Max is in the 6th grade at Marin Horizon School, which is where both Gabriella and he went last time we were here, two years ago. We already knew we loved the school, as I’ve said in a previous blog. Gabriella was in the Middle School at the time (where Max is now), so we saw that part of the school through the eyes of her experience. Everything we saw and loved then came through that filter. But Gabriella is a different child. Her brain is the kind of brain that schools were designed for. It does as it’s told (mostly), it focusses when it does homework (mostly), it learns in the way that most brains learn (mostly). We didn’t need to find anything deeper in the school than what was on show. And what was on show was an amazing display of understanding, support and compassion. There was nothing that could make it any better.
Roll forward two years.
Max’s brain – bless its little cotton socks – doesn’t work like most people’s brains. It spends hours in the shower contemplating the beauty of i (especially in the form of e to the power of i tau equals wau). It wonders what life would be like as a photon. It ponders the paradoxical proof of 1+1=-1. Or any of a number of things mathematical and scientific that are nothing to do with jumping out of the shower and getting ready for school.
While this beautiful mind will do great things one day (and, indeed, already does), it struggles with the structure of school life right now. There’s a smattering of learning challenges that wrap themselves around his brain and cause a headache when it’s time to remember instructions or sit still and focus for more than two minutes at a time.
So today I had a meeting with four of his teachers at school, including their learning support expert. Prior to the meeting, all the Middle School teachers had discussed Max and compared notes. During the meeting, each person present had the opportunity to say how Max looked in their classrooms (or at home, in my case). Between us, we built a comprehensive picture of Max as a learner and identified a number of strategies to help him get the most out of school and to make his time there a positive experience. It was an enormously effective meeting.
Many schools say they work as a team with the parents, but in my previous experience that’s just been lip-service. Other schools have ultimately thought that they’ve known best and made unilateral decisions. This school really does work as a team with parents. Today, I watched as the fabric of Max was gently teased out, inspected and understood. The ease, logic and intuition with which the teachers conducted the process showed that this wasn’t their first time. I was left in no doubt that this happens behind the scenes with every single child. It was a privilege and an honour to be involved in the process with mine.
I loved the school before, but now I really love it.