Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Functioning Communism

I had asked Megan to make a batch of play dough for our first day of school, but had done a sloppy job of communicating, so when she arrived with her daughter Annabelle on Monday, no play dough. It was entirely my fault, and not a huge deal.

Yesterday morning as I got ready for class, there was a knock on the school door. It was Megan with a large ball of bright yellow dough. Annabelle didn’t have class yesterday, Megan's older daughter wasn’t starting school until Thursday, and the family doesn't live particularly nearby. In other words, this was a morning that by all rights Megan should have been still at home in her jammies, enjoying a second cup of coffee, but instead she was standing there with a ball of yellow dough, promising to make another batch once she’s purchased more cream of tarter. I made the mistake and she took it upon herself to fix it.

Last night Shelly, our health and safety officer, notified us that a child who had been in class on Monday has been discovered with lice. (Arg! Really? Already?) This was supposed to be the year of flu, not lice. The lice “scare” is almost an annual ritual at most schools, and while I’ve been very near them via both Woodland Park and my own daughter’s school for over a decade, I’ve not yet been victimized by the actual bugs. (Knock on wood!) Their imaginary doppelgangers, however, always cause my scalp to itch, which it’s doing right now in spite of my best efforts to remind myself that it’s all in my head, not on my head.

By the time I awoke this morning, Jaimee, Andrea, and probably other parents who didn’t include me in their email chain, had agreed to meet at the school at 7:45 a.m. to execute our official lice cleaning procedures so that class can proceed as usual.

This is how our school works. And while I’ve been around cooperatives for as long as I’ve been near lice, I still find it incredible.

I often use our school as an example of functioning communism, the key to its effectiveness being that we’ve all voluntarily joined together to make it work. I invite families to think of our preschool as a three-year program during which time you will sometimes be the one with “ability” and other times the one with “needs.”

Everywhere I look in our classroom I see enduring examples of those with ability going that extra mile. Alicia painted all the tables and chairs. Steve built the fence around our garden. Gloria installed the motion sensitive light in our cleaning closet. Marie turned the columns in the middle of the classroom into “trees” that spread their leaves across our ceiling. Martin built the easels. And one mother, whose name I’ve forgotten since her family was forced to drop out of school after only a couple months during my first year, gave several weeks of her summer to painting bucolic scenes of trees, hills, and blue skies on the walls of our gym. The examples of our community’s abilities are endless.

Every year I also see amazing examples of those with needs receiving what we can offer. Families with new babies are feted with meals, offers of babysitting, and maternity leave. Families with financial challenges are given exceptions, discounts and scholarships. Families with emergencies are helped in whatever way the community can help.

I love that our children are spending their preschool years in this community, and I’m reminded every day, in both big and small ways, of how lucky I am to be here.

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Haha, I guess it is sort of a communist system, that works pretty well!

Anonymous said...

That is pretty cool how things work. I need to get that research done on co-ops here in Charlotte.