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Much to Love About a Small Town School with Big Lumberjack Heart

Just a couple of young women skiing at the Kanc Recreation Area. Sydney is a junior, and she is sharing her love of ski racing with fourth graders Greta and Penelope. Teacher and Coach Aaron Loukes shared his love of the sport with Syd, among many others, and Syd gives back to her community through Kanc Carvers. Just one of the many things to love about a small school.

The group of seniors Lin-Wood Public School is graduating in 2021 were born the year I started working here, truly a lifetime ago. As I stood recently on a chilly night with my children, parents, and in laws, at the one main intersection in North Woodstock, now my hometown for more years than the one I grew up in, Faith Desjardins drove by. She rolled down her window asking about the parade to celebrate the Boys Ski Team State Championship. Faith’s three children are grown ups now, but I was able to turn to my mom and say, “It’s crazy that I know her youngest graduated in 2010.” We used to joke because Faith was a very supportive parent of her children and their time here at school, that everyone just needed to “have a little Faith.” I didn’t have children back then, but she would always tell me the time passes so quickly and to love every stage we are in, especially when we have a family. I would see her when my kids were little-little, and she would remind me that I would survive, and they would grow up too quickly. There is much to love about a small town school with big lumberjack heart.

We watched the parade led by every fire truck, ambulance and police car the towns of Lincoln and Woodstock could spare, and my own children cheered and waved wildly, watching these boys (and the girls who race on Wednesday) as well as their friends who are basketball players or freestyle skiers or good skateboarders and snowboarders. There are parent teachers in this group who worried about having their own kids in class, and they survived, and I will too in just a few short years when my own find their way to grade 9 English. There is much to love about a small town with big lumberjack heart.

There is the little boy whom I met in the cross walk as a kindergartner on the first day of school, jazzed entirely about being a kindergartner. When I asked what his name was, he pointed to his backpack proudly, “My name is Sam (not his real name) and it even says so on my back pack!” Before I can blink, he too will be sitting where one of those seniors sat in the ninth grade, unable to control their bodies and voices on occasion. It won’t really matter what his test scores will be in middle school or if he one day needs additional support in or outside of the classroom. Or if he goes to college or the workforce or the military. What matters is that he will be able to make a choice. What matters even more is that due to his small class size and individualized teacher mojo, he will have had his needs met and curiosity encouraged as a learner. Much to love about a small town school with a big lumberjack heart.

When my own son cried because I could not help him the right way, his teachers– all of them– from preschool straight on through the fifth grade at present moment, knew what words to say which helped him make sense of the problem. They knew his strengths and interests and weaknesses; they helped him to overcome challenges and take academic risks and ask big questions. He isn’t afraid of public speaking like his mom was literally until the 11th grade when she was forced under duress by a teacher to give a speech. Thank you to Mrs. Houde he, the boy who does not like literature, has participated in Poetry Out Loud. Ask the state how many elementary schools participate in this public speaking enrichment opportunity for all interested kiddos. These are the hard skills, as well as the social and emotional learning, that are preparing him to be able to make choices in his future. Ask me how I feel about his test scores. Ask him, instead, to tell you something interesting about what he is learning at Lin-Wood Elementary School and the idea of cutting even one teacher would be one teacher too much. Did he also in the second grade scream the word “shit” on the playground from the top of the snow mound because he wanted to see how it felt? He sure did. Did I have to attend a meeting with his concerned kindergarten guru Mrs. Pamplin for drawing too violent pictures with his friend during rest time? I sure did. Much to love about a small town school with a big lumberjack heart.

When my daughter missed part of her Google Meet looking for the page she needed to follow because I was Google Meeting already with my students during remote learning, she cried, stubbornly refusing to get on the Google Meet because she did not want her friends or teacher to see that she made a mistake. It was her fourth grade teacher Ms. Avard who emailed me directly asking her to stay on the call so she could help her to get caught up with what she missed. The tears stopped, and Ms. Avard gave her what she needed. It was her art teacher Ms. Frobey who makes her love doing art more, maybe, even than skiing. It was her second grade teacher Mr. Bradshaw who recognized how quickly sometimes Greta needed space amid her peer group and helped her to learn the words herself to ask for it. If my daughter was in a class of 25 students, her confidence in her own reading and writing ability would not even be close to where it is today. When she comes home “bragging” about being allowed to write essays and paragraphs, my teacher parent heart is full. Ask me how I feel about her not showing the expected amount of growth from fall to spring on her test scores. Ask me if she can defend an argument both verbally and with written words. Much to love about a small town school with a big lumberjack heart.

So, like many small towns and big cities across America, school budgets are tough places to be right now. Our economic impact resulting from the COVID pandemic in a tourist town has been difficult for many. But reasonable humans don’t reduce a teaching staff by 14% following the hardest 1.5 years in public education. There are bigger forces at work, and our children’s social emotional wellness and ability to overcome adversity are far more important to consider than what their test scores may or may not be or our decreasing enrollment. Finding affordable housing here is virtually impossible; this is something ski towns are facing across the country. I appreciate individuals working hard to make sure we have a checks in balance system in place, and I feel super proud of the school community here– the students in my classroom who have worked very hard to follow the rules so we can remain in school– the teachers I call colleagues and friends– the administrators who support their teachers and students– the school district, other staff, and school board who support our administration, teachers, and students— but especially our school community for tuning in tonight for our budget hearing and again in March for the Annual School District meeting.

NOTE:

I’ve started this blog three different times, with little success, with these titles:

  1. The words “Back when I was in school” can never be part of a modern day budget discussion.
  2. When someone says, “With all due respect,” what they really want to say.
  3. Grownups don’t need to belittle others during public meetings.

Sometimes it takes a small town– and a big lumberjack heart parade to remind us of how important it is to keep the essential parts of education. Sometimes we just have to look to our students, and they remind us each day of what they need and how we can make sure that those needs are met best here at Lin-Wood Public School.

2 thoughts on “Much to Love About a Small Town School with Big Lumberjack Heart

  1. This post stirs in me something that I haven’t felt in a while: a joyful sense of community. In October 2020, my boyfriend of 6.5 years and I moved into our first apartment out of state because he landed a great job as an assay scientist. This meant moving away from the community we had spent most of our lives in.

    Because of the pandemic, I have yet to find community in our new home. Covid cases are sky-high in our county, so my partner is the only one I have had a meaningful conversation with in-person in months. While phone and Zoom calls with family and friends mean the world to me, it doesn’t scratch the same itch as drinking a cozy cup of tea with someone across a kitchen table. I have continuously felt too melancholy about the community I left behind to feel much else in this regard.

    By offering a series of intimate details, and framing the subject with gratitude instead of confrontation (as the working titles implied), this article took me out of my self-pity long enough to grin ear-to-ear. It reminded me of the time I participated in the Ski Team State Champions parade after getting impromptu permission from my mom to do so. It reminded me of those who helped me organize a party for a teacher about to go on maternity leave. More broadly, it reminded me about all the one-on-one support I was able to get from teachers–especially those in the math department–that helped me succeed. If I went to a larger high school with an aloof community, there is no way I would have felt bold enough to study higher mathematics or memorize poems for stage performance in college. There is so much to be grateful for about our tiny town, and I’d forgotten that.

    So, thank you. Thank you for stirring some joy in me about the community I love and miss–it had been a while. I look forward to seeing what you write next. Best wishes.

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    1. Hi Aly Antimatter! I’m so glad to hear from you!!!! My how I’ve missed the way you put words together on a page, you smart young lady you!!!! I feel terrible about only seeing this now. I forgot I changed the email associated with this blog. Oops. Anyway, please know we are still always here for you. One day you will build a community where you are. Thinking of you! My best to your scientist roommate! Krill

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