Waverly Parents on Waverly: Part Three of an Occasional Series

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All eleventh graders at Waverly take a This I Believe class, intended to develop mind­ful­ness and self-aware­ness while also helping them to foster their writing and public speak­ing skills. I was invited to partic­i­pate by compos­ing and reading my own This I Believe essay with the class. Feeling grate­ful for this place, I am happy to share what I believe with you.

When I was in the ninth grade, I was assigned a five-para­graph essay about Safety in the Home.” I remem­ber being some­what dumb­founded that anyone would want to read thirty plus essays on why we shouldn’t plug a fan in next to the bathtub. There wasn’t a discus­sion, an article, or anything to proceed or follow the assign­ment. I wrote the essay. I got a B.” I completed dozens of assign­ments such as this during my years in high school. Math prob­lems were endured, essays were written, histor­i­cal facts memo­rized. I don’t remem­ber a single class discus­sion or indi­vid­ual conver­sa­tion with any teacher about how I was doing in their class. I remem­ber getting grades and feeling vaguely disap­pointed when my grades mirrored my lack of inspi­ra­tion. I devel­oped my writing skills during my high school career through notes I wrote during class to friends. In some classes, I was able to cover two full note­book pages front and back. I would fold them into tight squares, to be passed along between classes, the fruit of a fifty-minute instruc­tional period. These missives, devel­oped over class periods when only the teacher talked, held all my thinking.

My own chil­dren began their educa­tion in a small, parent-partic­i­pa­tion nursery school. The teach­ers were caring profes­sion­als with profound appre­ci­a­tion for play – play as the work of chil­dren. In this place, my chil­dren constructed their own learn­ing. It was here that they first made play dough, prepared snacks for their class­mates, and conducted science exper­i­ments in sand. They fed the snake, held the bunny, and watched baby chicks hatch from eggs. I wondered why this kind of educa­tion, where my chil­dren were engaged in discov­ery, had to end in preschool? I began to search for a differ­ent kind of school, and I found Waverly.

The brochure I received in the mail invited me to Imagine a school, where kids learn to think, to ques­tion, to reason, and to explore, where they develop as unique indi­vid­u­als, and where teach­ers guide, mentor, support and challenge.”

Never, at any point in my school expe­ri­ence did I find teach­ers who were guides or mentors. The grades I received defined my instruc­tors’ percep­tions of me, and often of myself. I was intrigued by the possi­bil­ity of a school valuing the impor­tance of students’ engage­ment in their learn­ing, and invited to play a more active role. I felt hopeful that my chil­dren could be educated in an envi­ron­ment where their learn­ing would not be reduced to a letter.

It has been seven years since I first held that brochure in my hand. On the way to and from Waverly every day, my three chil­dren share their enthu­si­asm for their daily discov­er­ies, their conver­sa­tions with their teach­ers and their friends. They share their curios­ity about the world, the stories they are writing and the insights of their class­mates and teach­ers. They ask endless ques­tions and sprint for the play­ground, often forget­ting to shut the car door. From my office at the elemen­tary school, I can hear them singing in the commu­nity room, and feel grate­ful I found this place. People ask me every day about our school, and I can tell them with certainty, I believe in Waverly.

Jennifer Dakan
2nd, 4th, and 8th Grade Parent