Parent Newsletter by Franny Shuker-Haines – Oct 12
Dear Buxton Families,
Well, it happened. I got off my rhythm and now this newsletter is massively overdue! But, like a typical high-school student, I am full of good excuses.
On Monday, October 2, we hosted a consultant tour! Every year, we partner with three other Berkshire-area schools to bring educational consultants and secondary-placement officers (from potential feeder schools) to our campuses. It gives them a chance to see Buxton in action, meet our students, talk with our faculty, and find out more about the facts and flavor of our school. This three-day tour started with a dinner for all of the consultants at Eat on North in Pittsfield (great food! highly recommend!). During the meal, each host got a chance to talk about what made their school unique. (For Buxton: everything.)
The next morning, the consultants came to campus bright and early for breakfast with students and faculty, then a tour of the campus (with classroom visits), followed by a brief performance by some of our African drum and dance students, followed by a master class with Kathleen Oliver, where all of the consultants learned how to do a “stick piece,” complete with movement, on the drums. They LOVED this! Afterwards, we all walked up the hill on a glorious fall day and finished with a Q&A session with students and teachers. The students were so beautifully articulate, so smart and fresh-faced and idealistic—it was heartening, impressive, and inspiring. One of the best moments came when one of the consultants asked the kids a hypothetical: What if a rich donor gave Buxton a huge gift—like $30 million (I wish!)—what did they think the school needed, what did they think the school should spend it on? There was a longish pause as the students thought about this, and then someone said, “More scholarships. I hate the idea that there are students who might love or benefit from the school who can’t come because of money.” Nods all around from all the other students. What an amazing response!
Then, after another pause, another student said, “…and maybe a swimming pool!” Ha!
We have gotten such amazing feedback from the tour. The consultants loved Buxton, mainly because they were blown away by our students—your students, your children. We’re spoiled here by these kids; we forget that they are unusually aware, alive, and articulate, that they are living an introspective life that is, perhaps paradoxically, also lived out loud. Sigh. I feel so proud.
On Monday, October 9, we hosted an Open House. Many of you reading this newsletter attended such an event before you committed to Buxton, so you know they are also lovely, lively experiences. This year, the visiting students were particularly brave and inquisitive during the Q&A session, which was so great to see! They were already entering in the Buxton ethos, even on their first visit.
Buxton is a fast train running.
At lunch the other day, we were talking about how we have only been here about four weeks but that it feels like much, much longer—in a good way! The new kids don’t feel so new; room change is upon us (this Friday!); classes are in full-swing; we have had numerous soccer games; we even have a Math Team (thanks to our new math teacher Micah), which has had several practices and has already won its first match! (Sadly, they are about to go up against Roxbury Latin, which has more students on its math team than we have in the entire junior and senior classes combined. We remain hopeful but are preparing ourselves for, well, not a victory.)
Next week is Home Weekend, and by now you should have all received instructions from our amazingly organized School Coordinator, Lindsey. Do try to get back to her as soon as possible with your child’s travel info and home weekend plans.
Speaking of weekends, though, I want to remind people about how we view weekends here at Buxton. We do not have a typical “open weekend” policy. We expect that all of our kids will be here on all of the weekends. This is both because we want them to participate in Work Program, to help out with Kitchen Crew, and to be part of Rec Committee, but it is also because we see weekends as a really important part of the educational project here. Part of the point of weekends is so students can learn what to do with their time and their boredom. Many kids are coming from hyper-scheduled lives; they are also drenched in entertainment possibilities through their phones and laptops at all times. Is this good for them? I’m not sure.
There is a really interesting New York Times article on the rise in anxiety among this generation. You can read it here. But one of the theories about this rise is that kids do not have enough opportunities to try and fail on their own in low-risk, spontaneous ways. The pick-up stickball games (of some generation’s mythical youth—not mine…what is stickball, anyway?) do not exist anymore. I used to ride my bike all around town for hours after school as a kid, and when I fell off and skinned my knee (or hit my head, as I did one time and was quite impressed by how much head wounds bleed!), I had to figure out how to deal with it till I got myself home. I’m sure many of you have similar stories. But today’s kids, by and large, haven’t had that experience. So, they don’t know how to handle the anxiety of figuring out what to do, getting it going, and having it work or not work.
Well, that is, in part, what Buxton weekends are designed for. Kids organize stuff for other kids to do. For several years, a student hosted a weekly VHS Club, where students watched truly sub-par videos on an old CRT TV. Sometimes, kids host dance parties or open mics. Sometimes kids organize chess tournaments or thrift-store trips. As pedestrian as these activities sound, it is essential for kids’ growth to do this kind of proactive thinking, organizing, and self-entertaining. But, if we have lots of kids leaving on the weekends to do other stuff at home, then the experiment starts to fail. That sense that there is always something better somewhere else starts to bleed into this place and disempowers and disheartens the people here. The Fear of Missing Out is a big one with this generation (seriously, there’s an abbrev—FoMO—and a Wikipedia article on it!). We’d like to keep things here on the weekend so no one is missing out on anything!
What this means for families is that we would love for you to restrict these home visits to really significant family events (a grandparent’s landmark birthday, a wedding, etc.) and let some of the other, smaller events go (a friend’s birthday, a dance at a former school, etc.). As it is, students get a lot of release time from Buxton, so we guard jealously the time we DO have with these remarkable kids.
More next week, hopefully back on schedule!
All the best,