has been the relationship between "stability" and "disturbance" in the creation and/or maintenance of high quality ecosystems. Or to put it bluntly:
orchids won't grow on construction sites,
or front lawns,
or Forest Preserves that have been disturbed.
I say "orchids" to signify rare,
very conservative organisms
that require a very stable community to survive.
That is also why you could almost certainly guarantee
what species of plants and animals will inhabit an abandoned construction site,
from Boston to LA: tall goldenrod, canada thistle, bur dock, etc.
They are important weedy species that specialize in
covering the ground,
sealing the wound.
They create a scab to protect the earth.
Given time (alot), stability, and an outside seed source,
they would eventually evolve into another of earth's masterpieces.
This relentless disturbance is our challenge in ecology and restoration
because the vast majority of land around us (95+%?)
is in a constant state of disturbance and instability (agricultural land, parks, gardens, wayside, etc. )
I thought about this when I was reflecting on the fact that our school,
Waters, has had an unprecedented period of stability.
Since 1992, our administration and LSC,
our University and civic partners,
have shared a common vision of progressive education:
learning as a social task,
fed by curiosity,
nurtured by teacher/coaches,
made joyous (or at times tortuous) by collaborations, teams and partners;
learning that included families in the adventure of education through shared experiences and efforts;
learning that engaged the world and welcomed the world into the school,
and that fearlessly led our students back into that world to experience and effect it;
learning that integrated the disciplines
and in so doing activated the many components of human capacity,
and shared strengths to go farther than anyone could go alone;
learning that valued diverse learning styles,
indispensable parts of a real community.
Waters is so unique,
to have been able to sustain this vision through a whole era during which it became politically demonized.
We are living though our 2nd decade(!) of a ferocious push,
nationally and locally,
to judge education and our schools reductively,
through high stakes,
that punishes good teaching and educational leadership
by seeking to rank our children and schools,
and teachers and administrators
on a flawed and ugly scale.
We have been able to weather the relentless pressure to "score higher"
to sacrifice the "whole child",
the whole miraculous suite of talents and wonders that is each of our students.
It has not been easy.
We have faced crisis several times in the past
that could have thrown our carefully crafted,
unique educational offering
into the chaos and tumult of crisis, disturbance and regression.
The first line of defense at Waters has been our LSC and parent community.
Our local school council is the one independent center of local power and decision making
not controlled by Central office or the Federal Government.
It can see ,
on the ground,
what does not show up in statistical abstracts used to judge,
punish and harass schools to be "accountable".
I worked at the Center for City schools for 5 years, at 50+ schools,
trying to help strengthen the pedagogical understanding in the parent community
to help support these schools' courageous attempts
to move towards a more human method of education.
Later, as a mentor for CPS schools attempting to compost lunchroom waste,
I got to visit know another 60+ schools,
and to meet fabulous teachers and administrators,
willing to give of themselves to make education more real,
rich and engaging.
The most awful thing I witnessed during these years,
was turmoil in an LSC,
conflict that resulted in the loss of a progressive administrator,
always followed by the loss of the best teachers,
in favor of the promise of higher grades on standardized tests.
The neglected garden,
the abandoned compost bins,
the closed down arts program,
the end of field outings...
It is the public education allegory of a natural system in collapse,
from complexity to paucity,
from orchids, and otters, and checkerspot butterflies,
to ragweed, Canada thistle, rats and roaches.
(We actually teach this phenomenon in 5th grade Mighty Acorns).
All this to say that,
We have built something very beautiful,
powerful and resilient,
under a lot of adverse pressure.
Please hold it close and dear.
If you would like to talk to me more about the upcoming
LSC decision regarding renewing the Prinicipal's contract,
please feel free to write. call, or grab me in the hall,
I have had a picture book sitting in my file cabinet for the past 15-16 years.
It is a 16 page collage.
The story is about a beautiful place of flowers and sweet smells and bird songs.
It was invaded by Noise, of all type.
Quiet seeks help from trees, butterflies, orchids, even thunder
to try to silence Noise.
But .... I can't tell the ending.
I am determined to publish this book this year,
and use part of the returns to fund the ecology program at Waters.
I am looking for a graphic arts professional with access to high quality equipment to
digitize the originals and prepare them for publication.
I have met with a publisher / printing company for preliminary conversations about the first run.
Is there anyone in our community, with access to technology, that would be willing to take a a look at this project? Most is camera ready.
I hope the book will be popular enough to raise substantial funds for our school.
Please let me know.