsy, a website that hosts crafters.  Right now the specifics are being worked out
(payment methods, shipping costs, etc.) and then I’ll be ready to sell.  I’d like to
eventually have my own website to sell my wares on but I think Etsy is a better
place to start.  I’m taking my time with the online selling though.  When I do
something I want to do it right.  I don’t want to rush into a totally new
environment without knowing what I’m up for first.  Walk before you run, right?

Being at Fairhaven has taught me a lot of things, like time management.
This year I ran for JC clerk for the first time. About three years ago I had been a JC
alternate and I didn’t enjoy it in the least. But I figured that it was 3 years ago and
my opinion of clerking may have changed. So Matteo and I ran for clerk
unopposed and, as you can imagine, got the job. There’s quite a bit of time
management needed to clerk because you have to factor in the time it takes to do
the sentence list, whether  you     need a sub for anyone, getting a runner, finding
missing JC members, and take into account that JC may run anywhere from 20
minutes to 2 hours. I feel I fulfilled my role as a clerk pretty darn well. I’m still not
sure how much I enjoyed the experience though.

Another lesson came up with a write-up that involved a few friends, a
buried time capsule, and a total lack of permission to dig it up.  It didn’t really
occur to us to go to school meeting or ask the grounds clerk or anything like that.
We just started digging.  Although I always feel people should do what they feel is
right, it’s important to go through the right portals to do it.  Then maybe you
won’t end up getting sentenced to three grounds jobs.

There are some things I learned at Fairhaven just from being around other
people. One valuable lesson I learned was to not be afraid to ask questions. When
I was a kid and I didn’t understand something, I wouldn’t ask anyone to explain or
at least not immediately. I was really shy and didn’t want people to think I was an
incompetent fool. So I kept quiet. Which never worked out very well. Because
then I would eventually have to ask someone what to do and I’d feel twice as
foolish because I’d waited so long.  When I got to Fairhaven and started to hang
out with people who seemed so comfortable with themselves all the time, I
realized that it’s better to ask questions now rather than later, even If it does
seem silly.

I also learned how to interact with people who are significantly older or
younger than me.  The first time a student who was older (about five years older)
than me said hello to me, I was so startled and didn’t know how to respond.  I
thought maybe he wanted something from me but I couldn’t think of what he’d
want.  But he just wanted to say hello.  After I got over my strange fear of older
people I actually became friends with that particular student.  On the other end of
the spectrum are younger students, and Fairhaven has plenty of those.  I used to
find small children rather irritating and would try to avoid talking to them.  Then I
remembered what it was like when I was seven years old.  I wasn’t all that
different from the kids I was trying to keep away from.  Now when approached by
kids I try to remember myself at that age and I’m able to have a conversation with
them.  A lot of them are pretty cool in fact.

There are also some valuable (if not simple) lessons I’ve learned outside of
Fairhaven, but with people from Fairhaven.  Like checking the train schedule for
the Metro. That way you don’t miss the last train out of Washington, DC and end
up having to call your dad at 1:00 in the morning to have him pick you and your
friends up.  Or remembering to bring tip money when you go out to a restaurant.
That way you don’t feel like a total jerk when you only have enough money for a
two dollar tip.  I still have a hard time with that sometimes but I’m working on it.

I believe it’s all of the experiences somebody goes through that makes
them an effective adult, an effective person, a person at all.  I haven’t mentioned
all of my Fairhaven experiences since there are too many for me to remember
and some may be lost in the back of my memory.  I’ve mentioned things that I
believe to be most significant.  I believe that these are things that make me the
person that I am, the effective person that I am, and the effective adult that I’m
becoming.  If there’s anything that my sixteen years have taught me, at Fairhaven
or otherwise, it’s to never regret anything.  Realize your mistakes, learn from
them, and know you’re better because of it.

Headwork: n/ mental work or effort : THINKING

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Is Real Educational Reform Possible? If So, How?

Our present compulsory school system is like the hulking dinosaurs of the late Mesozoic. Those people and groups who have walked away from the school system—the homeschoolers, unschoolers, Sudbury schoolers, and so on—are like the Mesozoic’s little mouse-like mammals. . . . My money is on the mice.

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The First Step: First 2011 Thesis

(Fairhaven School  graduated seven students last June. As a way to celebrate the class of 2011, over the next month, we will be posting the theses that they  successfully defended. In italics below is a brief description outlining how somebody earns a Fairhaven diploma, followed by the first thesis. Enjoy!

Students who have spent at least three years at Fairhaven School may earn a diploma by defending the thesis that they have prepared themselves to become effective adults in the larger community. Diploma candidates must declare their intent to graduate and answer questions at a special winter Assembly of parents, students, staff and public members. They also meet with their individual graduation committees, and defend their written theses before a Diploma Committee made up of three experienced staff members from other Sudbury schools. A majority of positive votes from the Committee is the final requirement of  the diploma process.)

The First Step
By: Sarah Boyd

“When you walk to the edge of all the light you have and take that first step into the darkness of the unknown, you must believe that one of two things will happen: There will be something solid for you to stand upon, or you will be taught how to fly”
-Patrick Overton

Every graduating student strives to be an effective adult, so it’s no revelation that I would desire to be one as well.  First, I must define the term; and to be honest, that term is highly subjective.  Is there really a “correct” definition?  To me, an effective adult means to be the kind of person who knows what they are doing in the present, while still being able to accept that they don’t know where the future is going.  They must be able to make themselves happy without hurting others, and make others happy without hurting themselves.  A large part of this includes self-awareness, as well as being aware of others.  Taking both into consideration is vital in order to be a beneficial part of society.  Independence is also a large part of being an effective adult.  Someone who depends on others not just for financial aid, but also for emotional aid is not an effective adult.  An effective adult must be able to function integrally with others, as well as stand on their own two feet.  They must also know when to say that they need help.  Even though I have most of these traits, I do not find myself to be an effective adult yet.  I have plans for today, as well as plans for what to do tomorrow.  I even have an agenda for the next few years.  I am aware of how I have changed and how I would like to continue changing.  However, I must be in the world and prove my independence on my own before I can call myself an effective adult.

Past

My past has made me who I am in the present; and inevitably affects my future.  I grew up with three siblings.  My closest sister is five years older than me, and the next sister is ten years older than me.  I also have a brother who is thirteen years older than I am.  I don’t know my siblings as well as I would like to, but we talk often and seem to get along pretty well.  I grew up in a working class family and went to public school for the first nine years of my academic career.  For the first few years, I had a lot of fun.  I am a tomboy, so I played a lot of tackle football and had a lot of friends.  The summer that I was going into middle school, my father died after a two-year battle with lung cancer.  This would have made it hard enough to deal with, but I was also a minority and was picked on a lot.  Before that summer, I was so young it didn’t seem to matter.  It was during seventh grade that everyone noticed I was different. Seventh and eighth grade are the only two grades in middle school grades in my area.  For those two years, I was pretty miserable.  All the friends I had moved away, and it was hard to make new ones.  The ones I did make were tentative friendships, so I spent a lot of time at home, simply existing.  It took awhile, but my mother finally saw that public school wasn’t working anymore.  Until then, coming to Fairhaven was not necessary.  It was okay for me to be in public school, but at this point, we knew it was time for a change.  So at age thirteen, I came in for a visiting week.  And I loved it!  I went through a couple of groups of people before I found my place; I met a lot of great friends.  I learned a lot more than I ever thought anyone could know, and mostly about things I never even knew existed!


Fairhaven And Present


It’s been almost four years at Fairhaven.  I still feel like it’s an entire new section of my life, so I feel it deserves a new section of text.
I grew to really like the people at Fairhaven.

I came from a really hard situation where I felt like people and society were my enemies.  I never talked to people, and often wore dark colors to deter people from talking to me.  I found the easiest way for me to transition into the Fairhaven culture was through video games.  I played a lot of those in the first month before I finally got out and started to meet people.  I made a few quick friends, including Caroline, who stuck with me for the first year.

I was starting to become comfortable in the Fairhaven setting, and I felt like my broken self-esteem was on the mend.  I became involved in the school plays, and discovered a true passion!  Through my first theater production, I met Pallas Bane, who was graduating that year.  We became fast friends, and she invited me to “Tuesdays.”  This was when a large group of friends gathered at the Bane’s home for pizza and socializing.  It happened on Tuesday, thus the name.  A social situation for high school students involving no drugs or alcohol was very different than what I was used to.  My first Tuesday was rather awkward.  It involved a few shy introductions, and a lot of sitting with Pallas, just talking about things.  Despite how antisocial I was at the time, it was really fun; I returned every week for the next two and a half years.  This was the first time in my life that I felt that it was okay to be a little straight edged.  In public school, it was the norm to do drugs and drink.  Even though I never said so, I was uncomfortable with that situation.  At Tuesdays, it was ok to not want to be around drugs or alcohol; this was an amazing feeling of relief.

The next two years were kind of a blur.  I remember a lot of just sitting around shooting the breeze with a lot of different people.  I remember learning about how to deal with younger kids.  I made friends with a young girl named Livia who greeted me with a hug every morning. This was new for me because I was the youngest in my family, and never had experience with younger kids.  Now I feel comfortable interacting with children of any age on a regular basis. This has been a huge change for me because I was so timid around kids before.  I was afraid of hurting them because I didn’t know my own strength.  Now, I know how to be careful around them without being overly timid.  Infants have a tendency to stare at me; I take that as a compliment.

Having learned how to interact with kids better allowed me to be JC clerk three times in my second year, once in the fall and twice in the spring.  Clerking JC was a huge responsibility. At first I was timid due to my lack of confidence, and also late getting things done.  That was quickly remedied; soon I was consistently early.  I became more authoritative with time, and I quickly obtained the ability to keep JC in check with phenomenal ease.  I remember friends coming and going a lot in this period.  I was pretty busy a lot of the time, so I went through a lot of “best friends” before I settled on three at once.  That’s when I learned that I could have more than one “best” friend.

In my third year, I was JC clerk twice; once at the very beginning of the year and once at the end.  Through this, I learned perseverance; clerking with headaches and being held accountable for my time.  Time management came into play because for the entire year, I was also School Meeting secretary.  I remember having to stop clerking JC fifteen minutes early on Wednesdays so I could run downstairs and prepare the SM agenda; which I did as accurately as possible.  It was a lot of hard work, and it was never perfect but I held things together anyway.  This situation proved to me that I could push myself; even when I didn’t have space to breathe, I found the time anyway.  I even managed time to socialize!

During this time, I also found myself good friends with Becca and her family, who have unofficially adopted me.  This was strange at first because Becca is three years younger than I. In public school, any age difference between friends was unacceptable.  I no longer have any problems being friends with people of different age groups.  My adopted family is pretty great. They take me on all of the family vacations and are just cool in general.  By knowing them, doors have opened for me in unexpected ways.  They taught me that vacations more than two hours away are accessible.  Being from the working class, I never dreamed that I would go on a cruise.  I now have been on a cruise; I have seen the world, and it is wonderful.  Then they taught me that vacations can be a lot closer that that; vacations can be as close as a car ride alone.  It is with this mindset that I continue to live.

Here I am at Fairhaven for the fourth year.  It’s been a really great run.  I never took enough classes, regretfully, but it has still been very productive.  I feel I contributed a lot to school and now I’m ready to leave my stories behind and move on.  I was the first of this graduating class to have a driver’s license.  Last semester, I had two classes at PGCC and a weekend job.  I worked hard to find time for everything, thus proving I am an over-achiever.  I have not done very much at Fairhaven this year besides the theatre productions.  It’s not because I no longer care; it’s because I have started more classes at the local community college.  Even though they can be rough, I find them fun and exciting.  They are exactly what I need to start me on the path to where I’m going.  I have gotten an attendance exception so that I can attend Farihaven and college at the same time, without penalty.  I feel as a graduating student, I have done well to be at Fairhaven and at the same time learn effective prioritization. Being a graduating student, I have struggled hard to find a part time job as well as my college courses.  This means that I attend Fairhaven less frequently.  However, I feel I have taken steps to transition well because next year, I won’t be here at all.

Future

From the past and the present, is born the future, so it is here that I focus most of my attention.  The future is never set in stone.  I will often change my mind and the way I live, even to things completely different from what I envision now.  Alas, there is also a need for direction.  In my plans, I keep both of these things in mind.

I had thought about what to do with myself for a long time before I settled on Theatre.  Music and art are also passions of mine, but I feel they would become something I would despise if faced with having them as a career.  Theatre is the one thing that I see both as work and play at the same time; as if it is a meeting in the middle.  It’s hard for me to conceive that I would leave theatre for another career.  I love the environment and the people.  If I don’t succeed as a performer on the stage, I would be more than happy to work behind it.  I would love to create scenes for the characters.  I could paint sets, build stages and create worlds.

As I previously stated, I currently take classes at Prince George’s Community College.  I have taken Sociology and Drawing I.  I am currently taking Beginning French and Introduction to Theatre.  Because I am also in high school, my major is General Studies.  However, as soon as I leave Fairhaven, I plan to change to Theatre.  I will be focusing on Musical Theatre, so I may decide to minor in Music as well.  I plan on forging my way to Broadway someday.  I listen to musical soundtracks every day.  I try to get my hands on as many as I possibly can in order to strengthen my base knowledge.  It can be a very hard road to walk down, but I know I can do it. Even if I never achieve Broadway status, I will have lived according to my dreams.

Now, as an effective adult would, I have back-up plans in consideration.  I have recently developed an interest in hands-on life saving, such as becoming a paramedic.  This is a challenging path, but I enjoy having challenges in my life.  No matter what happens, I keep the philosophy in mind that life is always changing.  I know that whatever happens, I will adapt in a positive manner.  I know I will continue to search until I find a path that feels comfortable for me.

How Fairhaven Impacted Me

I think the first thing Fairhaven taught me was that I had an opinion, and it mattered; I learned this through School Meeting.  At first, the opinions I voiced in school meeting were a little silly.  Now that I look back, I realize that they really weren’t that great.  I often considered one thing, and that was myself.  Now I realize that there is a lot more in the world, and when thinking about something, I must try to consider all sides. Over time, I thoroughly learned the ins and outs of the school and came to understand my own opinions.  As a further revelation I realized that my opinions mattered; other people listened to my opinions and took them into consideration. This was a very strange thing to me; where being raised in a traditional family everything was dictated by my father and mother. Before then, I had little to no say what happened in my environment.

The second thing I learned was how to manage myself, and give forethought to my actions.  I learned that my actions had consequences, and what those consequences would be.  Two things in particular brought this to my attention.  The first was JC.  I was called to JC for being a “stupid teenager” and going off-campus with too many people in one car.  As a result, I was restricted to campus, and it was not fun.  I wanted to go places and be free; I never repeated that incident.  The second way I learned this lesson was through School Meeting.  When I had a motion at SM, it passed if I was there to argue for it.  If I didn’t show up, my motion was essentially ignored.  I learned how to care about what I wanted, and how work for it as well.  This situation, as well as serving on JC and SM, also taught me time management. I had to be on time in order to get what I wanted.

Fairhaven has taught me many other things as well.  It has taught me that my world is not small.  Everything I learn about myself applies to others as well.  Everyone is human, and I must learn how to accept them in spite of that.  Everyone has opinions that need to be cared about, and worked around.  I need to accept my anger as well as my happiness. I am not the only one with worries, fears and anger.  Also, I do not need to like everyone, and certainly they do not need to like me.  A life is a life, and respect must be shown to it.

Being at Fairhaven, I have finally had the time to grow socially.  I have learned how to interact with small children.  I learned how to talk to people my own age as well as those who were older.  This involved learning how to adapt my interactions to be understood by those with whom I was interacting.  I now know how to interact with people in a positive way; that a lot of what I thought was the norm such as fights, cursing, and general aggression is actually looked down upon.

Conclusion


I have not listed every single lesson Fairhaven has taught me because that would be impossible; there have been millions of them.  The lessons I have discussed here are the ones that were the hardest to learn, and I felt the most important.  Fairhaven has had a huge impact on my life.  When I first arrived here, I was a very self-conscious and lonely teenager.  Now I find myself standing as an adult, full of confidence and on the same level as everyone around me.  This is a privilege I have not had before and have worked hard to achieve. I am independent, strong-willed, and I know exactly whom I am. I know where I came from and where I want to go.  I have a renewed faith in myself; this is something I intend to hold on to.

I have tried hard to show you what kind of person I was, and how I have become closer to the person I want to be.  I feel that as a student, as an adult, and as a human I have made tremendous leaps in my life.  I am ready to make the leap of graduating from Fairhaven and continuing my path in a different setting.  I hope I have proved to you that I will be an effective adult by showing you what progress I have seen in myself; not just through Fairhaven, but also through my life experiences.  I have found joy in Fairhaven for many years, but I feel that I am ready to move on to the next stage in my life.  I have found solutions to problems placed in my way, as well as finding ways to help others with theirs.  Despite the hardships, I am here today; ready to encounter the next set of challenges.  I am immensely happy that I have proved to myself what I can do; this was the hardest step for me.  I feel that I have said and done all I can do to prove the same to you.

Sarah Boyd

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An update on Reach

Hi everyone: Since we still have some unfilled spots for this September, we’ve decided to wait until next fall and open with a full house! This is exciting for us as it gives us time to find an even better … Continue reading

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An update on Reach

Hi everyone: Since we still have some unfilled spots for this September, we’ve decided to wait until next fall and open with a full house! This is exciting for us as it gives us time to find an even better … Continue reading

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An update on Reach

Hi everyone: Since we still have some unfilled spots for this September, we’ve decided to wait until next fall and open with a full house! This is exciting for us as it gives us time to find an even better site than the ones we were considering, time for our prospective staff members to become […]

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An update on Reach

Hi everyone: Since we still have some unfilled spots for this September, we’ve decided to wait until next fall and open with a full house! This is exciting for us as it gives us time to find an even better site than the ones we were considering, time for our prospective staff members to become […]

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An update on Reach

Hi everyone: Since we still have some unfilled spots for this September, we’ve decided to wait until next fall and open with a full house! This is exciting for us as it gives us time to find an even better site than the ones we were considering, time for our prospective staff members to become […]

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An update on Reach

Hi everyone: Since we still have some unfilled spots for this September, we’ve decided to wait until next fall and open with a full house! This is exciting for us as it gives us time to find an even better … Continue reading

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CNN.com article features students from Sudbury Valley School

Below is a link to an article on CNN that features Sudbury Valley school staff and alumni.

http://www.cnn.com/2011/US/08/03/unschooling.sudbury.education/index.html

Be advised, like most articles about Sudbury schooling, an expert is quoted expressing concerns with the model, specifically the concern with “chaos” and how “the world is going to need things” from our students. Rest assured, our campus is generally less chaotic than traditional schools, and our students do just fine in the world! But don’t take my word for it. As usual with quotations from alumni from our schools, the students articulate the model wonderfully.

(Finally, although the article conflates Sudbury schooling with “unschooling,” the two are in actuality quite different enterprises. Fairhaven School is rigorous, democratic, and structured. The only similarity with unschooling (as far as I understand the approach) is the absence of a compulsory curriculum.)

Mark McCaig

Fairhaven School

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