I was so excited to start this school year for so many reasons, but one that kept coming into my thinking as I was planning the first few days of school was that so many of the Opal 4 students were with me in Opal 3 last year. I was dreaming that we would be starting in such a different place than a typical group of students in a new classroom with a new teacher, and that we could, in some ways, “hit the ground running.”
What did my students teach me this week?
The pedagogy of the Opal School is sometimes called, “A Pedagogy of Listening.” We learn within many large and small reciprocal dialogues that carry, nurture, inspire and grow our thinking over the course of the year.
In my confidence in the connectedness that our learning community already shares, I forgot that not only were we were entering a whole new place and time in our journey, but that we needed to take time to connect and reconnect – to each other, to our spaces, to our materials, and to the parts of our brains that remember and treasure how we are when we are together.
Thankfully, I have my students to remind me how important these times are.
On Wednesday we went on a hike in the Arboretum to visit some places that hold memories for us, to reconnect to the natural world that is so much a part of our learning environment. I pictured us covering miles in the Arboretum in the two hours we had to hike and jotting quick notes in our field journals. When we got to our first stop, the lower meadow just across the driveway from school, the children showed me what it really means to connect and reconnect.
They climbed trees to recall quiet moments alone or with friends.
They explored hidden spaces where they had created villages, homes and colonial plantations and reminisced about the stories that lived there.
They found places that reminded them of other memories they had and took the time to relive and capture them.
At the second stop of the hike, the children discovered a tree that most of Opal 4 could be in at one time. It was here that I started to see the beginnings of a bridge being built – from the memories that connected us to each other and to the environment in the past to the ones that we will create that will carry us into this year of learning together.
When Carlina Rinaldi explains “some meanings of listening,” she starts with this one:
Listening should be sensitive to the patterns that connect us to others. Our understanding and own being are a small part of a broader, integrated knowledge that holds the universe together.
-Carlina Rinaldi, A Pedagogy of Listening, 2001
As we make time for those connections and re-connections, we will continue to create our learning community, and the promise of our year’s journey, together.