Mind Your P's and Q's - Jobs at Arbor

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From the first, students and staff at Arbor have always been part of making the campus work.  Every day every student in the school has a job -- from taking out the trash to running an elaborate composting program that keeps all of our paper towels and weekly pizza boxes out of the solid waste stream and helps to create soil for our gardens; from cleaning the guinea pig cage to mucking out the pygmy goat pen; from reorganizing classroom bookshelves to checking out and shelving library books... the list goes on and on.

Once a week the older students take on one class period of service to the community.  They may write letters of thanks to recent classroom helpers, prepare the food bank for a weekend backpack lunch program for children in other schools who are receiving free lunch at school but need it also on weekends.  They may work in the Office helping to.prepare mailings or go to our Primary classrooms to read and listen to young readers.  

This notion of tending to others beyond oneself is deeply embedded in many ways throughout the school.  It is so central that it was the a subject of a recent in-house publication produced and distributed by our Intermediate  (4th & 5th grade) Letterpress Elective

What follows is a result of their reporting on jobs throughout the school:

Primary Jobs by Margaret

The Den thinks that the Guinea Pigs are the most important job because they are "alive animals," and Denner Charlie has made up a song about pencil sharpening. The Nesters use the saying, "Many hands make light work" to help them with their jobs.

Junior Jobs by Elliot

The Juniors rotate through their jobs with a chart. They have partners called mates who give tips to each other. Most kids like supervisor, because the supervisor picks the words for the hangman game at the end of the day.

Intermediate Jobs by Lauren

The Intermediates now have four job crews with unique names like Environmental Enhancement, Intermediate Conservation Corps, Marc's Cleansers Incorporated, and Groundhog Cleaning Crew. 

Senior Jobs by Henry

The Seniors have two sets of jobs: classroom cleaning and speciality jobs. Classroom jobs involve sweeping, trash, recycling and compost, and other domestic jobs within seminar groups. Speciality jobs assigned based on surveys include curbside trash bins, gardening, and chicken wrangling.

Community Service by Harry

In Sr. Community Service Greg says goat vaccination or building African drums from Arbor logs are the craziest jobs, but Nick says rafter work is.

Dangerous Tools

As a school we are constantly seeking sources of reflection, ways to have mirrored back to us those elements of practice that are producing evidence of efficacy for our students.  We send out questionnaires, conduct decadal self-evaluations, follow students through high school, college, graduate school, and into their lives as spouses and parents and community members.  We are further fortunate to have some of them return to Arbor as teacher residents in the Arbor Center for Teaching MAT program, as teachers, and, increasingly, as parents of Arbor children.

Those sources of feedback have been invaluable in correcting mis-directions, in opening up new avenues of practice, and refining Arbor ways.  Receiving unsolicited feedback is likewise very powerful.  This summer I received a remarkable letter from a young man who had just graduated from eighth grade at Arbor. He is a thoughtful and self-possessed young man, and I opened it with happy anticipation.  I have been carrying the letter around with me ever since.  

He writes... "Arbor is a sort of dream world.  One would almost call it the 'Arbor experiment.' Arbor is a place where the expectations are high, and yet always met with an unbelievable enthusiasm, a place in which you are not just expected but praised for being you, where your teachers, classmates, and principal do not just respect, but love you for who you are.  It is a place in which young children are given great responsibility and are trusted well beyond the average adult.  At Arbor we do not take away the dangerous tools, but instead show children their power, and show them how they can be used safely, to work towards a better world.... It is not a worried safety that limits kids, that keeps them from their curiosity; the world has too much of that.  It is a trusting safety, and it is truer, more two-sided, and it is something our world greatly lacks."

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This gracious portrayal has now become a powerful source of inspiration for us.  May we always be worthy of this young man's positive regard.  We believe he will go on to make contributions to the world  that arise out of his unique temperament, curiosity and drive.  He knows we will be watching and rooting for him every step of the way.

Warm Demanders

How can a little, independent school amidst fields and woods have anything to say to developing teachers whose classrooms will one day be found in large buildings in the middle of a city?  While the externalities may appear to separate the two contexts, the essence of schooling is based not on such surface elements but on the practices that can be learned in such a setting as Arbor's.

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In a recent conversation with former Arbor Center for Teaching (ACT) apprentice, Ren Johns, who was aiming for and found a mathematics teaching position at a large urban high school after earning her MAT through ACT, we discussed what it is that she believes she brings to her students that is making the difference in her teaching.  She attributes her successes with her current students, who might appear to be very different from those she taught at Arbor, to the lessons she learned through ACT, to the relentless commitment to students she saw modeled and now exhibits herself, both in the development of meaningful relationships with them and in her provisioning them with work at which they can be successful.  Ren commented further that she finds herself at the same school as another ACT graduate, Ben Malbin, whose successes in teaching American Sign Language to a wide range of students are likewise predicated on connecting with students authentically as human beings and as capable learners.  

Both of these teachers are "warm demanders," intent on working with their students students from a perspective of high expectations and empathic understanding.  Becoming committed to such understanding and developing the pedagogical imagination required to do this kind of work can be learned in any school committed to individual growth and development within a community of learners being asked to be their best selves.  Arbor is such a school.