Thursday, March 5, 2015

"The High Meadows Way"--What Exactly Is It?

"We have our own unique way of doing things at High Meadows: We call it 'The High Meadows Way'." 

When I began as head of High Meadows almost five years ago, I heard variations of this statement multiple times from many different people. So I began the journey of understanding just what the "way" really is. I'm still on that journey, and here are some things I have learned:

High Meadows is a progressive school. As such, we have always been about
    • encouraging students to ask questions, 
    • valuing unstructured play time, 
    • organizing classes in a multiage setting, 
    • integrating the arts and connections into all areas of our program, 
    • evoking in students curiosity and love of learning for its own sake, 
    • promoting social justice, human dignity and social-emotional growth,
    • engendering in students a deep appreciation of and sense of responsibility for nature, and
    • trusting that children are capable of being more than the world often allows.
These practices are just some examples of how we live our mission and guiding principles--the guideposts for everything we do.

I've also learned another important lesson: The High Meadows Way is not a wholesale adherence to a fixed set of practices and traditions. Such a belief would be short-sighted and inflexible. Instead, The High Meadows Way is about exploring, examining, innovating, and assessing life in such a way that our actions continue to grow and evolve in service to our students and our community.

One more lesson learned: Our mission and guiding principles are well balanced between being specific directives and open-ended ideals. As with anything open-ended, responsible interpretation is necessary to make those words come to life. Just as the U.S. Supreme Court interprets the broad scope of the Constitution, so does a faculty, administration, parents and students interpret a school's mission. And, as with a Supreme Court decision, interpretations vary widely. The true spirit of the High Meadows Way is to foster conversation and fearless communication about our mission and principles and the differences of interpretation we may hold. 

Ultimately, The High Meadows Way is a path in the woods. It goes on and on and sometimes diverges, but it ultimately leads toward the same place--a place where children and adults grow ever closer to understanding themselves and each other.