About Gavin – School Application Style

January 2019

2018-12-11 GAVIN GLO Smile.JPG

Sadly nervous about the state of the junior high to which Gavin would otherwise transition next year, we are throwing our hat in at least ONE other spectacular option for schooling, in spite of a price tag well beyond reach.

FWIW and for posterity here are the 6 essays we composed for the application in the effort of trying to create a written snapshot of this Marvelous Creature that is -I humbly submit- my son.  (o:

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Q:  Describe your favorite school subject or activity. Explain why it is your favorite.

(NOTE:  I failed to tell Gavin they wanted this answer in 6 to 8 sentences, woops!)
My favorite school subject is free writing. I like that subject because I enjoy getting to choose what I write. I feel that I write better and longer when I get to choose what to write. I work better when I write about something I care about and have found that it makes writing more enjoyable and encourages me to work harder. When I write about something I care about it really let’s me express myself and show my better work.
My favorite school activity is recess. I like finding new games and activities to play with my friends and sharing them with others. The main reason that I and many others like recess is that it gives us a break from schoolwork. The word recess comes from the latin word recessus, meaning “a going back, retreat” or in our case a retreat from schoolwork. I also like revisiting and playing old games that we played as kindergarteners such as tag, cops and robbers, and many other games.
Another subject I like is math, specifically fractions.I like fractions because of how it’s so hard when you don’t know the algorithm but takes seconds when you do. I also like the confusion of it, how it takes multiplication and division reverses them, it livens up the day. I also enjoy the satisfaction in finishing a particularly hard problem. I also find working with friends on it enjoyable because you share your victories and losses.
I really also enjoy reading and am known for being a reader. I love the way that you can get lost in a good book and can almost always find new ones. I also enjoy finding new series and getting lost in new books. I enjoy reading because of the diversity of books and how you can find a book on Greek mythology then a superhero comic book. I often get lost in books and love feeling like i’m in the book with the character. Some books are so good you even can almost feel the character’s emotions and experience their wins and losses with them. Some books i feel this connection and one that has really good detail and gives me that experience is the Harry Potter series which has an extreme amount of exquisite detail. Another reason why I like books is that it is so much you can learn from them in so many fun ways. An example is the Olympian series by George O Connor. It is a graphic novel series that teaches about the greek gods and has really taught me a lot and Is going to help me with upcoming projects. In short, I enjoy many different parts of school and hope that i make it into yours.

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Q1:   Please describe your child’s temperament and personality. What are their interests and challenges?

GAVIN is exceptionally mature, insofar as he is extremely articulate when it comes to interpersonal matters like feelings, struggles, challenges, fears. He also has excellent coping strategies and self-regulation when the going gets tough, to the point where I try to learn from *him.* On the other hand he is also excellent at fully embracing being a kid and enjoying childhood in all its glory; inventing hallway games with friends and building things like an apple picking device, an elaborate costume hand made of paper origami claws and most recently a few very effective home-made blow dart guns -for himself and for friends.

READING READING READING His most notable interest is *READING,* as it took us most of his elementary school career to get him to engage with the school curriculum and not just read *books* all the time! (Best problem a parent could have, IMHO.) As such I find him extensively knowledgeable on topics I would have never considered at his age, such as Greek Mythology.

CAMPING Our family goes camping several times a year during which time Gavin becomes an excellent woodsman, fire builder, explorer and overall nature enthusiast.

RESPONSIBILITIES AT HOME He is an excellent team player and lately has really embraced his responsibilities; typically asking what he can do to help and contribute around the house before playing with friends or jumping on the computer for recreational activity. He is also very responsible about avoiding inappropriate online content including violence and foul language.
Sometimes he offers to help his younger sister with homework, demonstrating encouragement and patience I wish I knew how to practice.

SOCIAL JUSTICE & POLITICS He has also internalized solid values around equality and social justice. The summer of 2016 found us in Philadelphia protesting the DNC and rallying for Bernie Sanders. It was because of Gavin that we boarded a bus to the first Women’s March in D.C. in January of 2017. Since that time we’ve been to multiple rallies for which he always creates loving signs (such as free hugs and “LOVE”). When asked whom to invite to his 10th Birthday, Gavin exclaimed, “Bernie Sanders!” which he proceeded to do (and received a meaningful letter back). We also reached out to our local most progressive City Council member who treated Gavin to a personalized tour of City Hall. Of course there was the time he spontaneously wrote and delivered a speech in the Cambridge Public Library lecture hall, acknowledging the role his “race and sex” has played throughout history and yet how he believes in “equal rights for everyone.”

IMPROV COMEDY & CIRCUS ARTS Gavin thrived in Improv Comedy and Circus Camp. He likes aerial arts, indoor rock climbing and challenging himself around the house on stairs, a suspended swing or chin-up bar. He and I dabble in some partner acrobatics, he’s learned to juggle, and most recently he starred as the role of “patient” in our live benefit show to raise money for the Boston Children’s Hospital Clowning Program.

CARTOONING His other interests include casual cartooning, which is a welcome outlet for his creativity, precocious sense of humor and enjoyment of The New Yorker.

STRUGGLE TO CHALLENGE HIM My only struggle with him right now is my concern that he is not getting enough extracurricular structure (not generally interested in team sports for example, also discontinued Tae Kwon Do). Their father generally takes our kids swimming and/or to rock climbing class once a week. I am glad Gavin is enjoying a lot of unstructured down time in which to foster creativity and discovery in his childhood, but I am not confident that even the limited computer access he has is very enriching. Moreover, much as I love his teachers and the Montessori Method in general, I am not confident he is being challenged academically in ways that will truly cultivate his potential. And we have even less faith in what the Cambridge Public School might offer at present.

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Q2:  Please describe your child’s relationship with their peers.

Gavin regularly socializes with friends from our building, school, family and with cousins.

BUILDING FRIENDS: We live in an affordable housing unit in Cambridge, a beautiful old church converted into 12 condo units, mostly families. In our six years there Gavin has played with literally every kid in the community. At the end of the summer he painstakingly filled scores of individual water balloons and knocked on every door to see who could come out and battle. (Happily this drew out some neighbors we rarely even see.) Of all the families however it is the two adjacent homes to us that allow their children to play on a regular basis, AND who coincidentally go to the same school as Gavin. We are the only white family in the building and I am so thankful we enjoy such rich diversity both at home and at school. Gavin’s two best playmates each moved here as young children from Bangladesh. They are a year younger than him and a head shorter. They play ALL the time, in and around each others homes and families, pulling out equipment for their next hallway adventure such as dodgeball, pickleball and nerf. Gavin recently took it upon himself to write out proposed “Dodgeball Rules” on cardboard because he noticed so much time was being wasted arguing about the rules. Thankfully even the legos still get action, even though the allure of playing video games is always beckoning. I’m thankful that when Gavin does play video it is usually *with* these friends, even if they are mere yards away in their own homes. It is also notable how they enjoy calling each other affectionate derogatory names, “Hey Knucklehead!” “See ya later, Stinkbrain!” Gavin has called these greetings, “Guy stuff.” lol.

SCHOOL FRIENDS: As Gavin approaches such a developmental age, I sigh with deep relief at his choice of friends at school! In addition to the younger friends from home, he has two primary peers he identifies with and socializes with and does projects with the most. EACH of them are truly lovely young men; intelligent, non-dramatic, thoughtful, loyal, academically-driven, well-behaved but still plenty playful. For what it’s worth I also love the diversity in this group; whereas Gavin is white, skinny, tall, and Unitarian, one of them is African-American and 7th Day Adventist, and the other is extremely short, red haired and his family is Jewish. None of this matters to them of course, so please pardon me for mentioning it, I just love how normal all this enrichment is in Cambridge. One of them -Yona- Gavin is closer to and missing him is literally the only thing on Gavin’s “con” list at the prospect of going to a different school. I selfishly feel thankful because maintaining a relationship with one friend might be possible (compared to a whole cohort).

FAMILY FRIENDS: Notably, he has known his “oldest” friend Zaida since birth. Over the ten years our families have been… like family. Socializing regularly, sharing holidays, and going camping together. Gavin and Zaida are similar in age (and are often in the same class at Tobin), as are their respective younger siblings, ClaraJane and Victor. Together these four are quite the gang. The youngest, Victor, naturally struggles the hardest to keep up, acts out the most and and looks up to Gavin the most.  One reason our families get together so often is on account of the “magic” of these four together. Naturally it is Gavin, the oldest, who sets the tone. And whether it’s his own sister or Victor losing their cool and going on the physical offensive, Gavin already understands it is not his privilege to retaliate. He uses his superior strength to mitigate the attack, even if unhappily, but seldom strikes back. Just last night I watched him stay buried in a book WHILE fending off an ongoing Victor attack. His father and I are very proud of how often and natural it is for Gavin to practice kindness with younger kids, whether he knows them personally or not.

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Q3:  Why are you interested in Fayerweather for your child?

We believe Gavin is an excellent fit for FSS on account of his deeply thoughtful intellect, his preternatural maturity, his precocious awareness of current events, knack for understanding their historical context, his commitment to social justice, and his relaxed, affable nature. He is also highly creative, loves to construct things, try new things, work on projects, challenge himself and has a fantastic sense of humor. I’m confident he would bring a lot to the table academically and socially, and I’m eager to see how his leadership skills will develop.

That being said he can also be highly distractible. I affectionately call him “the absent minded professor,” his loving-but-exasperated cousin complains, “He’s interested in everything!” and Gavin himself has stated he needs help tracking his work. Therefore he would benefit greatly from the strong collaborative ethos, close-knit surroundings and integrated executive functioning support. He would also thrive in the intimate classroom size as he tends to form warm relationships with most teachers.

What we LOVE about FSS:

1. The CORE VALUE of social responsibility, including your commitment to cultivating responsible citizens with civic awareness based on learning from (ideally) primary sources, what that means and its practical approach, including community service that is codified internally in the school.

2. The CULTURE of project-based, collaborative, learning with a happy, calm, respectful, engaged, excited environment that values creative problem solving, student-lead activities, classroom constitutions and the every day, explicit pursuit of kindness.

3. The hands-on nature of the CURRICULUM, from building Wompanoag dioramas or hover crafts, the presentation of individual science projects, field trips and the use of games and puzzles in math to the practice of stage combat in the Humanities unit on Sheakespeare. I especially love that science is taught as a process and not a “body of knowledge;” that mathematical thinking is learned through writing, drawing & discussion; that the Spanish teacher is reputed to be so versatile and competent; and that literacy includes not just reading and writing but “speaking and listening.” Imagine that.

4. The great FACILITIES, including the beautifully appointed classrooms, science lab, art room, music room, gym, woodshop, playground, nearby park, proximity to Fresh Pond, open-air main office, natural light, carpeted hallways and of course the centrally located library (and accompanying amphibian friends)!

5. So many ENRICHMENT ACTIVITIES such as student-lead all school meetings, Take Action Thursdays, serving as teachers’ assistants, weekly walks to Iggy’s, the Valentine Love Walk, the Faneuil Hall immigration field trip, October Fun Fest, the April Play, Growth Ed, and of course 8th Grade Graduation!

6. INTAGIBLES such as signs of Executive Functioning support I saw in the environment, and the practical, egalitarian approach to providing every student the same Trapper Keeper and coaching on how to use it. The class size and structure is exquisite, including the co-teaching status of the two teachers (which Gavin particularly liked hearing about). Also noteworthy is the possibility of Financial Aid considering the challenge that will be entailed in our meeting your very understandable tuition.

ALL of these factors are why we believe FSS and Gavin would be an extraordinary fit.

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Q4:  Please explain any individual or family circumstances that have affected or may affect your child’s experience. For example: skipping or repeating a grade, specific learning style, a recent move, or significant lost.

Unlike his parents, Gavin so far has enjoyed a relatively trauma-free childhood. While both his father and I appreciate the difficult circumstances we encountered growing up, we are most grateful (if amazed sometimes) at the intact, stable, loving and nurturing environment we have been able to create. So although it is not without challenges and struggles, I don’t believe there’s anything significant to report. His father Paul underwent major treatment for advanced cancer years ago, but it not only pre-dates Gavin’s memory, but helped enable Paul to become a full-time dad from which he then followed the kids to Tobin Montessori where he is now Head Chef of the school.

As for Gavin’s learning style, I just asked him and he said:
“It’s sometimes reluctant, but once I get started I keep going. I work hardest on things that I feel that I’m good at or that I find a good strategy for.”

Then I asked him about things he is not so compelled towards and he said, “I *will* take on a challenge but it helps if I have a little bit of help getting started.”

As mentioned previously, Gavin spent much of his elementary career focused more on reading than on school curriculum. Although the Montessori Method includes “free choice,” it was still always a challenge for his teachers to get him to engage. He was on an IEP from 2nd through 4th grade on account of his exceptional language processing and the challenge that poses in contrast to more typical mathematical and social processing. He also needed help with body control and pencil grip. He received PT, OT and counseling all of which helped bring about dramatic improvements. As his current (4th-5th grade) teacher Ms. Stefanie can attest, something “switched on” for Gavin towards the end of last Spring. This was also around the time we started discussing the prospects for Middle School, and the simple fact that no matter how capable he is, the proverbial proof is in the pudding.

His father suggests that some of the reading was as an escape from work he that found challenging, and it is true that he has recently ran into some difficulty with current math works on account of missing facility with basic memorized math facts. This has been a welcome challenge in our home and he has shown a great attitude as we start to employ both analog (written quiz) and online (eg: Reflex & IXL) tools to compensate for this weakness. The very application process to Fayerweather so far has been an inspiring experience for us all and we are grateful for this opportunity.

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Q5:  Is there anything else you think Fayerweather should know about your child’s academics?

Honestly I believe all the bases have been covered in our 4 other essays and Gavin’s himself. Again applying to your school is an inspiring experience and we are grateful for the opportunity.

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About circuskitchen

performing artist, mom, wife, daughter, sister, aunt, niece... just a regular extraordinary person
This entry was posted in childhood, education, faith, global inequity, health, learning, love, mental health, money, parenthood, patience, school, social justice, work, work-life balance. Bookmark the permalink.

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