Archive for September, 2013

Voices

Students finding their voices in the Circle Room.

Students finding their voices in the Circle Room.

I spend many hours here on campus alone, working nights and weekends, manning the office in the summer. My colleagues and I always marvel at how much more we can get done when Fairhaven School is empty. We make jokes about it: this place is so much better without the students.

 

Then one older student enters the office to pick up a work release form. Or maybe a younger student comes in with a parent, looking for a lost phone. No matter the purpose, each time a student breaks the silence of the quiet school, they animate the emptiness and remind me why these fifteen years have mattered. When she does ask for the form, she looks up and perfectly balances familiarity with respect. When he does ask for his phone, he can deal with the setback if it’s not in the office. He can even handle his upset dad. We may check in on school issues, or we may banter back and forth about his Orioles and my Nationals. We have brief interactions, then they leave, and the silence returns, save for the sound of fingers on a keyboard.

 

Still, memories move around the buildings like shadows, and imagination takes over. Here come the young boys, walk-running down the hall so as not to be written up in JC. A much older student follows, saying the definition of running is when both feet are simultaneously not touching the floor. They all pass the girls in the Quiet Room, reading the Harry Potter series. Again! Maybe the mind travels to the Old Building, where the boy who’s searching for Bigfoot is showing his evidence photos, finally not caring if people make fun. In the Art Room, others cluster around their tiny clay worlds on red trays, worlds that interact. These don’t even look up when the same boys are passing through this building now, or when they rumble outside to the playground swings. Behind them, others tumble down the outdoor steps towards the stream. In the distance, voices carry from the tire swing, and in the end it’s this word—voices—that make this place so full and so dynamic when we are in session. Voices talking, voices laughing, voices playing, silent voices reading, voices voting, angry voices, proud voices, voices that have grown up here, and voices that are brand new. Here, in this efficient, after hours silence, we do the work so that fifteen years’ worth of voices can speak, and so that fifteen more years of voices can continue becoming the people they are meant to be.

 

The joke about no students clangs, like they often do out of context, because of course this place is nothing without the students. It is voiceless. Maybe that’s today’s way to explain just what it is a student does out here, tucked into the woods on a slight hill: she finds her voice, and she learns to use it.

 

Mark McCaig

September, 2013

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Schools Are Good for Showing Off, Not for Learning

High pressure testing and evaluation inhibits learning and drives a wedge between those who already know and those who don't. That is one explanation of the education gap between children from economically well off families and those from poorer families, and why that gap has been increasing over the past few decades.

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Schools Are Good for Showing Off, Not for Learning

High pressure testing and evaluation inhibits learning and drives a wedge between those who already know and those who don't. That is one explanation of the education gap between children from economically well off families and those from poorer families, and why that gap has been increasing over the past few decades.

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A Glorious First Two Weeks

photo(3)Winding my way through the woods on the first day of school, I am greeted by the first few red and yellow leaves of fall. It’s hard to miss that undeniable crispness in the air.  I know when I was a kid, these age-old hallmarks of the fall signaled the end of the freedom of summer. For our students, it’s a whole different ballgame. The start of school isn’t an end to their freedom here; rather, it’s an invitation to dig back in to that challenging Sudbury dance of freedom and responsibility.

Those of you who are familiar with Apples to Apples will be able to appreciate the sentiment in the photo. During the game, one person is the judge and plays a green card. Everyone else has a hand of red cards and carefully chooses the card from their hand that they think the judge will pick as being a perfect fit for the green card.  In this instance, from a game of Apples to Apples this week, one student choose to play “The First Day of School” in an attempt to win the green “Glorious” card. Now, usually, when the judge turns over all the red cards that players have put down as considerations for their green card, there’s a bit of hemming and hawing. One may expect a show while the judge carefully narrows it down to the best two and then, much to their audience’s anticipation, unhurriedly makes their final decision. In this case, “The First Day of School” was an instant winner. What interests me most about this is that both students had the same idea- that there is something undeniably “Glorious,” “magnificent,” “delightful,” and “splendid” about the first day of school at Fairhaven!

It’s the end of the second week now and there’s so much activity everywhere. Countless games of speed and Magic have been played. The work in progress shelf in the art room is chock full of new art projects. New study groups and workshops are forming around improv, art, and Spanish. Activity sign ups for a 24 hour film festival, a trip to the corn maze, and a bowling outing are filled with interested students’ signatures.  All around the school certifications are happening, schedules are taking shape, and new bonds are being forged.  Corporations have met and energetic new secretaries and executive directors are taking the reins. School Meeting is back in full swing, already considering purchasing decisions, passing new rules, facilitating lively informal discussions, and electing JC clerks. Something tells me it’s going to be a great year!

Follow this link for more pictures from the first week of school. Click  slide show button on the left for automation.

Becka Miller

Staff Member

September, 2013

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Fifteen Years and Counting

Fifteen summers ago. Anyone who remembers the very hot, humid and rain-less summer of 1998 might be FHS 1998 construction pic 9surprised to find out how a group of energized people chose to spend their time that year.  Instead of vacations or lazy summer days at the beach, the founders and their friends and neighbors gathered to help build Fairhaven School. On any given day, between ten and fifty people would show up on this lovely piece of property in Prince George’s County to dig, hammer, pound, paint, or hoist. With the guidance of founder Romey Pittman, who wore many hats that year, including project manager, building designer, volunteer coordinator and permit runner, as well as two hired contractors, Gary Stiewing and Bambi Tran, volunteers worked day in and day out to create what is now fondly called the Old Building.

 

Sudbury Valley Board Member Alan White spent the entire summer here; Sam Droege milled much of the timber used for the building, designed the front porch (which became our logo) and designed and built the beautiful Circle Room floor; Beth Stone and Jim and Jancey Reitmulder from the Circle School in Harrisburg, PA  also pitched in. Joe Jackson handled all things financial and spent countless hours building; Ray Hartjen, author and supporter of the Sudbury philosophy, videotaped the process. Lindsey Dodson, Alice Wells, Tony Koppers, Linda Jackson, Marty Perkins, Amina Re, Fred Tutman, Joe Boerckel, Gayle Friedman, Niel Rosen, Jim Meyer, Dan Luczak, Bernie Gregory, Jane Gregory, the Banes, the Stewarts, the Autrys, the Fizdales, the Grusky-Foleys, the Bennetts, the Umsteads, as well as twenty members of the Single Volunteers of D.C., and many, many others worked tirelessly throughout that long, hot summer to get the job done. To quote an article written by founder Romey Pittman in the Fairhaven School News that year:

 

We aren’t able to thank everyone who helped us in this process. We are indebted to more than two hundred people who contributed in one way or another. Even subcontractors and inspectors seemed to smile more and help us in whatever way they could…The building of Fairhaven School is an experience which none of us will forget. Those of us who now inhabit the building are reminded daily that drops of water really do turn a mill, and are deeply grateful to all those who helped us realize our dream.

 

Now in its fifteenth year, Fairhaven School continues to remain a testament to the idea of community building. SKMBT_C22013090410280_0001Birthed by groups of people from all walks of life who were drawn together to create something bigger than they could imagine for young people, Fairhaven School continues to evolve as a place where children can pursue their dreams in a supportive environment. Thank you to all of you who helped create Fairhaven.

 

Click on this link for a slideshow of pictures from the summer of 1998(choose the slideshow option on the left of the page). See if you can identify a familiar face or two. Pass it on. Let others know that breathing life into a dream really can happen.

 

Kim McCaig

September, 2013

 

 

 

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