Wednesday, November 2, 2016


Hello, good morning, I say!
I love you, I love you, today
and tomorrow.
Sleepily, she says hello.
We meet and greet the day.
Writing our morning story,
sipping coffee,
wondering what this new day will bring,
and if it will rain.

Hello, she said.
Greetings and good day, I reply.
I see the shadows of her home.
She lives in a far away land.
Her head covered in with a white scarf.
The pillars of ancient Egypt.
I hear her grandson, playing.
We are more alike than different.
She smiles,
we chat about school
and the weather.

Hello! Can you hear me?
Echos across the miles.
The signal fading and dropping,
standing still so I can hear.
Exploring a new landscape alone,
we are connected.
She says, hello.
I can hear you.
We talk about poetry,
and the weather.

Hello, how are you?
We talk about health insurance,
the memories we share.
Life tumbles in.
We talk about the weather,
and wonder when the sun will shine.

Hello, how was your day?
We speak of the brilliant colors,
of Fall.
Autumn has arrived.
Yellow, gold, red
and Orange
against the evergreen,
across a fading sky.
Hello, I say,
it has been a fine day.

October 19 2016

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Through Whose Eyes?

We were invited to imagine what a restaurant could be.

Then we designed and created our restaurants and imagined the people who would work in our restaurants.


We imagined what our menu's would look like and envisioned our patrons. We then advertised to the public inviting them to our restaurants.


We prepared for problems and visioned what our grand opening might look like by creating skits.

Now we are reflecting on our learning. What story did we tell?

Tuesday, June 28, 2016


Some people say hope is a waste of energy,
hope kills the present moment.
I do not.
Hope brings people together.
Hope lends a light when the world seems dark.
Hope is the moments when you know that what you are doing is worthwhile,
even when the chips are down.
When you turn to the new friend and say, “we can do this”.
I don’t know why I listen to some people - because I am hopeful!

We started Storyline training last night. Sitting with new friends constructing our learning by, creating a restaurant, figuring things out. I never met some of them, but they are like me. Searching to find a place in education where the child is in the center. Wondering how things got so far away from the joy of learning. I am hopeful, because there are so many people trying to make a difference!

The intensity of the learning, not about square root or parabola, was present last night. We learned about how things fit in our tiny little box of a world. Our hands were crafting tables and chairs, bathrooms, kitchens. Our wall were multi-colored. Our hearts, filled with possibility and hope, searching for a way that we can teach children. Creating conversation, negotiating differences, measuring, counting, drafting and re-drafting. When we were finished last night, we weren’t really finished either, we had actually just begun.

And I am eternally optimistic as I get ready to walk down the hill today, to the Farmhouse, to greet my friends, new and old as we continue to explore Storyline. I am hopeful that we have pre-service teachers and retired teachers, non-profit pre-schools for homeless children and virtual learning, classroom teachers and museum docents; all curious, all hopeful that we can create a better way, that we can be better teachers, that we can provide the joy and wonder of learning in spaces that are sometimes dull, in a world that sometimes forgets that kids are kids!

I am hopeful that I crossed the threshold to a world that does not allow the heaviness to darken the door of possibility. I am hopeful because in crossing the threshold I have met amazing people who take the chance. And I am thankful for all the people I know who show up every day - taking the chance to have their hearts broken when they show up at schools - and they show up every day - for the kids!

Wandering through something new last night, at Storyline, I forgot about the people who said, “maybe next year when you are more established”, or “the price was better somewhere else”. Last night as I worked with strangers, and I knew that regardless of what happens today, my life is full, blessed, filled with love and inspiration. Simple things, like learning to build an environment where children can explore, just like we do, to learn set me free.

So, I am hopeful.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Precious Moments

I was thinking about school and schools when once again, the unthinkable, another mass shooting happened. Sadness shifted to anger, back to sadness and to wonder.

"Only for a few brief moments… " a line from Music at Night, an essay, by Aldous Huxley, in his Biography by Sybille Bedford, and I paused. Only for a few brief moments! I think about the ordinariness – the moments we wait for, dream about. The ones we create in our heads. I am not sure, at this moment, that waiting is the right thing to do. I think of the temporariness of it all; the sadness, the joy, the stale afternoon haze. The car crash, the shootings, a trip and fall. Get up, get moving, stop. Look around. Living in fear is not the answer either, really!

The ability stop, to see the beauty and wonder in the ordinary, holding the moments we are given like treasures. Sometimes hurrying to the next thing, or the thing I believe will be the moment, is a waste of the present. Really, all the longing for ‘that moment’, in its haste, I may miss the magical moment of the here and now. I think of school, our school, what we are teaching in schools, all the time?

In this present moment I am painfully aware of all the tension I hold as I watch the light play with the leaves – the shadow dancing on the table and at the edges of this page. The constant ticking in my head, and I stop and listen to the birds and the breeze and the chimes. The noise in my head sometimes no match for reason or what I know to be true. What are we teaching children in our words and actions - moving so fast toward what?

And, I am blessed that you call my name. Blessed to know patience and beauty; the unending love reflected back in knock-knock jokes and spilled wine. The moments that come without a plan or prompting, born in a car ride filled with innocence and grace. God, hope, light - however you name it, in these moments when souls connect over chopping vegetables and preparing pizza dough. The sacred and the holy here – each day in each of us.

The leaves are still dancing across my page in the sparkling morning light and soft breeze, light on my face, calls me home, to myself - to the larger spirit of life. The coffee, the words and the unspoken truth. We all have a chance to shine our light with small acts of kindness each day. It is enough! The light is everywhere – I wonder where will mine shine today?

Friday, June 3, 2016

Start Close In - Reflecting on a Year

For us, the first step to starting anything is to listen to your heart. In a democratic school, a school with rules made by children, without grades, we think you have to start with trusting the children. Guiding their inquiry. It is not as easy as you might think.
David Whyte’s poem Start Close In begins:
“Start close in,
don’t take the second step
or the third,
start with the first thing close in,
the step you don’t want to take.”

When we started we asked for advice from other democratic schools about what to expect on the first day? The reply was, ‘chaos’. And, so we began. When this week ends so will the school year and the school that we opened with anxiety, joy and hope. There was chaos, but not the kind you would imagine.

“Start with the ground you know,
The pale ground beneath your feet,
Your own way of starting the conversation.”

We learned a lot in this year. We learned that coercion doesn’t work and schedules and rules are important. First things, first. Some days we had tears of joy and some days we just had tears.

“Start with your own question,
Give up on other people questions,
Don’t let them smother something simple.”

Can children make rules? Can children be motivated by themselves to learn? Can we trust that children are curious, will learn, develop and become in their own precious time? – with our love and support, become their very best? Is that enough?

“To find another’s voice
Follow your own voice,
Wait until that voice becomes
A private ear listening
To another.”

We don’t know exactly what is next, what the second step, or the third will be. We know deep down that we have to start with the first step.

“Start right now
Take a small step  
You can call your own
Don’t follow someone else’s heroics,
Be humble and focused,
Start close in,
Don’t mistake that other for your own.”

We learned from the chaos, much as we all learn in life. Some things were amazing successes: the morning ritual of signing in and playing, silent reading, daily math instruction, group hikes, Tuesday afternoon cooking, scientific research, geography of the world, and the wildlife that was right outside our door.  We held a Science Fair, a Poetry Slam and went on field trips to extend our learning experience outside of school. Many parents and people interested in our school volunteered their time to offer activities ranging from rocket science to scavenger hunts, tai chi, and art.

Some things were amazingly hard like navigating personal relationships and conflicts. Some of the conversations were extraordinary. Other days were ordinary; but filled with questions, investigations, surprises and a deeper understanding of the interests and needs.

And the poem closes:
Start close in,
Don’t take the second step,
Or the third,
Start with the first thing close in,
The step you don’t want to take.

And as we take the next steps, we will check our hearts, and the wise words of Elizabeth Hainstock, “Never do for a child what s/he is capable of doing for themselves.” 

What we learned this year is that children are capable of a lot!

With gratitude,
Janine, Kelly, Barb and Pat
School at Kirkridge 2016-17