Parent Newsletter by Franny Shuker-Haines

Dear Buxton Families,

Greetings from Williamstown! As I write this, most of the students are away for the winter Home Weekend, but we have a nice crowd of about 16 kids here with us, staying warm in the Billiard Room and/or going on various excursions with those of us who are “on” for the weekend. Yesterday, there was a trip to see a Brazilian dance troupe in Schenectady, a trip to the “fancy” mall in Albany, and a trip to the extensive Asian Market, also in Albany. Today, we may be heading to Northampton and/or to thrift stores, and tonight Timothy and I are making lasagna for everyone, and then sponsoring a top-secret movie. For details, you can ask the students who stayed for the weekend!

But speaking of shopping trips, I did want to get a word in to you parent types about clothing for the upcoming Urban Intensive Trip. As you know, this is not a typical tourist trip. The students have already started to meet in their project groups, and each group will be acting as, essentially, a band of investigative journalists trying to find out as much about their topic in the week we are in Chicago as they can. That means they are currently setting up meetings with experts and activists, government officials and leaders of nonprofit organizations—anyone who can shed light on homelessness, say, or the architectural history of the city, or the current state of the public schools, or the environmental challenges facing Chicago, and so on.

So, the kids will be in and out of offices and other workspaces all day every day, and it is very important that they dress sharply and respectfully throughout. That means: no jeans (if at all possible), no ripped or stained clothing, nothing too revealing. Dress shirts for boys would be great. Even a blazer wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. (I am a fan of the dress shirt-nice sweater combo myself.) Dresses, skirts, nice pants are all fine for girls. They will also be walking a lot, so comfortable shoes that also look nice are a real plus. (We would prefer that they not wear sneakers.)

The kids know all of this: the students on Trip Committee, who help plan and run the Urban Intensive, did a spectacular fashion show of dos and don’ts on Wednesday. And we will take the kids here at the school this weekend to Target and some thrift stores to help them complete their wardrobes. So: if you have the margins to do something similar with your kids this weekend, that would be great!

The rest of the plans for Chicago are shaping up. We have play sites set up for our three performances (if anyone wants that info, let me know!). Dinner plans for each of the nights are underway. The students are deeply involved in “making envelopes,” a highly ritualized and time-consuming project (that some of us feel may be out of control!!) that consists of decorating a small daily envelope (and an extra for “free night out”) for each person in the school that is given out in the morning with that day’s information and supplies (so: 99 people x 9 envelopes = 891!!). Each of these 891 envelopes is lovingly personalized with collages and stickers and drawings and notes . . . AND THEN, a big envelope is made for each person to put maps and other information in. It’s insane! But, I walked into my own daughter’s room one day last year and found that she had strung a small clothesline across her window with all of her envelopes lovingly hung across it, and I melted. They’re actually so cool and affectionate and creative and great. I guess I need to stop my grousing.

There is more to report, but I want to get this out to you today. I will send another letter next week with all of the final information about the Urban Intensive so that you will be fully informed and ready for a vicarious adventure.

Until then!


Franny Shuker-Haines



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