Archive - Jun 9, 2012
Friday evening, the current Multi Aged Group, or MAG, students gathered around the fourth year teacher who was holding the microphone from the podium set up on the North Playground at Beecher Road School. They belted out the words to Puff the Magic Dragon. "Dragons live forever, but not so little boys…"
They had gathered, along with parents, teachers and 'ancestors', those who were in the MAG program over the years, to celebrate twenty years of the MAG program. I looked around me at these ancestors. Standing not far from me were some 'hedgehogs', members of MAG from from 1994 through 1998. One of the first tasks of MAG students in their first year, was to work together through compromise and consensus to come up with a name for their base group of students who started that year. Those who started in 1994 were hedgehogs.
Now, these hedgehogs, had graduated from college, but they still sang along gleefully, not only to Puff the Magic Dragon, but to other songs, silly songs about bed bugs and Frosty the Pickle. Yes, dragons live forever, but in successful educational programs, so do little boys.
Many years ago, in what seemed like a different lifetime, I was an information technology executive for a hedge fund in Stamford. My daughters went to a private school which always talked about fostering a life long love of learning. It was a great school, and I never thought that I would be able to find a program that competed with it, especially not in a public school. Yet here I was, as my youngest daughter prepared to complete her final year of MAG, watching the fruits of a program that far exceeds the best of many private schools.
What has made the program so successful? Perhaps some of it comes from learning to respect the people around you, from recognizing that the adult teachers, the fourth year teachers and the first year teachers, all have something valuable to offer. Perhaps some of it comes from fostering community, both within the classroom, and beyond; drawing in family members and community members to liven up the classroom. Perhaps some of it comes from recognizing that what matters is not the color of the students skin, their scores on the CMTs or the size of their parents bank accounts, but the content of their character.
Yes, dragons live forever. They are not all friendly dragons like Puff. They are the dragons of bigotry and oppression, of apathy and ignorance. They are the beliefs that size of bank accounts or scores on standardized tests count for more than the ability to respect the people around us and live in community, communities that help everyone. We need to continue to fight these dragons.
Little boys don't have to give up the ability to enjoy life, to love school, and to work together for a better world. Indeed, it are these sort of characteristics that help students be successful and have helped build the wonderful country we now live in. It is these characteristics that allow recently college graduates to sing along gleefully with six year olds in their first year of MAG silly songs about pickles and bed bugs.
The news remains filled with stories about schools cutting back funding, or using police dogs to treat even the best students like suspected criminals. No, those program aren't working, and perhaps some of the problem is that they don't start off by getting everyone to sit down nicely in a circle, respectfully listen to one another, and work together through consensus and compromise to build a better world.
What can I do to help? Perhaps through running for State Representative, I can share some of this respect for others and love of learning around Woodbridge, Orange and Bethany, and even up in Hartford. Please, come sit in my circle.
(Cross posted to the Bethwood Patch, with pictures on Flickr)