by Cassi Clausen, staff member and co-founder of The Open School
February 14, 2017
It was Monday morning, and thus time for our weekly staff meeting. I and the other two staff members present took our seats in the courtyard — far enough away from the hustle and bustle of school that we wouldn’t be overheard or disrupted, but close enough that we could keep a pulse on the school and be available in case of emergency.
Of course, the students often have a different definition of “emergency” than we do. Today, 7-year-old Nick urgently needed to heat up the chicken nuggets in his lunch. He couldn’t go into the kitchen to microwave them because he wasn’t kitchen-certified or microwave-certified.
“Sorry, we’re in a staff meeting,” I told him. “We can’t help you right now.”
Nick didn’t go away. He persisted. The chicken nuggets were important, and he was helpless to solve his own problem.
“You know, staff members aren’t the only ones with kitchen certification,” I informed him. “Check the certification bulletin board.”
With that, Nick went over to the bulletin board, and found that 10-year-old Alexa was certified for both kitchen and microwave. This means that she has proven to the Certification Committee that she can be trusted to be in the kitchen and to use the microwave without hurting herself, damaging equipment, or wasting materials. Alexa agreed to supervise Nick while he used the microwave, and a few minutes later, he was rewarded with some lovely warm chicken nuggets.
I tell this seemingly mundane story for a very specific reason. This illustrates the three core values of The Open School, as well as the benefits of an age-mixed environment.
Nick was able to solve his problem without relying on adults to solve it for him.
Alexa took responsibility for helping Nick solve his problem, and Nick took responsibility for finding a solution.
Alexa had the ability to help Nick and had the knowledge to teach him, and she gladly shared these things with him.
At The Open School, everyday situations become opportunities to practice the three essential values. Our staff are intentional about preserving an environment where independence, responsibility, and compassion are grown organically and intrinsically.