Parent Newsletter by Franny Shuker-Haines
Dear Buxton Families,
We made it! We made it through our first week of classes and we have now received everyone’s second COVID-test results, and we are all negative! This is such good and reassuring news, but we know that it is paramount that we continue to follow all safety precautions. The students have been so, so good about doing this: wearing their masks, staying an appropriate distance apart, being cheerful when asked to adjust where they are sitting or standing, keeping each other accountable. It says a lot about how much the students value being here that they are adjusting so quickly to a very abnormal new normal.
The one area we are still working on is making sure every student fills out their daily health screener before going to class. Teachers are telling students that the completed screener is, essentially, their ticket into the classroom. Lindsey is also letting us know each morning who hasn’t filled in their screener yet, and advisors are reaching out to their advisees to remind them to do this important daily chore. It’s going to take some time to get this habit ingrained, but we’re getting there.
(Meanwhile, if you want a good laugh about all of this, here’s an article from The Onion that has Buxton written all over it!)
It is amazing how much we are doing outside: meals, classes, activities, even chorus! On opening weekend, we had a movie outside, complete with popcorn machine!
Meals under the tent have been lively and lovely. Roommates sit together at one end of a table, and either faculty members or another set of roommates sit at the other.
The afternoons have been filled with activities, from games of croquet on the senior lawn with Timothy, to 5K runs with John, to trail-walking with Linda, to volleyball with Gabe, to African Drum and Dance with Kathleen. And, naturally, there is soccer with Derek. I am so impressed with how inventive the faculty is in figuring out how to offer these activities safely.
As for academics, we have moved pretty seamlessly into classes. I’m going to try to highlight a different area each week, and I’ll start with a subject dear to my heart: English.
The freshpeople (or “first years” as we are increasingly calling them) are working with returning faculty member Kevin Reilly. He is starting out by having the students create, essentially, an anthropological guidebook to Buxton. What a cool way to get to know the school and to start doing some writing right away!
The sophomore class is taking English with our poet-in-residence, Lizzy Beck. Here’s her description of how they are starting out: “We began with a short story by Jenny Zhang and are starting Their Eyes Were Watching God this weekend. On day one I gave them all small houseplants as a housewarming gift and a reminder to nourish their souls! Student expert advice included researching your plant for info about sun and water, how to cut off dead parts, how to let it grow in its pot, and why it’s good to sing to your plant.”
Timothy and the junior class are focusing on the practice of close textual reading by studying different versions of the same story, in this case “Little Red Riding Hood”: the classic versions by Perrault and the Grimms Brothers, as well as radical rewritings by Angela Carter, the NRA (!!), Looney Toons, the Sondheim musical Into the Woods, and more.
The seniors are in two sections, one with former teaching fellow and now full-fledged teacher Nyasha Franklin, one with Kevin Reilly. Nyasha’s class is starting with There There, by Tommy Orange, a relatively new (and spectacularly well reviewed!) novel about Native American experience. (It’s been on my list for over a year now, so maybe I’ll try to read along with the seniors.) Kevin’s class will be looking at the work of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, one of the great authors of the twentieth-century.
We have been blessed with good weather to go along with our collective high spirits. I already see new students blending in beautifully with the returning kids, which warms my heart. That said, I know we have had some bouts of homesickness here and there—which is both inevitable and understandable. If you child is feeling wobbly, please reach out to their advisor or anyone else on the faculty. And, once we know our Buxton Bubble is solid and secure, we can start to set up times for parents to come visit — outdoors, with masks, taking all the precautions. But, as we are already discovering, it doesn’t take that long to get used to living life this way, and it hasn’t diminished our joy in playing, learning, creating, and being together.
Until next time,