Monday, September 06, 2010
The School We Will Build Together
On Thursday night the parents of our Pre-3 class met for our fall orientation meeting. As has been the case for the past several years, about one-third of the 20 families present are not new to Woodland Park, returning as they are with their second or even third child. Making this mix of familiar and new faces unusual for me is that several of the families who have not previously been enrolled in our school took part in our first-ever summer program, so I'm already familiar, if not good buddies, with well over half of the kids.
Of course, it's all a bit unusual this year. Normally, I'm experiencing an emotional collision of excitement and self-doubt as I anticipate the start of a new school year from the perspective of one week away. After all, in the past I've been coming off 3 virtually child-free months during which I was entirely on my own schedule. And while I've only been teaching 3 mornings a week this summer, it was enough, apparently, to dam up the undercurrent of performance anxiety that so often flows under my week of preparation for the new year. I'm starting this year, for the first time ever, with no doubts either about my ability or my future as a teacher. This is a powerful place from which to launch into a new year.
As we worked through the business portion of our meeting, I was struck by just how calm and confident the parents seemed as well. Normally, I detect a fizz of nervous tension in the room as parents contemplate the prospects of their babies going to school. Perhaps this is just an extraordinarily grounded group, but I'm now also wondering how much of my own anxiety I've been projecting onto others in years past. Probably a lot!
There's really not much for me to do in these meetings until the final 30 minutes during which I run through my spiel. I spend most of my time watching the faces of my new crop of parent-teachers, working to memorize their names, listening for clues they may drop about the temperaments, tendencies, and tantrums of their children, making note of parents who accidentally confess to talents, knowledge, or professional skills that we might find useful in our community. These are not just the parents of my students, after all, they are also my employers, assistant teachers, colleagues, and friends. I'm always struck by the joyful complexity of the multi-faceted, multi-leveled relationships that spring naturally from a cooperative model.
With which one of these people will I laugh? With which will I cry? With which will I experience despair, awe, anger, wonder? Do the half dozen pregnant women realize how many years we'll be part of one another's lives? They are my bosses, they are my colleagues, they are my assistants, they are the parents of the children we're all gathered here to teach.
Whether the people sitting in that circle know it or not, we are entering together into a network of human relationships unlike anything I've ever found in the world outside of co-ops. And while I'm excited for the children to arrive next week and begin forming our unique culture and community, I realized on Thursday night that I'm just as excited for the prospects of this parent community. I'm excited to find out what what kind of school we will build together.