Dearest community of families,
May spring have found a way into your life and hearts in some way, even in the midst of snowfall and April weather that feels a bit like February...
Our students are shining, though, in the midst of the snow and construction and winter/spring doldrums that tend to strike at this time of year. Our annual IRACE day on March 28th was a deeply moving day of story, envisioned by student leaders in the high school, and hosting multiple rooms of expert presenters on topics of identity, intersectionality, restorative justice, racial equity, religious inclusion, and personal narrative. There were multiple sessions each hour presented by performers and activists and professors who would be keynote speakers at any conference on a college campus. I am continually inspired by this work facilitated by our amazing faculty and carried each year to a different incarnation by students.
Also - as you'll see in the other parts of this month's newsletter - our students have performed, entrepreneur-ed, and built many things this past winter - including plays and a farm store and strong relationships. The learning occurring at our school is most important when it results in students having a deeper sense of themselves in relationship to someone they care about. A characteristic of successful student leadership: when students see themselves and each other as more human after working together. That has happened again many times through IRACE, robotics, theater, athletics, and academics at school this year.
The latent spring has offered some time for me to spend on consideration. I am thinking deeply in the wells of why we do this work - this work of caring, of parenting, of school. What comes up for me is the importance of demonstrating loving care for our children that is not a consequence of their work, of their accomplishment, of their accolades, or of their progress. As parents and adults who support children, it can be increasingly difficult to ignore the cultural message that our job is to *curate* a childhood - to create the 'perfect' conditions for achieving potential. This idea that curation is the role of an adult - and that childhood wouldn't naturally sprout in the midst of a human growing in a loving environment - is something for a Montessori school and our families to consider. I'm asking myself the question: how can I protect a childhood, in the midst of a culture that is further seeking to monetize, organize, and rate each experience our children engage?
The multitude of dominant voices that fill our parenting head with anxiety for the future are often focused on the need to keep our kids safe, to plan ahead, and to set them up to evade danger in the future. This implied message is that success is the result of threading a needle with daring precision, and that a gratifying adulthood is the result of consistent indicators of achievement.
Really, the truth of my most resilient friendships, relationships, and endeavors is that a gratifying adulthood is a result of vulnerability, honesty, and knowing how to discern what is important from what is noise. (And that discernment often relies on admitting what I don't know, what I'm not sure of, and what I need help with from others.) I offer a diagram of wisdom shared by my colleagues at Great River School at left - I often refer to this as 'what wise people know'.
We at school are under vast pressures to be many things - an institution, a service organization, and a community center. In the midst of a culture that sends missives every day to us regarding the pressure to increase indicators that everything will be alright. There's a deep current of economic pressure often present in school - the implied message that if you do well in school, then that indicates doing well in college, and that implies an indication that you'll do well in __<fill in the blank>___.
As we know in the depths of our most humane moments as parents, there is not a linear progress from success to success until we are rid of challenge. There is often challenge. And any indicator of challenge is best met with support, not the need for correction.
So I share a lecture, a poem, and a sung version of that poem below that go further into thinking I'm doing regarding being an adult that demonstrates love for childhood. This includes loving childhood that is showing challenge, that is befallen by heartbreak, and that is discovering the places we are struggling. Julie Lythcott-Haims speaks below about her own learning about parenting - not as a bonsai tree curation, but as the loving of wildflowers. And I've also shared a vocal version of the poem "On Children" by Khalil Gibran. This poem is sung by hundreds of choirs - from Sweet Honey in the Rock to innumerable youtube available searches. In honor of finding places where male voices can demonstrate softness, I've shared from a group below.
I appreciate what Ms Lythcott-Haims says below. "Professional success in life comes from having done chores as a kid... and a mindset that says "I will contribute my effort to the betterment of the whole". This is what gets you ahead in the workplace... A second finding: adult happiness in life comes from loving relationships - partners, spouses, friends, and family." This is in line with what I believe to be the ultimate goals of our Montessori learning environment - a place where we will learn how to better contribute to the betterment of the whole, and learn how to demonstrate loving relationships.
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.