Yesterday was my first sick day. It was awful, unpleasant, and all around not how I wanted to spend my day. Headaches and seemingly endless quantities of phlegm and snot kept me company as the school carried on without me. 4 extra hours of sleep, some hot soup and a long walk have left me feeling much better. I guess if you don’t take a day off, your body will take a day off for you.
More important than my own fragility and whining was how thoroughly I was able to rest today.
I have been working on this school since near its inception. For the last 6 months it is all I have been able to think about. Every day, I am in 1960 Bryant for 8-12 hours prepping, lesson planning, building, meeting, talking, and doing all the crazy things it takes to build a school from scratch. Right alongside me every day is Justine, Gever, Ellen, Chane, and Mackenzie, working just as much, just as hard, and often with more grace and intelligence.
Over the last weeks we have grown to trust each other deeply. This is in some way a necessity of our ambition to make something so large from so little. In more important ways this is a result of each individual’s character.
Justine is quiet and reliable. With one foot firmly in the office and one foot firmly on the floor with the kids. She juggles often conflicting responsibilities as easily as most others would drop them.
Ellen is our administrative ninja. Because of her, we opened. Because of her, our budget works. Because of her, we have health insurance. She takes care of things I don’t even know need to happen before I ever find out they might have been a problem.
Gever is the man with a dream and a knack for problem solving. His audacity got us into this most wonderful mess. Daily, weekly, and monthly, it is his audacity that keeps us going.
Chane is calm under fire and undeniably focused on creating an environment that is safe, physically and emotionally, for the kids and the rest of the staff. She knows exactly how to show support and is always there at just the right moment.
Mackenzie is a creative powerhouse who has come up with nearly endless activities for our youngest and oldest alike. Quick on her feet, there is no one on staff better at making improv seem planned. She has an eye on the horizon and helps the rest of us keep our focus just far enough in the future to make sure we create something truly meaningful for the kids.
I had assumed that if I ever took a day off, I would be riddled with endless concerns. How is the school doing? Are the kids having a great time? Did the transitions go well? How wrong I was. I lay in bed, reading, resting and recovering. And whenever a worry popped into my head, it just as quickly faded with the simple sentence: “I am sure they have got it under control.”
This week, members of staff have been talking at great length about our space, its troubles, and its opportunities. We even were so lucky as to have an opportunity to talk to two lovely teachers and a preschool director who practice the principles of the Reggio Emilia approach at the New School West in Southern California. The discussion included the practical (the shelves should be shorter), the short term (you can improve your welcoming space right now), the abstract (beautification of the space, community values, materials as a language of expression), and the long term.
All of this was just in time for a weekend work day. From 10am-5:30pm several parents, Gever and I were in the space.
We built new tables.
We chopped our shelves in half.
Lumber was moved to longer term storage.
Materials where re-labeled, re-sorted, re-organized, and put onto our new half sized shelving. I have a lot to say about this, but will have to save it for another day.
The kitchen was scrubbed and reset. A fridge may have been slid down a set of stairs.
The library got a new look and a new table (table not pictured here).
Kaia and Ben where instrumental in keeping our space dust free.
And we kept dreaming. We took many practical, gritty, and important steps toward laying a foundation on which we can build. Not the least important of which was taking many moments to write down our hopes for the space.
This Friday, our school experienced its first real excursion hiccup. We spent the afternoon in the library reading, picking books, and doing a bit of scary story research for our upcoming Halloween party.
After two hours wandering the halls of the Teen and Children sections at the library, it was time to head home. Our timing, it seemed, was perfect: a roughly 20 minute journey home starting at 3:05pm. We’d even have time for a quick end of day circle.
Clipper cards ready, we all hopped on the bus. Confident we where looking for our standard 18th street stop, we embraced the usual shenanigans of the bus ride – story telling, day sharing, brotherly rough housing, and backpack ruffling. A bell ding alerted us that we were coming up on the 17th street stop and the warning to students went out: “The next stop, at 18th street, is ours.”
With bags closed and students ready, we flew by the 18th Street stop. 19th Street went whizzing by. 20th, 21st, 22nd and 23rd follow suit. Turns out that the 9 and the 9L are very different buses.
We got off the bus and shared with the kids the fantastic nature of our bus stop failure. Taking the opportunity to model calm and reasonable problem-solving, Mackenzie and I plotted a new path home and called Justine so she could keep parents in the loop. We were to walk over to Bryant and take the trusty 27. Looking back, I now realize we missed an opportunity to ask our kids to participate in generating a solution.
The 27 seemed like it was going to take far too long, so we opted to try and beat it by walking back to school. We split into two groups: the runners (hell-bent on beating the bus home) and the walkers (less-bent but still hoping to beat the bus home). Some parents met us along the way to keep after-school appointments but most others waited as we and the kids added an additional 20 minutes to our journey home. Our day came to an end with varying levels of sweatiness and similar levels of accomplishment and adventure.
We have also gotten a bit more hip and we are now regularly updating our Twitter account, and working to make our Facebook presence much more vibrant. Do feel free to follow along an either or both. We wouldn’t mind it one bit if you shared them both with your friends, family, and other interested or interesting people.
As always, our mailing list is the very best way to make sure you are the first to hear any of the really important announcements. But for daily updates, this blog, Facebook, and Twitter will give a much more active account of the happenings at Brightworks.
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