I mismanaged my time in the morning making me late to Lakeside School. When I got there, I tried to conceal my nervousness about the day. After all, I wasn’t quite sure what was expected of me and my self esteem was plummeting when I saw so many people already happily performing tasks. It helped calm me down when the kindergarten teacher saw me and quickly checked on me, asking me what I knew about a project. I was put at ease by his gentle approach and demeanor and spoke honestly, saying I really didn’t know much. With an understanding nod, he ambled off and I walked towards the classroom. Once there, I checked out the day’s scheduled tasks on the board and saw something I knew I’d be good at! My confidence soared. A nearby peer was feeling the same way about the same task. Things were looking up. The Grades teacher saw our excitement and set us to work. We spent the rest of the morning excelling at this singular task, strengthening our social understanding of each other and bettering our surroundings at the same time.
This is not a ghost written account of a student’s experience at our wonderful Waldorf school, although it could be. Instead it is my true recollection of our semi-annual Parent Work Day at Lakeside this fall.
En masse, our parent pillar is something to behold. Wherever its motivation comes from, this essential third of the Waldorf governance model can move mountains when necessary. But on this day, we were not leaders, we were instead led by the classroom leaders. What better way to lead us than the way they lead their students?
When Gregg, the kindergarten teacher, sidled over to me and talked about the problems with the gutter, his conversation had secondary motives unknown to me at the time. He was assessing my understanding of a problem. That assessment showed him that I was not the right man for that job. Rather than try and corral me and give me unwanted direction, he allowed me to find my literal own path, walking away once he knew that I couldn’t be of service in that particular place. I found my way to the large chalkboard, outlining the daunting list of the day’s tasks. None of my skills were going to help me with the specialized manual labor portion of the list. But “Put in storm windows” seemed about my speed. Unfortunately, I didn’t know where to begin. Enter Kathleen, Lakeside’s elementary teacher. Her 6th sense as a teacher is to see both what a student has to contribute and what that student needs to further their current offerings. In this case, Kathleen knew I needed some basic information to start this task and I would need a partner. In what appeared an effortless maneuver, she quickly recruited a partner for me (thanks Matt!), explained where the storm windows were and how they were cataloged. I was just like a student, swept up in the magic of possibility, with only a small push from the teacher. Of course, I realized later that Kathleen’s approach was anything but serendipitous. She had surmised that I needed direction, I needed help and I needed motivation. Thus, her seemingly laissez faire approach towards getting us started. Her comfort put us at ease about this task, just as it would a student stepping out of their comfort with addition and using that skill to launch into multiplication. Matt and I jumped right into the unknown because of how it was introduced to us.
In my eight years as a parent at Lakeside, I have never seen so many parents participate in a parent work day. And I’ve never felt so proud about such a small contribution to our community’s greater good. All day, I marveled at the smiles, the fun and the camaraderie we showed while working hard; just another small insight into why our kids love going to school everyday at Lakeside. The staff knows how to make work fun.