Thursday, September 10, 2015

What Jody Knew

One of my favorite things to do in the new school year is to meet with new families. I love it because they tell stories about how their children, after only a couple weeks as High Meadows students, are thriving like never before.

They're blossoming.
The light is back on in their eyes.
Mondays are anticipated with excitement instead of dread.
When sick, they pretend to be well so they can go to school.

So what's behind all this joy? High Meadows Co-Founder Jody Holden was the original magician, and her magic is as strong and true today as it was in 1973. What did Jody know that makes kids thrive at High Meadows? The truths are simple and timeless.

She knew that relationships between students and teachers should be based on trust and respect. Ever the advocate for putting children first, Jody still reminds me (and the Board--she is a lifetime trustee) that we should follow children, taking our cues from them to show us how we can best help them learn. We trust that children are capable of learning for the sake of learning, and when we don't sit them in rows and talk at them all day, they will take ownership of their learning and enthusiastically strive to meet the goals we set for them. Jody also knew that children are far more capable than most grown-ups think. Give them fallen sticks and branches, they will build forts--or the exoskeleton of a rocket (true story--ask a third grader!).

Jody knew that being outdoors is good for children. Room to run with grass and dirt underfoot. Fresh air to breathe. And nature's wondrous beauty to behold. Jody knew that a place like the 42-acre utopia that is our campus would inspire kids to use all of their senses to help them understand the world around them.

She knew that play is at the heart of learning. She knew that a child's creativity is inspired by simply letting them be. And play does not need to be guided by plastic toys that suggest a specific function; a store-bought toy rocket does less for a child's creativity than a fallen branch that becomes an imaginary rocket. Jody knew that play is a perfect way for kids to learn how to communicate with each other, to work together, to solve problems.

Of course, Jody knows a lot more than the above; she holds deep knowledge of the research behind the best practices in learning. But it's her intuition that has been especially powerful in driving High Meadows as it has grown into the place it is today.