Archive for March, 2014

Ready For Anything

As my youngest daughter pursues graduation from Alpine Valley School, and as plans unfold for our upcoming alumni panel event (“Ready for Anything: Fostering Resourceful, Happy, Successful Adults”—please join us!), I have been taking a deeper look at how AVS helps prepare our graduates to live happy and successful lives.

Over the past 15 years I’ve watched students engage in many activities. These include building with Legos, digging in the sandbox, playing with dolls and stuffed animals, reading books, making cakes, serving on the Judicial Committee (JC), chairing meetings, pretending to be superheros, consoling friends, drawing pictures, knitting socks, sharing lunches, proposing motions to School Meeting, writing stories, telling jokes, doing math, voting for and against motions, playing piano, teaching spelling, and countless other pursuits. When involved in an activity, they’re focused and engaged for as long as it interests them, and then they move on to something else.

AVS students know they have certain responsibilities (like chores, meetings, and JC), but the rest of the time is theirs to spend as they choose. Through participating in JC, our students learn that the choices they make affect themselves and others, and that nothing separates them from the consequences of those choices. They learn that making mistakes doesn’t mean you’re a bad person: while you are held accountable for your behavior, you aren’t shamed for your choices.  Everybody learns to advocate for themselves and knows that their voice has value.

How does this make someone ready for anything? Who could say it better than Sudbury Valley School, the people who piloted this educational model beginning in 1968? “In our environment, students are able to develop traits that are key to achieving success: They are comfortable learning new things; confident enough to rely on their own judgment; and capable of pursuing their passions to a high level of competence.” Qualities like patience, imagination, leadership, creativity, responsibility, compassion, respect, flexibility, and persistence (just to name a few) are useful growing up, and essential in adulthood. With days and years of freedom to follow curiosity and play freely, these things become second nature.

Without anyone directing them, AVS students challenge themselves with activities and ideas just beyond their capability, letting their evolving interests guide them in continuing a given path or steering in another direction. As they embrace independence, they develop an appreciation for taking healthy risks, which builds their self-confidence. These young people create new games to play that are innovative and collaborative and hone their imagination and creativity. They take on leadership roles in School Meeting, JC and other school groups, through which they gain an understanding of how to lead respectfully and effectively. Most importantly, they learn to trust themselves as they  participate in a mixed-age community and take responsibility for their path to adulthood.

How do you prepare for unexpected events? On January 15, 2009, Captain Chesley B. “Sully” Sullenberger was able to safely land U.S. Airways flight 1549 in the Hudson River after a flock of geese knocked out both engines. In an interview with Katie Couric, he said that “one way of looking at this might be that for 42 years, I’ve been making small, regular deposits in this bank of experience: education and training. And on January 15 the balance was sufficient so that I could make a very large withdrawal.”  Although the daily life of AVS students does not involve navigating a plane about to crash, it does allow them time and space to create a bank of experiences that will serve them well. It offers the opportunity to discover that life is full of possibilities and that it’s up to them to guide their journey through life’s inevitable ups and downs.

As for a successful career, I found several articles listing the qualities companies are looking for in employees: the ability to plan, organize, set priorities and solve problems; willingness to take on leadership roles and accept responsibility, take charge of assignments and accept accountability for the results; being true to yourself and honest with yourself and others; willingness to admit your strengths and weaknesses, willingness and courage to take risks and accept challenges. If you have talked with our graduates, read their theses, or attended previous alumni panels, you’ve heard them describe how their time at AVS helped them to gain these very same attributes and skills.

Indeed, Business Insider recently published an article entitled “Here’s What Google Really Looks for When It’s Hiring.” Senior vice president Laszlo Bock says that the company looks beyond grades and is hiring more and more people who never went to college. What matters to Google is not so much about IQ but learning ability. They want people who can think “on the fly,” who know when to lead and when to follow and have a sense of responsibility that drives them to find an innovative solution to any problem.

What better way to prepare for anything than attending a school that allows you to play and follow your curiosity, be responsible for your own time and choices, and have an equal say in the governance and well-being of your school community? Are our graduates ready for anything? I’d say they’re not only ready, but highly qualified!

 Written by Connie Cook – staff member at Alpine Valley School

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Blithe Spirit

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Come join us for the show!

On March 28th & 29th and April 4th & 5th, Fairhaven School’s Theatre Corp will be performing Noel Coward’s “Blithe Spirit”.

Tickets are $10. House opens at 7:00 PM for a 7:30 PM curtain.

Call the office at 301.249.8060 with questions.

Fairhaven School Theatre Corp

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How Rules Are Made at Clearwater

by Gabriel, age 16 Gabriel throws the (rule) book at Thad  If you talk to people who are unfamiliar with Sudbury schools about Clearwater, one of the things they often say is, “So the kids just get to do whatever they want?” While it is true that people are free to learn whatever they want, whenever they want, the presence of rules means it isn't very accurate to say that the kids get to

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How Rules Are Made at Clearwater

by Gabriel, age 16 Gabriel throws the (rule) book at Thad  If you talk to people who are unfamiliar with Sudbury schools about Clearwater, one of the things they often say is, “So the kids just get to do whatever they want?” While it is true that people are free to learn whatever they want, whenever they want, the presence of rules means it isn't very accurate to say that the kids get to

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How Rules Are Made at Clearwater

by Gabriel, age 16 Gabriel throws the (rule) book at Thad  If you talk to people who are unfamiliar with Sudbury schools about Clearwater, one of the things they often say is, “So the kids just get to do whatever they want?” While it is true that people are free to learn whatever they want, whenever they want, the presence of rules means it isn't very accurate to say that the kids get to

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“This Week at AVS” 3/21/14

Happy Spring Break!!

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Transitions

When I was growing up, each year was spent with different teachers. The beginning of the year was the time to get to know everyone, and then by June it was time to move on. Things are a little different here. One of the unique things staff and students at Alpine Valley School get to experience is the amount of time together. Because the school is available to children ages five to eighteen, and because there is no division of ages or specific “grades” that staff work with, a student could spend all thirteen years of their school experience with people who know them throughout that entire time.

This whole idea of time is on my mind at the moment because graduation is coming up. My first year as a staff member here, two students graduated, one of them a lifer (someone who started at age five). This year another lifer is preparing her thesis for graduation. Many of the staff members here have been at the school for a decade or longer. I frequently hear them talk about how they remember these students as little five- or six-year-olds afraid to go to JC or causing mischief and how much they have grown up.

Wouldn’t it be nice if everyone had that kind of relationship with the staff at school growing up? The transitions for a student at Alpine Valley School are different because of this continuity. Instead of new teachers, new classes, and even new schools (going from elementary school to middle school or high school), each new school year brings students back to a familiar place, with staff that already know them. The first day of school at Alpine Valley School looks like almost any other day (except for the excitement to be back and that everyone is a little older).

As the years go by for the students here, they transition into different roles. At first they are the little kid looking up to the older students and using their time to play. Within a few years they are no longer the youngest students and begin taking on different roles of responsibility at the school. This transition happens earlier or later for different students, but it does happen. Then even more years pass and they become the oldest students. Where once they were looking up to the older students, now they are the role models of the school.

The final transition of a student’s career at Alpine Valley School is preparing to graduate. It is a year-long process where students reflect on their time at school and outside of school. Through this process the student works with a panel of parents, alumni, community members, and staff in writing a thesis on how they are preparing for life after Alpine Valley School and being an effective adult. The process culminates with an oral presentation to the AVS Community focused around their thesis, followed by a question-and-answer session. It is perhaps the most exciting process for students, bringing with it all the fears of moving on and the anticipation of what’s next.

One of the greatest things for students here is the consistency that exists through all of these transitions. Life isn’t segmented here, and there is a feeling of familiarity with the staff, the community, and how the school operates. Students can take the time needed to work through transitions, knowing that the end of one year and start of another won’t pull the rug out from under them. Having enough time to work through a transition as a younger person will help them become more confident in the future, especially as they transition into becoming independent. What a perfect way to grow up!

 Written by Scott Goode – staff member at Alpine Valley School

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This Week at AVS – 3/14/14

Happy Pi Day! Enjoy the photos from the activities happening here this week. DSC_6320a DSC_6325a DSC_6360a DSC_6382a DSC_6383a DSC_6448a DSC_6473a DSC_6477a DSC_6508a DSC_6522a DSC_6555a DSC_6559a DSC_6564a DSC_6582a DSC_6590a DSC_6611a DSC_6613a DSC_6621a DSC_6625a DSC_6627a DSC_6634a DSC_6666a DSC_6670a

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A Playful Path, and DeKoven’s Advice for Getting Back on It

We are born to be playful. We are, as Johan Huizinga put it long ago, Homo Ludens (the playful human) even more than we are Homo Sapiens (the wise human). But many of lose our playfulness. Why do we lose it, and how can we recover it? Here’s why, and here, especially, is how to recover it—from a new book by Bernard DeKoven.

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A Playful Path, and DeKoven’s Advice for Getting Back on It

We are born to be playful. We are, as Johan Huizinga put it long ago, Homo Ludens (the playful human) even more than we are Homo Sapiens (the wise human). But many of lose our playfulness. Why do we lose it, and how can we recover it? Here’s why, and here, especially, is how to recover it—from a new book by Bernard DeKoven.

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