A Moment to Cherish

It isn’t often that young children talk about their struggles with ethical or psychological issues, but there is no doubt that as they grow and live in a community they grapple with such issues. Since they usually don’t have abstract conversations about such matters, even when they are clearly thinking about them, it is fascinating to witness situations that reveal their thinking. I was fortunate to see this happen recently at a meeting of the school’s Judicial Committee.

A complaint was filed against five-year-old Anna (I’ve changed the names to protect their privacy), who had been angered by her seven-year-old sister Ellen’s comment about a drawing she was making. Anna had a little fit; she threw a box of markers on the table and toppled a bin containing yarn on the floor. When she had calmed down, she picked up everything, so that in the end no harm had been done. Because of that, the JC decided not to charge her with any rule violation.

However, during its investigation the JC had called Ellen in to be a witness, at which point the simple facts were put into context and a real story emerged. It turned out that Ellen had told Anna to change something in her picture, emphasizing that “it was only a suggestion” and Anna “didn’t have to do it if she didn’t want to”. While Ellen was testifying, she looked quite agitated, and after a few moments of thought she said: “I realize that I have to be more careful with what I say to my little sister. I told her that she didn’t have to do what I suggested but now I realize that she takes what I say more seriously than I want her to, and I can understand why she got so upset.”

I was astounded. Here was a seven year old child who was clearly articulating her younger sister’s point of view, and was drawing insightful conclusions about why her behavior had been wrong.

I am quite sure that this kind of thing happens often at school, but it usually happens out of sight. I am so glad that this one time I was there to observe it.

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And They Say Students Don’t Learn Division at SVS…

SophieI love chocolate and eat a piece after lunch and dinner. Pretty much religiously.  In the beginning of the year, I used to pack a few pieces to last me the week. Well, Dillon, Elise and Sophie quickly realized I did. They are so charming and cute I can’t say no to them…even if it’s my last piece. When it is, I tell them and ask; “what are you going to do with one piece between the three of you?” Boy- do they figure it out fast! They each take a little bite. Or break it with their fingers. Or, believe it or not, use a plastic fork and knife (this wasn’t the best option…and made a mess). DillonOr one person popping it in their mouth and look at the other two with wide eyes…then spitting it out and giving it to the next person (this option was gross and I told them…they didn’t care). It’s fun to watch them figure out how to evenly divide something so small. Then watch them pick up the mess and throw out the trash…with a little coaxing. It’s even funny when they quickly ditch me because I don’t have any use for them without chocolate!

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That Moment of Freedom

“You know that moment when you are playing bass and it’s like surfing?” Sadly, I don’t, but I sure wish I did, because judging from the glowing expression of the student I overheard saying this, it must be great.

The recent music show helped me understand something about music and its role at SVS, and it started with this remark. You see, this student doesn’t surf, but the idea of riding the waves perfectly expressed for him what can happen when performing music, and something in connection with his remark finally fell into place for me after watching our students during the show.

Why we have music – and music shows – at SVS is an interesting question. The fact that shows can be good PR, and an opportunity for families and friends to obtain physical evidence of SVS students doing something tangible – organized all by themselves, to boot! – while at school, is wonderful, but absolutely secondary, I think, to something more essential to music, to music in our school, and to what actually happens during performances, when people “ride the waves”.

I think I understand – and am in awe of – the kind of mastery of the body and the elements involved not just in keeping afloat in water, but also in actually staying on top of a wave and moving in harmony with it, upright, and in control.

And I love how the image of surfing transfers to riding the other, more intangible waves of sound, with some interesting differences. In music, you and your fellow musicians are in fact producing the very waves you are riding. And you are sending them back and forth between one another and between you and your audience, creating patterns, motion, and feelings.

What hearing and seeing our students perform the show in February made me understand is the tremendous freedom of it: the freedom in staying upright and in command within an environment that can turn chaotic in an instant, the freedom of being able to do this thing that comes from trying, practicing, honing, and ultimately mastering yourself and the elements. Even more, I saw and heard the freedom of not only surviving in the element of sound, not only of playing a song, but of creating these waves, of setting sound in motion, of playing with the possibility of chaos, and of creating dynamic balances, by yourself and with others.

When I finally realized just how performing music can be an act of freedom, for me it answered not only the question of why there is always music at our school, but it also explained the particular kind of music students gravitate towards, most of it falling under the wide umbrella of rock and pop. This music has its roots in the blues, and in a yearning for freedom in self-expression. I saw and heard the beauty of this in yesterday’s show.

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