Friday, January 25, 2008

Dare to hope? ????

Oh man.

I'm pinching myself because I can hardly believe it. There's a part of me that is superstitious and demeans this gift by being afraid that if I rest my weight on it it will collapse under me.

The short story is that there appeared to be a good fit between Scott, the school, the class, the teacher.

The long story is I got another view of this class in action, and it appears, at least in this class, that 'democratic education' is a serious commitment. It's not lipservice. Billy really puts it into action. Fridays they have a class meeting; complete with the children taking on the role of moderator, time-keeper. They called it to order, and the moderator made sure that children spoke in turn. The children can bring a concern or a proposal up for discussion. If something is proposed that affects the class, there is a vote and majority rules. Participation is optional, but the non-participants can't vote and they're expected to be quiet and respectful: write in their journals or read a book. Billy subjects himself to the same rules of order and truly does not impose. He raises his hand along with the children to venture questions to help clarify proceedure, although he will smoothly step into an adult role if some guidance is needed. For instance, the moderator recognized herself to speak, and kept speaking in the presence of lots of children with their hands up. Billy said, "Moderator, there are a lot of hands in the air". She called him on being out of order, but then yielded the floor.

The real miracle was after snack. Billy kept talking about an 'assembly line' he had planned for them. during snack the kids who weren't out on break opened 18 sailboat kits and separated the parts into bins. After break the plan was unveiled: they were to cooperatively assemble 18 sailboats, complete with sails, rigging, paint. He had a list of the job positions needed for the production of these, from sander to quality control officer. He had them apply for positions. I would have bet money that this was going to be impossible and completely fall apart. One child wanted to be a sander but had failed to volunteer when the position was being offered, and he left the group and went into a sulk. Other children would volunteer for one position and then change their minds. There was a cacophony of "Billy! Billy! Billy!" that rivals any "Mommommom" blues I've ever had. Some children degenerated into squabbles. But somehow positions were filled and everyone standing at their places. I thought, "Surely this will fall apart at this point" because they were bumping and crashing into each other. A lot of kids had to wait while Billy explained the 'job' that one group needed to do before moving on to the next. I didn't think it was possible that they would remain at the table and not disperse. The process was delayed again when one child erupted into tears and it was revealed that another had bitten her. With great firmness Billy took the two of them off to the side and had them sit down apart for a while. At this time there were still a number of kids who hadn't received instruction and yet they still held together. And, by 12:00, by God there were 18 finished and painted sailboats. Scott's is upstairs. I'm still stunned at the self-confidence and belief it took for Billy to hold this all together and move it forward. (Not to mention courage. There were many points that I would have considered 'give-up-it's-not-going-to-happen' moments.) Here are the many parts of this assembly machine: sanders, glue technicians (one to glue on the bowsprit, which was Scott, one to glue on the cabin, one to glue in the rudder), mast assemblers, sail assemblers, someone to place the sails on the cabins and rig them, a team to paint them--someone to do the sails, someone the cabin, someone the bowsprit, someone the deck. Someone to oversee and facilitate the process, and someone to inspect them for quality and sign off on them. I am still beyond amazed. Not only were these children able to work together, but they were able to sustain the effort until all the parts were assembled and painted.

Scott will start Monday. He wants this.

It is my cautious side that's scared to rest on the conclusion that this could possibly be a solution...perhaps there's some sort of down side. Maybe he needs more structure than this school will provide and I'll end up with an illiterate child with miles to go to catch up. But traditional education wasn't serving him. All I know is that my heart feels better, so that seems a good indication that this is the right step to take. A first step anyway.

1 comment:

Lori said...

I wish I could have seen Billy in action. Sounds amazing!

I kept waiting for the "But."

Maybe, just maybe, sometimes there is no but.

I hope you've found the place for Scott to grow and learn.