By Beverli Haroldsen
What is a typical day at AVA? At first glance, it doesn’t exist. Our days don’t fit in a tidy little package to be placed in a day planner. No master schedule stands as sentinel, passing down arbitrary time or content demands. Students really are free to choose their own content and time usage. The only imposed time constraints, but which don’t involve everyone every time, are daily Judicial Councils (only if someone has written a complaint) and weekly School Council Meetings, which students can choose to attend or not. Content constraints are relegated to the AVA School Rulebook and Constitution which have been created and voted upon, and can be changed by students and staff alike. With so few limitations, how can a typical day be defined or visualized?
One example is picturing a typical day in a desert landscape. At first glance you might see only the environment – dirt, rocks, cacti, sagebrush, etc. On closer inspection, you’ll likely see some seemingly random wildlife – a bird, an insect, a lizard, a hare – but you won’t be able to count on seeing the same wildlife doing the same thing, in the same place, at the same time, every day. However, if you live there for a while and pay attention, you’ll start noticing some natural patterns and rhythms that create the typical day in the desert. The typical day at AVA is similar in that you might not see the same students doing the same things at the same time and place every day, but patterns emerge with time and observation. The typical day manifests itself not within the constructs of time and content but in the “feeling” on campus and a wide range of skills and lessons that are being practiced and learned daily.
The “feeling” that permeates a typical day at AVA is that of freedom. Freedom at AVA feels like room to breathe, and time and space to be and become whom you desire to be and become. Joy, confidence, and peace are natural outgrowths of that freedom. That’s not to say that every student feels joy, confidence, and peace at every moment of every day, but students seem to instinctively know how to choose these feelings.
When choices lead to unhappiness, conflict with others, or failure to achieve a desired outcome, students are generally quick to evaluate the situation and themselves, find their bearings, and navigate back to that place of joy and confidence. Renewed peace might look calm and serene, but more often sounds noisy and fun. Whether quiet or boisterous, peace is manifest in the pervading feeling of inner contentment with self and others – freedom to be oneself and acceptance of others as themselves.
Some of the skills being practiced and learned daily are decision making, time management, prioritizing, organization, and personal responsibility. Since students are responsible for their own time and content, they are constantly sharpening these skills. They practice self-government in all their activities and community government through the Judicial Council, School Council meetings, and fulfilling leadership responsibilities. Planning, budgeting, and organizational skills are cultivated as students prepare budget requests, plan parties or school field trips, set up fundraisers, create businesses, propose new rules, or organize group activities and classes.
Naturally occurring inter-personal and emotional intelligence lessons are also a crucial part of any given day. Students gain competence in communication, conflict resolution, negotiation, collaboration, teamwork, and leadership. Shy students learn to speak up for themselves and share their voice with confidence, and very confident students learn how to listen to and consider others’ points of view. Other natural patterns include creativity, innovation, adaptability, problem solving, perseverance, hard work, and of course lots of play.
Though not an exhaustive list, these patterns that help define a typical day at AVA emerge across a broad spectrum of content areas and activities that differ from day to day. Art, reading, games, math, current events, history, cooking, music, science projects, writing, imaginative play, animal care, competitions, and more can all make their appearance in our dynamic kaleidoscope of days. But while the ingredients may vary the distinctive flavor of a typical day remains intact.
Published February 22, 2021