Parent Newsletter by Franny Shuker-Haines
Dear Buxton Families,
What is this heat wave we are having? The first week of school felt like October, and now we’re living through the dog days of August. September has always been a liminal month—neither summer nor fall, both in school and out, the start of new beginnings and the beginning of the end of the calendar year. Likewise, transitions are what we’re all about at Buxton these days. New kids becoming acclimated to Buxton, “old” kids getting to know the new kids, everyone starting new classes, teachers getting familiar with the new groups of students they’re teaching.
That newness is important. One of the most surprising things to second-year students at Buxton is how different the school can feel from one year to the next. This is where the Alchemy of Small (as I call it) comes into play. Buxton is small enough that it really does reflect the students within it in any given year. It’s like a spider web that feels the least quiver; its collective antennae can pick up even the subtlest of signals. So, one year can feel pretty raucous and edgy; the next can feel pretty mellow and laidback. When we tell students that they have the power to affect how this place feels and functions, we mean it. And kids who have been here a few years get that and—we hope—are mindful of and responsible with that power.
But there’s another, seemingly contradictory, truth about Buxton: that it stays remarkably the same over time. Alums from ten, thirty, fifty years ago will come to campus and marvel at how much Buxton feels like it felt when they were there. The same energy permeates the campus. The same sense of student empowerment is evident everywhere. They see kids being their usual irreverent, boisterous, questioning, and unfiltered selves and are vividly drawn back to when they were in the announcement line reminding people to clean their brushes in the art room or to be kind to each other’s laundry.
For those of us who teach here, these contradictory truths are what keep life interesting. We have to remind ourselves that issues are never fully dealt with or done (because there is always a new crop of students coming into the school), and that conversations about what the school is and what it is meant to be are always ongoing. But this also means that we get to stay engaged—and engagement is, in many ways, what Buxton is all about.
This past week, we started to engage in a school-wide conversation about language. Some students have been saying things that have upset other students; some not-so-sensitive terminology has been thrown around; some inevitable new-year-nervousness has led some kids to make “jokes” that haven’t gone over very well. So, we’ve been trying to deal with that in several ways. I made a pretty strong statement after lunch one day about how language can be use to both alienate and include people; about how the unique nature of the Buxton community is that it includes all ages and all kinds—and how we need to be mindful of that when we open our mouths; and about how we all deserve to define ourselves for ourselves and not be defined by the language others may use to try to define, stereotype, or pigeonhole us. I also talked about how we also all need to be allowed to make mistakes and live beyond those mistakes.
The statement got a gratifyingly positive response, but we all know that the real work begins after such a statement is made—in the individual conversations we on the faculty have with students, and that the students have with each other. And those convesations have been going really, really well. So: it’s a work in progress, but it’s important work and it’s always in progress.
Okay: onto more newsy stuff! There is a cold going around Buxton, so please do us a favor and, if your children call you to tell you they are feeling lousy, encourage them to see the nurse (she is here from early morning until 11:00 every day). If that is not possible, have them reach out to one of us! We’ve had some kids putting themselves back to bed without telling us and it makes for a confusing start to the day. Thank you!
Our apple trees are bearing a lot of fruit this fall, and we are getting ready to make lots of cider from them apples. In fact, the farming aspect of our lives is getting more and more robust with every year, thanks to the efforts of Matt Kramer, our farm manager. This weekend, Matt and the kids who are most involved in the ag program made dinner for the whole school featuring Buxton-grown ingredients. We are also building food prep and processing into Work Program, with the intention of becoming as farm-to-table as we can. It’s such a rewarding process for the kids, and makes Buxton a more sustainable place to be. Farm on!
Our soccer teams are starting to coalesce. The Barn team traveled to the Pioneer Valley on Friday to play a small charter school there and ended with a 2-2 draw. Today, they take on Hartsbrook School. The Main/Gate team had their first game against BArT, a local charter school, last week, and though they did not win, they really started to come together as a team—a team that includes kids who have never played soccer before in their lives! Can you imagine? (As a bitter refugee from all of the team sports and gym classes of my youth, I am in awe.)
I am hearing great things about a lot of classes from a lot of students, so I will try to give you a more detailed report from that front next week.
In the meantime, I hope you all are enjoying this second summer.
All the best,