Archive for May, 2012

Berlin Sketches (1)

(Ting Schule, a Sudbury school in Berlin, Germany, recently hosted Fairhaven School staff member Mark McCaig to present his talk entitled “Who Will I Become Today? Role Playing as a Way to Understand Fairhaven School.” Here he posts some impressions of the experience.)


Humbling, having to ask for translation when the four-year-old boy talks in the office at Ting Schule. My high school German classes have helped a great deal, and my hosts enjoy an American who speaks even some of their language. How similar the early morning is to my school’s: the absent student phone calls; the sleepy early arrivals; the need for a staff member RIGHT NOW. I’m practicing my Deutsch with my colleague and I ask what the young student says about me: he talks funny.


For the three-day Maitreffen (May meetings), dark, heavy breads and various cheese wheels. Cabbage dishes, pickles, and olives. Homemade split pea soup. Bier und Wein. All of it wheeled from the kitchen on a stainless steel cart, the same cart the school uses to serve the hot meals provided daily by the city.


When I visit the school in session, I join an English class in the park across the street. Myself, a staff member and four girls. I practice my German, they their English. We play “Taboo”, wherein you have to describe a given word in your non-native language. Garden, Frisbee, School Meeting, owl. I ask where I might see some Raubvogel (birds of prey) in the city. They don’t think there are any.


I stay in an empty apartment at the corner of Berliner Strasse und Binz, a fourth floor walk-up with a small balcony, perfect for listening to the trams pass and to the snippets of conversations from the pedestrians on the sidewalks below. One evening, I notice common swifts, recently arrived from southern Africa, screaming and circling above the street, larger and more insistent than the chimney swifts of home. No, definitely not in Kansas anymore.


The visceral, lovely truth: stepping into a Sudbury school always feels the same, no matter where you are. Although each has its own culture, the unique amalgam of respect and authenticity, freedom and responsibility, proves unmistakable. Even auf Deutsch.


After each of the three lectures, breakout sessions. Parents and staff from three German Sudbury schools ask me many questions. (Viele Fragen). We spend at least an hour discussing JC, “JK” in Berlin.

How graciously they appreciate my perspective. How much I learn from them.


One of the many upsides of a city Sudbury school: a grocery store one block away in each direction. The students prefer “Penny.’


The school occupies the second floor of a commercial building, with a wide, sunny hallway and several rooms, including a library, a kitchen, a video game room, an office, and a large meeting/eating room.

Staff members ride a scooter down the hall in response to the frequent doorbell.


I have one afternoon off and ride the subway downtown to Alexander Platz, joining the scores of tourists walking down Karl Liebknecht Strasse, past the island of museums, all the way to tree-lined Unter den Linden ending in the famed Brandenburg Gate. Before the museums, the massive Berliner Dom (cathedral), survivor of Allied bombing and Soviet liberation,  then a green swath where I spot the unmistakable angularity and precision of a raptor heading south, confirmed that night as a European sparrowhawk.


After several hours of intense Sudbury school discussion each day, by the last night of my visit, I have begun to dream in German, and of course now, even from a distance of a couple of weeks, all of it has begun to feel like a dream.


Next: English text of “Who Will I Become Today?”

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Meghan’s Warcraft Story Continues

Here are two more chapters of Meghan's original story set in the Warcraft world. If you haven't read or don't remember the story so far, be sure to check out Chapter 1, Chapter 2,  Chapter 3, Chapter 4 and Chapter 5. The story is told from the point of view of Salith, a female half-elf, half-troll rogue.  Chapter 6 Mourning...? Salith fell into a horrified silence as the undead

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Doing More Time in School: An Unimaginative, Mean Proposal

When will educators realize that people learn best when they are happy? Schools fail because they make children unhappy. More time in school won’t fix that.

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K Records field trip

Music Corporation took a trip to K Records/Dub Narcotic Studio this week.  We went to learn about music recording, and also to see what Sam, staff member and K intern, has been up to in his life outside of school.  K Records is legendary place for us Olympians and embodies the spirit of DIY, community, and creativity/art that are such a big part of the culture in our city.  Thanks Sam and K, for letting us enjoy this beautiful creative place!

K offices.  Art everywhere.

Poster for an upcoming show.  Lots of bands create their own art.

In the warehouse.

Intern offices.

Down in the studio.  Acoustic treatment for the ceiling.

Over the drumset.  It was fun to tune into our hearing senses more than we do in ordinary life, and to be in a space that is designed around waves of sound.  Very mathematical yet intuitive/artistic.

Sam has a great perspective on the recording studio, because he while does recording and live sound, at K he spends much of his time fixing and maintaining the equipment, most of which is vintage.  There is so much to know in a place like this.

The workbench.

The tape machine.  Lots of analog recording going on at this studio.  The recording process sounds unbelievably complex.

In the back of the mixing board.  Sam shared not only his expertise with us, but his learning curve, which I found to be really inspiring.  What does it take to do the work you love?  Lots of passion, dedication, hard work, time, and willingness to keep learning news things, we heard from Sam.

Sam set us up to mix a song that he had recorded for a friend.  Here’s Stephenie, getting a feel for the effects that can be created and for the balance of the different tracks within the song.

Thanks to Sam’s friend Kate McNamara, who let us play around with the tracks for an album she and Sam are recording.

Explaining Eq.  Stephenie and Gravity both picked up this and other concepts so easily, and were able to translate them into the sounds they like in the studio.

I found this space to be gorgeous in the most chaotic way.  I was wishing for better low-light photo capabilities.

Here’s a video of Stephenie playing with the mixing board during our first listen to the tracks.  Turn up the volume and you’ll feel what it was like to be in the studio :-)

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A group of students, ages 5-10, planned a spontaneous field trip last week to enjoy the sun!  We go on many of these field trips to local parks and green spaces.  Any group of students can plan a trip during a school day, as long as a staff is available to accompany them.

During this field trip, I really enjoyed the dynamic between the students.  Students of all ages form such close relationships with each other, with older kids tending to younger kids, and younger kids being inspired by the older ones.

The students who have been here for a number of years have truly amazing friendships with people of all ages.  Some friendships have been the result of very hard, voluntary work on the part of two people who didn’t get along for a period of time.

I think that the friendships at the school are so strong and impressive because the students are free to choose the people they’d like to get to know, yet are required, by school law, to treat everyone with respect.

Eventually, people seem to discover that there is something to enjoy in just about everybody. Differences in beliefs and family culture (religion, politics, food, money, lifestyle and more) are discussed openly from a young age. But none of those things stand in the way of friendship. As students live, work, and play together in an environment of mutual respect, they create human-to-human bonds that are stronger than common interests or beliefs.

It’s good to live and learn among friends.

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