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A Message From the Collegium

Dear Waldorf Community,

As you’ve all heard, we will continue with our model of Educating Beyond the Classroom for the remainder of the school year. I was recently reminded that we began this process when there was still snow on the ground. With spring blooms and bright sunshine around us now, can you remember how long ago that was? In some ways, it’s hard to fathom.

Let’s take a moment here, at the midpoint of our spring Educating Beyond the Classroom endeavor, to applaud our collective efforts and the incredible work that is being done on all fronts. As we keep sailing these uncharted waters, we know that these times call on each of us in new ways, and they are surely helping us to develop and strengthen new capacities within ourselves - students, parents, and teachers alike. We’ve all worked hard to support our school, Waldorf education, the students, and one another during these times. I know we will continue to do so in the weeks ahead and am proud to be a part of our community.

In that light, please click here to participate in our spring survey. You may have already seen the link to this survey in an email earlier this week. We appreciate all of the feedback we’ve received so far and want to offer this additional venue as we consider the remaining weeks of the school year. We have geared this survey to our present moment of Educating Beyond the Classroom.

Along with many academic institutions, we are beginning to look at what it means to reopen our physical doors in the fall. Safety and health are of paramount importance and we are continuing to monitor the directives from Governor Cuomo, as well as collaborate with our affiliates at the New York State Association for Independent Schools (NYSAIS) and the Association of Waldorf Schools of North America (AWSNA) for best practices. While we are beginning to plan now, we know that we will always need to adjust to the needs of the present moment. We will continue to keep you updated in the weeks and months ahead.

In the meantime, I have been reflecting on our mission here at Waldorf Saratoga and our collective courage to meet these new times. You can scroll down to access an article I’ve written with some thoughts and reflections.

A couple of weeks ago we had our first virtual Community Sharing event. A huge thank you for the collaborative spirit of everyone here in our Waldorf community! It was truly inspiring! We are looking towards additional ways to bring our community together in the virtual space around Waldorf Education. This past week, the student spotlight really highlighted the benefits of our education. For those who missed either of these events, look to the blog on our website for video clips. In the upcoming month, we are considering ways to honor some of our traditional year-end events. More details will come in the weeks ahead.

Once again, thank you for participating in our survey, for continuing to support the children, our community, and the spirit of Waldorf education here in Saratoga Springs!

Astrea Ravenstar

For the Collegium

Uncharted Waters

The world is changing daily, if not minute by minute. I’ve heard people refer to this new time we’re in as uncharted waters, a catch-phrase to represent the unknown and unfathomable domain we’ve entered with constantly evolving news and situations. In saying, uncharted waters, people are often referring to schools shutting down, distance learning programs up and running, physical distancing, states and countries in quarantine, panic over the pandemic, frustration at the continued isolation, potential economic implications... to name a few.

I've used the expression myself, uncharted waters - I've been thinking about all of the above, the emotional and potential financial toll of what we're facing, as well as the unique opportunities that seem to be coming towards us if we can stay afloat, stay above the stress, feelings of overwhelm, or fear.

Speaking of these uncharted waters, I am also reminded of the sailing trip my 8th grade class and I went on two years ago. While I love the ocean and being out in the salty air, I had never been on a six day sailing trip before.

On our first day, we traveled over eight hours in a fleet of cars to the coast of the Penobscot Bay in Rockland, Maine. When we arrived, we were so excited to find the J&E Riggin, an old two-masted schooner originally employed as an oyster dredger in the 1920s, and besides the dinghy that had a modern motor to tug the ship in case of emergencies, she had an aura of an older time and the potential of grand adventure waiting in her furled sails. The J&E was nestled amongst the other ships in the harbor and seemed small to us at the time amongst all the other towering hulls.

Eagerly, we unloaded our minimal belongings that seemed excessive in the context of our cabins, and met for an orientation with captains John and Annie. Not twenty minutes later, the class and I said our good-byes to the faithful driving team, and were full of excitement as we then ventured into town for dinner and a stroll through the park. At dusk, we finally made our way back to our ship’s berth where we remained docked for the evening.

Everything was new and after a restless night’s sleep, we were ready for adventure. "Bring it on!" the morning seemed to beckon from the moorings creaking with the chill of the early hours and the squeals of the seagulls calling up the sun. The harbor bells tolled and the warm smell of pancakes on the griddle met our noses as the hurried feet of excited 8th graders clambered up the ladders from cramped cabins. There was a flurry of activity as we stuffed ourselves with breakfast, raised the anchor, unfurled the sails, and set our course out of the narrow, ship lined harbor.

Cruising along with the wind guiding our course, the students and I wondered what to do next. There had been so much happening so quickly, that we all wondered, What now?

We oscillated between the galley, our small quarters, and the ship's deck; back to the galley, to the deck, to the galley, to our quarters, back to the deck. Wasn't there something for us to do? A whole half hour had passed! Didn't the captains get the message we were here to work, to do something?!

The excitement of this new adventure and the pace of our normal life underprepared us for life at sea.

Here, we were being asked to be even more aware - aware of our movements for safety's sake, aware of the ever changing weather and the safest course to plot, aware of our collective responsibilities that would help us make it through the week - food preparation and cooking, conserving hot water, cleaning and tidying, moving ropes, changing sails, and even techniques to properly flush the "head.” This heightened awareness and attention to detail meant we also had to S L O W down.

It took a full 24 - 48 hours for us to adjust to this new rhythm and feel comfortable working in new and different ways while sometimes adjusting to “not doing.” We had to adjust, life was different out there on the open water; for us, the uncharted waters.

There was nowhere for us to go. Even while movement was happening all around us, and while we were actively working and engaged in life at sea, we could have seen it as being "stuck" with “danger” lurking every few feet. Stuck with each other, with small quarters, with ever-changing circumstances that we did not ask for or anticipate (albeit in this situation, I had booked the trip!)

Instead we adapted, we slowed down, played card games, shared riddles, connected in new ways, taught each other new skills, learned that we were all teachers and all students. The girls plucked the boys' eyebrows (with consent, of course) and everyone faced the bowsprit challenge (think - Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet, but standing on ropes over open water ... and minus the romance!) Some of us even took the polar bear plunge in Northern Maine waters - in May.

We learned that we had to find a new way of being on this journey, and that courage was required.

Our old ways of being simply wouldn't work in these new circumstances. Life at sea is very different from life on land no matter how you look at it, whether you are in a small dinghy or a large ship. It. Is. Different.

In many ways, I think of the circumstances we face today with Covid-19 like the experience of life at sea. A new pace is required, the old rhythms and ways simply cannot work here. And while each family has to figure out the best course to plot for themselves, we are also all in this together. We could see ourselves as "stuck", but we can also see this as a continued opportunity to slow down and connect with what is really important.

By the end of our sailing adventure, that initially small-seeming old oyster dredger became wide and expansive. It had taken us to many new places in the outer world and within ourselves. It had become a vessel for change and transformation.

This time we’re in now will change us too; and while we may not always like change, these days will help us become more than we ever thought possible. Every day takes courage. Courage to reach out and connect, to ask for help, to go to the front lines, to be essential, to be furloughed, to be restless, to venture to the grocery store; and perhaps most importantly, to face ourselves.

If there’s one thing I know about our Waldorf community, it is that we are courageous. We wouldn’t dare to choose this unique path for our children and our families if we didn’t have the courage to face challenges in the external world as well as within ourselves. We’ve seen the students, parents, and teachers all adapt to this new situation, transforming our education to new platforms and instruction modalities, and continuing to adjust as we go. While we still have some weeks ahead of us Educating Beyond the Classroom, I know that like many of you, I am grateful for this community and the uncharted waters we are all sailing on - together.

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