Wednesday, May 27, 2015

{Author's note; I wrote this for some people I know. I believe in them, and though I’m not very good at saying it, this is one of my attempts to do so. I hope they know who they are, and that they are totally rad. WARNING - POSSIBLE SQUICKS OR TRIGGERS WITHIN: Death mention, dysphoria mention, blood, brutality, hate crimes, murder.}

Sepulchral Desire
By Meghan Conken

Mist swirled around in thick gatherings, rubbing elbows with the long dead and the recently so as it made its way around the graveyard, pulled by a gentle late spring breeze. Clouds backlit by the brilliance of the full moon coated the sky like a roiling blanket, unceasing. The air was sick with the approaching summer, humid and suffocating. It smelled of freshly overturned soil and heavy wetness with an undertone of rotting flesh. Nothing but the mist and the wind moved nor made a sound. Not even crickets dared. The heaviness in the air had more to do with death than was usual, even for a graveyard.
A break in the clouds brought a shining god’s finger of light down, illuminating the gaunt fa├žade of a crypt standing solitary on the highest point of a hill. It was long, tall and deeply empty, unused for decades, maybe centuries. The gravestones around it seemed far away. Or perhaps they had moved to accommodate the newcomer.
Standing at the top of the stairs leading into the crypt was a figure, thin and ragged and shrouded gently in a cloak like blackened moss; dark, but still with a touch of green barely visible in the moonlight. Their face was obscured; even the moonlight dared not enter there. They stood motionless, no breath or idle movement shifted their posture or form.
They waited.
Slowly, the mist began to coagulate, becoming less wind and water and more earth and fire and muscle and sinew. It spun and spun, quickening and tightening until it came to an abrupt and breathy halt. There, before the robed figure, stood a person soaked in rainwater, mud, and their own blood. They were slender and short, with softer features than they would have liked and a gently rounding bosom tied as flat as they could get it. Their skull was caved in on one side, as if by a club, that being the main source of the blood soaking their form. Torn garments sticky with blood revealed more of what had taken place, more of this sad creature’s plight.
The figure knew them for what they really were. They felt a slight twinge just behind their heart. Not of emotion or physical pain, but of empathy.
“Wha…. where am I?” Croaked the bloodied one, reaching up to feel at the moist hole that used to be their face with a hand that more resembled a beaten steak. “What…what happened?”
The figure remained motionless. The wind had stopped completely.
Another twinge, higher than before. In the throat.
“Wh-who are you?” Stammered the now-shaking human.
The cloaked one considered this. Who were they? Perhaps a feeling; a sensation at the top of the spine felt when alone in a dark place, missing a step going down the stairs, an ache in a chest that never ceases. Or a smell; wet leaves on the knife’s edge of fall and winter, antiseptic and salt tears, iron and warmth and mineral salts. All of these and something else entirely.
What do you want!?” The broken one had raised their voice.
The better of these questions is what you want.” Began the other, strange and ethereal, almost empyreal in their speech. “You were taken from your place in these worlds far earlier than I think you intended. Certainly earlier than I intended, but that is another matter entirely. They beat and broke you, took from you all that you had managed to cling to in your desperation for just one chance. They did not see you for what you are. They saw only your parts and the arbitrary titles they tacked on with them. They saw what they thought was right, and they saw you denying their supposed rightness. They told you how wrong you were, tried to force on you their ideals and wishes for you. Yet, dysphoric and pained as you were, you still defied them. You still stood up and said no. I admire you for that. Though my admiration could not have saved you from your sad fate, as here you are before me now. And unfortunately I cannot give you what you desire most, much as it pains me- who is without mortal coil or such deep agonies and loves as you. There is, however, one thing I can offer you.”
The bloodied man, enraptured by the stillness of the other one and their way of speech, blinked to relieve his reverie.
“What…What is it?” He asked, forcing himself to speak through the blood and the brain that had lost a considerable amount of its quiddity. “What is it you can offer me now, if I am in a state that I think I am?”
“The state which you are in, I am sad to say, is an unlife. A half life. Nearly dead, nearly living. A between state that should not last much longer, so your decision must be swift. Your choices are these; come with me, and learn what you can, and eventually return to the place you left some the wiser. Or reject this that I offer you and continue on, never again having to dwell upon the atrocities of that which you will leave behind forever.”
The man considered this. He had been forced to be what he was not in the old world, brought down constantly by the words of his family and those who did not understand and would not be on his side. Constantly beleaguered and beaten both with words and fists. And yet there had been hope, there had been those on his side. And deep in his heart he knew they would miss him for a long time should he stay.
“You fought for so long against forces both exterior and interior, mental and physical, to stay. Will you leave now, after all that?”
“Is it worth it?” The man asked finally, his voice cracking painfully and blood beginning to pour down his lips.
“You thought it was. Before they took it from you.” The preternatural said.
“They thought me a woman, refused to listen. They called me the wrong name and fought always to discredit my experiences and what I know to be true…” The man trailed off for a moment. “But…Some part of me always wonders if they were right… Surely! Surely you would know! Is it true? Am I wrong?”
“You are never wrong to be who you are,” The figure said, their voice taking on a breathier tone as they went on. Something about the darkness beneath the hood seemed bright with conviction. “There will always be those who will argue, gripe, moan and shout their anger. But do not let them get to you. Do not let them get anywhere near you. Let their shouting and griping and arguing and moaning be for naught. You are stronger than they are. You are stronger than you think you are. And those voices in your head telling you that they are right? Loathe as I am to encourage killing, this is the exception. Kill them with the fire of your mind. Know that you can destroy all of these demons with no more than a whisper. You are more powerful than all of them. And don’t call me Sherly.”
“What would I learn? Could I take going back there?” The man wondered, the ache in his voice betraying how his surety failed him. “Is the place I came from better than the next one? Is going back there going to be the better choice?”
The figure lifted their arm as if through water, slowed and elegant, the edge of their cloak sliding back to reveal a hand that was nothing but ivory bones, more the color of an elephant’s tusk than of anything refined. They tilted their palm upward, offering their grip to the man.
“Why don’t you find out?”
It had been a long while since Death had an audience.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Riddle Me This

The Clearwater blog lives again, with a slightly different focus. Clearwater students have revived the blog to provide a place for their voices! It’s a place for students to post work they want to let other students, parents and the community at large see and absorb—their artwork, music, stories, photography and more. Clearwater students if you want to put something up, look to the bulletin board in the Common Room for the emails of the editors, and send it in to them with any specifications or notes you have.
We will be working at least semi-actively at trying to get things posted in a relatively timely manner and often enough that you know we care. We hope you all enjoy the return of the Clearwater blog! We’re certainly excited. We hope you enjoy the first post.
~Meghan and Stephanie.

Riddle Me This
By Meghan Conken

Raleva heaved herself up onto the ledge, her armor clanging loudly as it chafed against itself and the rock. The sound echoed, disturbing the otherwise peaceful night. Raleva cringed at the amount of noise she made as she stood up, pausing to let the echoes run their course before turning to face the way she'd come.
The Isgrad valley was so large it was easy to forget it was a valley at all. It consisted of beautiful rolling hills covered with tall grass, and forests with huge trees that danced with the wind. A lake sat at the base of this mountain. The mountains that surrounded the valley were massive and jagged, and so full of caves and crevices that they appeared from a distance to be covered in full dark, deep eyes.
Silent, ever watchful protectors of the valley. The people of the valley had taken to calling them the Seeing Mountains.
The cool night air tugged at Raleva's cloak and ruffled her long blonde hair, bringing with it the smells of greenery and dirt, and something else.
Raleva inhaled deeply, steeling herself for the encounter she was about to have.
Raleva had been having trouble sleeping for a fortnight now, and what better way to spend her time then to climb the infamously-hard-to-climb Seeing Mountains. The night air was never as rough as the
air in the day, it seemed, and seeing everything blanketed in gentle darkness was somehow comforting.
She took a long moment to let everything wash over her, breathing in as if she'd never tasted air that was sweeter. She let everything that had happened in the last two years wash over her, and then she
exhaled, letting any and all tough feelings out with the puff of white that represented her breath.
Raleva spun on her heel to face the yawning mouth of the cave that seemed to stretch on forever, taking heart in the small pinprick of light she could see within.
One last deep breath, and she took her first step into the darkness.
Then, it was darkness no longer. All around her in the cave crystals lined the walls and floors, all of a light turquoise color, and the instant she stepped inside an explosion of bright light spread outward across the floor and through the walls, lighting up any and all crystals it came across Temporarily blinded, Raleva threw up a hand to cover her face, jostling her cloak.
“The hell-?” She started, squinting from beneath her hand. Her next words were lost as her breath caught in her throat.
Wedged deep in the back of the cave, yet taking up most of the space that wasn't filled with glittering jewels and gold coins, was a colossal coil of sinuous, scaly body. The blue light reflected off of the
purple and blue surface of the creature as its entire body moved with each heaving breath. In the middle of the interminable body was the same pinprick of light Raleva had seen before. It was clear to her now that it was the creature's eye, not a fire like she'd first thought. But the smell was still there, and with every puff of smoke that came from amongst the coils there was a rush of heat in her direction. Raleva turned quickly, not wishing to spend any more time than was absolutely necessary in the cave of a dragon.
You came here for a reason.” Hissed a deep, throaty voice from behind her that vibrated in the very heart of the mountain itself. “You may as well finish what you started.”
Raleva swallowed, trying to calm her suddenly fluttering heart as she slowly swiveled to face the great beast.
The coils had shifted, revealing a head that was now resting atop the rest of its body. Monstrous fangs hung from its upper jaw, warring for space with fearsome tusks that jutted upward from the bottom jaw just behind the fangs. Four bright yellow eyes sat above large nostrils. Sprouting from just above those
eyes were two sets of horns; one pair was curled like a ram's horns, the other stuck upward and out. All together it created quite the visage to go along with the iridescent purple scales that, in the right light, you could see the underlying tones of green.
“Ahah...” Raleva bit her lip nervously, looking the dragon up and down. “Yes...I did come up here for a
reason, didn't I.....”
Spit it out. I haven't got all night.” Snorted the dragon, its voice refusing to conform to any usual gender identifiers, instead fluctuating between being higher, almost human-like, and low and growling, like a dog might talk if it could.
“Are you Orriasth?” Raleva asked tentatively, bracing herself.
That is what I am called here. What of it?” Orriasth said, its nose twitching as if it might sneeze.
“I came to ask your favor,” Raleva said, thinking fast. “I..wish for a thousand nights of peaceful sleep for everyone in Isgrad valley. Anyone who leaves will not be under the effects, anyone who enters will.
Anyone within Isgrad valley.” Raleva remembered the stories she'd read about genies and how specific you had to be with them. She assumed this worked with dragons as well.
Orriasth blinked slowly, the two pairs blinking out of time with each other. Then Orriasth began to shake, its maw opening wide as a sound akin to that of a thousand rockslides at once sprang forth from
its throat. This revealed two rows of yellowing teeth on both top and bottom. Several were chipped and she could see the bones of some less fortunate creature still stuck between two of the rows. Was that laughter?
Orriasth lifted its head high until its horns scraped the ceiling, the coils of its body beginning to writhe around each other, seeming to grow in size until Raleva had to take several steps back to avoid being crushed. The sound that she had thought was laughter shifted into a roar of such proportions that it
echoed far out into the valley and sent crystals falling from their places in the walls and ceiling. Her heart beat faster as she realized her mistake and she cringed away from the dragon. It let out a spurt of flame above her head, making her feel as if she would melt in her armor.
Orriasth, God of the Nightmare Realm, lived up to the legend.
And what makes you think that you, a mere mortal, can simply enter the resting place of a god and make such demands!?” Boomed Orriasth, making Raleva shrink back.
Raleva shuddered, forcing herself to inhale and remember that this would be worth it. Surely.
“Because I have endured hardship, betrayal and loss. I have climbed up this mountain that no one else has dared to climb in thousands of years to speak with an entity that will surely kill me for simply making it this far. Because I am reckless enough to ask for it.”
There was an infinite pause as Orriasth fumed, the tip of its spiked tail lashing just beside Raleva, but never getting close enough to hit her.
Orriasth lowered its head until it was resting on the floor before Raleva and blew a puff of smoke out of its nostrils, enveloping Raleva.
Fine.” Orriasth said simply, swiftly pulling its head back within the pile of dragon that was it.
“What?” Raleva wheezed, coughing through the smoke.
Fine. Isgrad valley will have a thousand nights of peaceful sleep.
“What- just like that? No challenge, no great riddle to solve?”
Oh, fine. Four riddles then. If you get so many as one wrong, Isgrad valley will have nothing but nightmares for a thousand nights, and I get to eat you.” Huffed Orriasth, lifting only the tip of its muzzle into view “I have a bed, yet I do not sleep. I run, but do not have feet. I roar, but I do not have lungs. What am I?
Raleva faltered for a moment, then snorted. “Why, a river.”
Prrrecisely,” Orriasth purred, a forked tongue flicking out from between its teeth. “I have caused the deaths of so many, yet I cannot hold a blade. I have made many weep, though I have no emotions, nor a body. I can take you anywhere without you leaving this room. What am I?” Raleva opened and closed her mouth several times, wrinkling her nose as she thought.
“A book?”
Correct. A certain man was blessed with five children, half of whom were daughters. How can it be so, that an even half were daughters?
Raleva 'hmm'ed loudly, beginning to pace up and down before the dragon.
No rush...” Muttered Orriasth, sinking into itself again.
“...All five are daughters!” Raleva exclaimed, skidding to a stop and whirling on Orriasth.
Well done.” A deep, throaty sound not unlike a chuckle resounded from within the cave itself, it seemed. “Last one, mortal. What is a weapon that can be wielded but not held, that injures when penetrated, rather than penetrates to injure?
Raleva bit her lip, pacing again. She paced up and down for so long that it seemed she'd wear a rut in the floor, and she thought for a moment that she'd heard snoring coming from the dragon. Would she be eaten after all? Would the people below never have another good night's sleep for a whole thousand nights? Panic had started to take hold when she finally skidded to a stop once again and planted her feet triumphantly before Orriasth.
Very good.” Orriasth said, a low grumble erupting from the woven body. “Now begone before I change my mind. I should like to return to my duties. There has already been too much good sleep while you distracted me this long.
“Of course!” Raleva said, bowing so deep that her chestpiece jabbed into her bladder. “Thank you, Orriasth. I will tell the people not to bother you for another thousand years.”
Mmmf. Good.
Raleva left the cave with a smile on her face, relieved that she'd survived the ordeal.

Maybe now she'd finally get some sleep.

Friday, March 21, 2014

How Rules Are Made at Clearwater

by Gabriel, age 16

Gabriel throws the (rule) book at Thad 
If you talk to people who are unfamiliar with Sudbury schools about Clearwater, one of the things they often say is, “So the kids just get to do whatever they want?” While it is true that people are free to learn whatever they want, whenever they want, the presence of rules means it isn't very accurate to say that the kids get to do anything they want.  

Most of the rules are about not hurting yourself, others, the school, or the property of any of the aforementioned, and they're enforced by the Judicial Committee, a group of students (and usually one staff member) headed by the Judicial Committee chair, which is an elected position.

To make new rules, or change existing ones, any member of School Meeting may put up an agenda item for discussion in the weekly meeting. In that meeting, if you can get another person to second your motion, the rule addition or change will be put up for a vote in the next week. 

The most recent examples of rule changes have been mostly minor changes to the attendance policy, but in the past, students have proposed rules to prevent people from making microwave popcorn (they disliked the way the smell of microwave popcorn filled the whole room), or to govern the usage of pillows for making forts (because if one person uses all the pillows, nobody else can make forts).

On a semi-regular (maybe about once a year or so) basis, a committee is formed to read over the rules and check for inconsistencies, out-of-date rules, rules that are no longer enforced or are now unnecessary, and other small problems, and proposes a slate of rule changes to School Meeting, which are then voted for the next week.

All changes to the rules are announced several times in School Meeting to give plenty of notice to anybody who might be affected by the changes. 

And of course, everyone has a vote.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Mat and TED's Excellent Conversations

Mat -- such a vibrant guy!
One question that arises repeatedly for Clearwater families is: How do we talk to others about this kind of education and why do we choose it? How do we talk about how our children are learning when the questions are put in terms of standards, testing, and curricula?

Mat and TED's Excellent Conversations is a series of curated TED talks hosted at Clearwater by staff member Mat Riggle. The goal is to watch TED talks about educational research, the world, and our times and to start dialogue that we can continue out in the world when people ask about how our kids learn. Instead of addressing the deficit perspective – how they learn WITHOUT classes / testing / homework – we'll be able to come at it from the perspective of cutting-edge thinking about education and how, where, and when learning really occurs.

As Mat puts it, "What helps me talk to people is knowing and understanding more about what is happening not only at Clearwater but in the greater world of education. Research out there is looking at the things that are happening at Clearwater."

Our first Mat Talk is scheduled for Wednesday March 19 from 6-8pm at school. If you're attending the talk, your kids will have adult supervision after 5. It's a beverage potluck, so bring dinner for yourself and drinks (either alcoholic or non-) to share.

We're testing out this time frame, so please comment below about how it works for you. We'll also be experimenting with distance technology using Skype or Google Hangout, so please indicate if that is something you'd join.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Creating School Culture

This guest post by Tom Bohman, staff member at Clearview Sudbury School in Austin, Texas,  provides a fascinating case study of the judiciary process in action. This piece was originally published by Alt Ed Austin, a blog created and edited by Teri Sperry. All photos were part of the original post. Following the article is a comment by Mike South, a cogent articulation of the rationale behind the prevailing vote.

When I read the complaint form to our Judiciary Committee (JC), I knew the day had come when our school would have to decide a thorny issue: How do school rules apply to virtual worlds in multi-player online games? Before telling more about this particular issue, let me explain about our school’s uniquely American way of protecting individual rights while also balancing them with other potentially competing school community concerns.

Students and staff conduct a Judiciary Committee hearing at the Clearview Studbury School

At the Clearview Sudbury School, rules are democratically determined at the School Meeting, in which staff and students have an equal vote. The School Meeting delegates to the JC the responsibility of ensuring that students and staff follow rules and providing a forum to address School Meeting members’ concerns about their rights. Two students and one staff member comprise the JC, and they vote on whether a rule was broken and, if one was, determine a consequence when necessary. A complaint form specifies who is raising the issue, whom the complaint is against, witnesses, and the details of the situation. All School Meeting members can attend JC hearings and ask questions or provide commentary. All students, no matter their age, are expected to serve on the JC, including our youngest students, who may be five years old.

This particular complaint was initiated by an eight-year-old female student (whom we’ll call Amy) against a nine-year-old male student (whom we’ll call Eric) regarding actions that took place in Minecraft, a game that can be played in different ways. Minecraft provides a rich virtual world in which students typically construct amazing structures, especially their houses, in which they invest much creative thought and energy. The game also contains a player versus player (PvP) component in which players compete against each other. Amy's complaint said that Eric had harassed her during the game when, after being invited into Amy’s house, he killed her online character and took resources from the house. I was randomly selected by the JC chair, a nine-year-old student we’ll call Steve, along with a six-year-old student we’ll call Sally, to hear the case.

The JC room was full as Amy and Eric in turn described what happened from their perspectives. Amy reported that she had changed the inside of her house on the Minecraft server that many students played on and invited Eric to see those changes. Amy also said that students on the server typically engaged in creative activities in an open-ended and non-competitive fashion. Eric said he was trying to work on his house and needed the resources that Amy had acquired and decided to take them so he could reach his goal. My reaction was that Eric had violated Amy’s rights to be free from interference by others at school as she pursued her self-directed learning. Eric’s defense, which other School Meeting members strongly supported, was that Eric was playing by the rules of the game as allowed on that particular Minecraft server because PvP mode was turned on (not all Minecraft servers allow this). Since Amy chose to play on that server where PvP was allowed, she had the responsibility to accept that other players could play competitively. I argued that our school should be developing a culture in which our interpersonal relationships count the most, and Amy had asked Eric to stop his activity, which Eric ignored. Eric and other school meeting members said that it was unfair for him to be penalized for following the rules of the game that Amy had implicitly agreed to by playing on that server.

After a long, emotional debate, the three JC committee members voted that Amy had been harassed. Since this was the first time this issue was raised and it was clear that Eric did not know that the harassment rule would be applied in this case, he was given a warning as a consequence.

However, we weren’t quite done. As part of our school’s commitment to due process, where everyone’s rights are protected to the full extent possible, any School Meeting member can appeal a JC decision to the full School Meeting in which everyone, rather than just the three JC members, has a vote. Even though JC members are selected so that they shouldn’t have any conflict of interest or appearance of partiality (e.g., a JC member cannot have written the complaint), we know that in a smaller school, the person receiving the consequence may feel the process was unfair and in such a case we provide the appeal process. In addition, anyone can appeal the verdict. In this case, a staff member and older student appealed, as they felt this case set an incorrect precedent for the school.

The School Meeting was fully attended, and the motion was made (and seconded) to overturn the JC decision that a rule had been broken. The debate was almost as intense as the first one, and additional nuances were brought forward to bolster each side’s position. A majority of the School Meeting participants voted for the motion that overturned the previous JC decision. I felt the sting of defeat for my position and still believe that greater weight should have been given to Amy’s request that Eric stop his actions even when they were permitted by the server. However, the counterargument that Amy needed to take responsibility for playing on that particular server and knowing the rules was persuasive to the majority. Given that students have the freedom to choose what they do during the day at our school, they also have the responsibility to be aware of the consequences of those decisions.

Ultimately, I think Amy felt her concerns were heard and taken very seriously. I think our school’s culture was strengthened by this case in which staff and students were on both sides of the debate. JC is where our culture of freedom and responsibility develops over time as everyone engages in the often difficult decisions of how to balance competing rights and how we define them. At our school, we feel this process is the best way to ensure that everyone is fully respected and heard. I personally hope we revisit this issue in the future since I’m still not convinced we made the best choice. However, I really value that each member of the school has a single vote and that no member of the school community (even staff) can arbitrarily decide that his or her viewpoint outweighs the collective democratic decision making that is an integral part of our school. Democracy is messy, but it still feels like the best way to arrive at decisions.

Comment by Mike South
I think the appeal came to the correct conclusion--it's good that the appeal process is in place.

In my opinion it would be very bad precedent to start imposing real-life-at-the-school rules to things that are taking place outside of the school. If there was a minecraft server hosted at the school that had PvP on but which had an agreement at the school that you would not kill, then Amy would have a claim.

The precedent you would be setting would be that Amy could use the JC to attack someone's behavior on a mailing list, community forum, etc., all of which have their own rules and should be considered outside of JC's jurisdiction. If someone made something at the school, took it home, and a sibling (also enrolled) broke it, that would be something to deal with outside of JC, even if the object was something that the owner was intending to bring back to school or was for a very specific school purpose.

Eric should, in my opinion, be a mensch and give the stuff back, since Amy clearly didn't think she was exposing herself to losing it, but he should choose to do so, not be coerced into it by a JC decision. If he doesn't, he has chosen a path I don't like but he should be at liberty to do so (more on that below).

And one thing that isn't discussed here is that *Amy made a mistake that she should be allowed to learn from* (playing PvP when she didn't mean to be, or playing PvP when she didn't understand (or want to accept) the consequences). If Eric gives her the stuff back of his own free will, she can learn that lesson, and be thankful that he gave it back anyway--if Eric is coerced into giving it back, you are teaching Amy that she can use an end-run around the rules to avoid having to face the consequences of her own actions.

Looking at it from the can-of-worms perspective also argues for the reversal on appeal, I think. You open a bigger can of worms by trying to regulate facebook, twitter, email, blogging, etc "when accessed from school" than you do by saying "the rules of externally administered systems shall be the only rules which denizens of the school shall be considered to be obligated to follow when using those systems, whether they do so from the school or outside of it". That's a clear (if wordy!) expectation that everyone can understand, and once people are aware of it there is no more burden on the school to work those issues out.

I feel what Tom is saying--that he wants the school to be a supportive and non-threatening place, etc. But part of giving people freedom is accepting that they aren't always going to choose to do it the way you want them to. You might want more discussion to be going on where students might want to be loners. If they are on the same mailing list, you might want to have them stick to non-ad-hominem attacks on other school members' arguments, while the rules for the email list clearly state that anything goes. In my opinion, all of these examples would amount to too much infringement on how people choose to conduct themselves.

If the student was hacking the server from school property it would be obvious JC territory, and in that case not just the bad behavior of hacking from school property but harassment might also apply since he went "outside the law" in the other system *from the school*.
I think this is one case where you don't get to control the outcome--you can't expect all consequences of liberty to go the way you think they should. If you did find that happening, it would probably mean that you were dictating the outcome either explicitly or through some more subtle coercive means you weren't aware of. So this is a good thing :).

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Winter Cafe 2014

The Clearwater Winter Cafe is back on February 7 for its third year in a row. This year, the focus is on music. Music is a big part of life at Clearwater, due in part to our staff member, Matt "Rockstar" Garrity. Watching his patient, appreciative, enthusiastic joy with kids in the rehearsal room is inspiring.

For a preview of what you'll see next week, check out this video. This is only the second time these guys played the song together.

This year's Winter Cafe takes place on Friday, February 7.  

Please join us at 7pm to enjoy dessert, coffee and tea.
Performance begins at 7:30
$10 donation requested. All funds go to support the music program.
Performers include Alex, Aidan, Benji, Cass, Ellie, Jacy, Leo, Lily, Sam and Matt. The show includes several original songs, written and arranged by Clearwater students—performed for the first time on any stage.  

To reserve seats, send an email to with the number in your party. Just because your kid is playing doesn't mean you're on the list!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

What If Kids Could Swear at School?

by David Linder, Clearwater parent

Warning, the following post includes language some people don't like--and stories of kids using such language.

One rainy day on our way out the door, I heard my 10-year-old yell, "Shit!" from outside. I quickly went to look what happened. Turns out he had been balancing two boxes of Yu-Gi-Oh cards on top of a binder. It was raining and the boxes slipped and fell to the ground.

Seeing they were in metal tins I knew the cards were fine. I reminded him the rain wouldn't affect them and offered him a bag to carry them in. I know how I was supposed to react: a minor using bad words needs to be disciplined, right? What I actually thought at the time was, "Neat. He knows how to swear correctly."

I love the question of "What if kids could swear at school," because it’s so shocking to adults. Don’t you need to teach children appropriate language? How will they know not to shout curses at work later? 

Adults that object miss the point--it’s not that I want my kids to swear. I have the same goals as any parent: that my kids will function as sensitive, compassionate, and productive people in society--as good citizens.

By having the freedom to swear at school, students have to learn how to wield language.* Words are just words, but some words are sharper than others.  They can hurt; they can incite. What better way to practice restraint than to learn what the true impact of words is?

Banned words are taboo fun. As long as nobody finds out, it’s a thrill to use them because you aren’t supposed to. Remove the ban and you remove the thrill. Now you have to deal with the meaning and intention of the word.

Swear words can also heal. Dropped the Thanksgiving turkey on the floor on the way to the table? The first thing most of us do is exclaim--loudly. That swear is a self-rebuke, a wish, and a regret. Researchers have found that swearing can reduce physical pain. My wish is that my children understand the use and impact of all their language.

*School Meeting,The Clearwater School's governing body composed of all students and staff, has repeatedly upheld the right of free speech, but also expects responsible use of emotionally-charged words. People who choose to swear at school must be certain that no one in the vicinity finds their language offensive or hurtful, and have to deal with the consequences of using language irresponsibly.