As I've spoken with the children about the school's move to Fremont, I've emphasized that the "important things" will be the same: namely, the people. And that's true, where ever we and our friends gather, that is where we exist, but at the same time, I don't want to minimize the importance of place to a sense of community and self.
"Don't let the city change you!" they say to the country boy heading off for a job in Manhattan, but everyone knows it will. We've had a few members of our community express concern that our little seat-of-the-pants neighborhood preschool won't be the same in our new digs, even though it's really only just down the hill. And they're right, it will change us. I suspect much of what I write about here over the course of the next few months and even years will be about how the new roof, walls, and windows are shaping us. I already know, for instance, that our larger outdoor space will invite us to play games together we've never played together before. The bathrooms are farther from the classroom, we have a wall of mirrors, our immediate surroundings are more commercial than residential, there is a swing set; all of these things will make an impression in the play dough of who we are.
One of the things I've been thinking about a lot during these past few days of spending many hours alone in the place, unpacking and arranging, is what we will sound like in here. To put it mildly, our former facility had acoustic challenges. Even when we tried to be quiet, we were loud, so when we tried to be loud, and sometimes we did, it could be overwhelming. Our new classroom has an acoustic tile ceiling and you can hear the difference. Not only that, but we simply have more space in which to make our noises when you include the "social hall" with it's dance floor, mirrors and stage. That will be a great place for punching piano keys, banging drums, or singing at the tops of our lungs.
And we'll be able to do this without asking for a sacrifice from the children who are either temperamentally or just temporarily inclined toward quite and cozy.
We've spent a lot of time in school together at Woodland Park, learning to tone it in down in deference to our friends who are more sensitive to loud noises. And while we'll still make a distinction between indoor and outdoor voices, and we'll still look for the universal signal for "too loud" (covering our ears with our hands), I'm looking forward to having the ability to let those spontaneous joyful sounds we sometimes make together -- music, laughter, delighted squeals -- fill our space without having to constantly break in with cautions about volume.
"There's a monster in there!"
"Here it is!" Then everyone shrieks and laughs, the joke getting funnier with
Oh, I know we'll still get too loud at times and have to "take it outdoors," and we'll have a great space for that now too.
But this new place where we've found ourselves will be much more forgiving on the inside. And I think that will be one of the ways this new place subtly changes who we are. I'm looking forward to that.