The other day I was preparing to teach a class in papermaking at Mathew’s school when I had a revelation. I haven’t taught papermaking to more than a few people in almost 15 years. Moreover, those classes were typically only a couple of hours long, not for an entire week, and this class will have 13 students between the ages of 6 and 12. This was all very daunting, to say the least. I decided to test out a couple of ideas ahead of time that I hoped would occupy and engage the students. Thank goodness I did, because some of my ideas really weren’t all that great. But, while I working with the slurry and deckles (see my other blog on how to make paper), inspiration took over and I came up with even better ideas. Bonus: the process of creating also calmed my concerns about teaching the class.
So, why am I teaching a week-long class at Mathew’s school? Unlike the schools Mathew has attended in the past, his current school switches gears in June. While most schools stop their normal curriculum and do “fun things” they are actually biding time until the school year is over. This school instead announces that the standard Montessori curriculum will end; and in June they will begin the “Switching Gears Mini-courses.” The new focus is two weeks of mini-courses in the mornings, play rehearsals, and other activities in the afternoons. They create workshops called “playmania” which involve activities centered on the theme of this year’s school musical, “The Phantom Tollbooth.” They also ask parents to teach mini-courses for a week. The kids are so excited to learn different things and work on the play; it is amazing the renewed energy there is at the school – and it is JUNE! Of course, there are a bunch of field trips sprinkled in here and there as well.
In the past, I always felt school in June was a waste of time. Last year, I kept asking myself why I was waking Mathew up at 6:20am to go to school to do nothing. In September, Mathew began attending the Elizabeth Ann Clune Montessori School of Ithaca. Enrolling him there was perhaps one of the best moves we have ever made. Their main goal is to create a mindful and just society through education and community building. I cannot describe the love and thoughtfulness that goes into every lesson, event and process at this school. Everything we have attended has moved me to tears of joy. Last week we went to Mathew’s “Moving Up Ceremony,” announcing that he will be graduating from Junior Level and moving on to the Upper Level School next year. To honor the students moving up, the teachers create acrostic poems describing the student’s attributes and read them to the students in front of all their classmates and families. I am tearing up just remembering the lovely ceremony.
It’s thrilling and an honor to teach at this school. But I can’t lie; it does make me a bit nervous. There’s a lot to live up to – the teachers and administrators are awesome. I’m glad I picked a fun and creative activity that I am passionate about and love to share. I can’t wait to see what the students make from all the papermaking activities I have planned.