"The Real Work"

As I write, I hear the drilling of saws, the moving of furniture, the excited voices of teachers discussing big ideas and planning curriculum, the sharing of summer stories. In August of each year, our faculty spends a week together at our Summer Institute, reconnecting with staff members, with each other, and allowing time to focus our hearts and minds on the school year ahead. These precious hours are full of anticipation and hope, and intentional moments are carved out to think big in between setting up classrooms and unpacking supplies. 

This year, we spent our time at Summer Institute focusing our collective intellect and energy on this year's school-wide question: How can we think big, and work small?

We explored big ideas such as the ways in which teaching literature in classrooms plays a role in cultivating empathy in our students. We talked about the the promises we make by being here, in this place and with your children, our philosophy on using materials in our classrooms, the power of being mindful, and much more. 

In parallel, our program directors and teachers gave thoughtful consideration to practical applications for big ideas, one decision at a time. How can we create/enable "the third teacher" by carving out spaces within our classrooms and hallways for thinking, for exploring and for discovering? How do we make this school feel warm like home and yet conducive for complex, hard and productive group conversations? How many books do we stock on the bookshelves? Where do the blocks go? How can I consider the "top half" of my classroom -- the space above our natural sight lines? These big questions and small decisions (along with many more) fill the hallways and rooms our families are now beginning to reenter this week.

My hope for our community is that we never find all of the answers -- even after routines are established, the classroom projects are completed, and the year comes to an end. Rather, I challenge us to keep on seeking and discovering more ways to provoke, inspire and even baffle ourselves as we encounter young people and their powerful ideas. 

By the end of today, when we close the building for the night, our classrooms will be ready... their walls quietly awaiting the ideas, voices, and learning of the young people who will be working here. Until tomorrow, we will anxiously anticipate the richness that our Blue School students will add to our big questions and small moments this year.

The Real Work

It may be that when we no longer know what to do
we have come to our real work,

and that when we no longer know which way to go
we have begun our real journey.

The mind that is not baffled is not employed.

The impeded stream is the one that sings.
— Wendell Berry
Posted on September 3, 2014 .