Wednesday, May 25, 2011

class reunion (lyn)

Before going to Horace Mann, Alexander went to one of the best public elementary schools in Manhattan.  The school he was actually zoned for was a couple of blocks away.  It was a school that allowed no flexibility in its rules.

Alexander’s birthday is in mid-November 1992, and the cutoff date for beginning Kindergarten is December 31.  That means that Alexander would have started Kindergarten at age 4 and would be among the youngest students in his class.  I felt he needed another year of private Nursery school before he was sent out into the less-nurturing public school system.  I set up a meeting with the principal of the school to which Alexander was zoned.  She was unbending.  Rules are rules and he would have to start at age 4.

Manhattan New School (MNS), then only six years old, had already earned a reputation for its creative approach to teaching, its flexibility, and its charismatic founder and principal, Shelley Harwayne.  

Shelley agreed to meet with Alexander and me.  As we sat and talked, Shelley observed Alexander at play.  Fortunately for us, he passed her test.  “Yes, “ she agreed, “he is sufficiently immature to warrant starting school next year at age 5, instead of now.  Have him spend another year in pre-school and then he’ll come to us.”  What a great decision that turned out to be.

Alexander loved MNS, where teachers are known by their first names.  Where correct spelling is not required (until the older grades).  Where no grades and no tests exist.  And where creative expression is encouraged and rewarded.  The parents were involved in the school and a real sense of community was fostered.  Alexander felt safe and happy at MNS.   He graduated in 2004, and tonight is a reunion for his class.  

We walk the few blocks to the school, and already it's reminiscent of a time so long ago.   The basement of the school, where the reunion is being held, looks unchanged, as do the many familiar adult faces.  But the kids.  Little cherub faces have morphed into beautifully drawn adults.  The boys now shave and the girls have sprouted breasts.  But still, everyone is recognizable.

We immediately see Alexander’s second grade (and favorite) teacher, Karen, who later became principal. In fifth grade, Alexander was made principal for the day.  Here he is with Karen then, 

and Karen now.

The food tonight is standard fare Dominos pizza, chips, and cookies.  I eat too much of the pizza and find it surprisingly good.  It brings back good memories of so many events at this school.

Much to Alexander’s extreme dissatisfaction, I bring my camera. Only my son seems to mind my taking pictures.  His good friend Eli corrals Alexander and their mutual friend Matthew to pose.  It was easier to grab their photos when they graduated in 2004 than it is tonight.

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