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."
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.