Lakeside School at Black Kettle Farm offers birth –2nd grade education based on the Waldorf philosophy on a working farm in Essex, NY.
Fall Newsletter: Jumping In
By Stites McDaniels
On Saturday mornings I go to my daughter’s swim lesson. She needs my wife’s help in the pool, as her swimming ability still necessitates a hands-on adult, and I spend the time with our son watching the entire goings on poolside. It is there that I see some of the most wonderful examples of courage. I watch children being challenged to, literally, take leaps of faith into uncharted waters. These children are constantly doing things they have never even considered doing before being put on the spot, standing at the water’s edge, looking down at the outstretched arms of their instructor who, up until a few weeks ago, would be an alien to them, all the while listening to the encouraging words of a stranger and the class telling them to “jump.”
It is this sense of going beyond what we know into a place that holds potential for a more enriched and diverse future that guides the Board of Lakeside School at Black Kettle Farm. For the first 6 years of the school’s existence, the Board was charged with a multitude of tasks. But now, in the midst of such a large period of growth and expansion, the Board has turned its focus mainly towards the financial well-being and solvency on the school today and indefinitely into the future.
There is no doubt that a sense of courage is what has guided us towards this narrowing and deepening of our focus. Change is a difficult and sometimes scary process. Once you create a feeling of equilibrium, choosing to dis-equalize yourself seems counterproductive. But without the willingness to take on a new challenge, change may come whether you like it or not.
This school year, the expansion of the school has been unprecedented, with the addition of a second grade and an all-day program for 1 and 2 year olds. This follows last year’s expansion into 1st grade. Our expansion plan will be completed next year with the addition of a 3rd grade. At the precipice of each decision to grow were questions. Projected enrollment, potential rewards and possible pitfalls were all on the minds of every board member before we decided to move forward with each of these decisions. So what gave us the courage to make these resolutions?
Our school is vital for the community. It supports students with a curricular model developing young people into vibrant learners. When these students leave Lakeside and go into other public and private schools in the area, they will bring this ability to discover to the larger community. They spend time at Lakeside taking moments to develop their social selves. Their ability to participate in the “great experiment” known as the Adirondack Park not only has the potential to be informed by their capacity to be educated, but by their awareness of and empathy for their peers. It is with the knowledge that our school plays such a vital role in the cultivation of the next generation of stewards for what we hold near and dear that we are able to courageously help secure a future for our school. Knowing that the school is vital is the strength that helps guide our nerve.
We are all standing at the edge of the pool, looking down into the swirling waters of possibility; but we know that jumping is the right thing to do. At times, it may feel safer with our legs planted firmly on the ground, but once we jump, the world opens up, like water parting. Imagine what the strength of our students will encourage us to do next.
Stites McDaniels is Lakeside’s Board President. He is a lifelong educator. Spending several years as a camp counselor in his youth lead him to a career in both non-traditional education- working as a House Parent in a group foster home and serving as a Director of an Outdoor Education Center- as well as more traditional educational scenarios in public Schools and a school specializing in students who require intensive supports. Now, Stites has once again returned to the public school realm, giving Special Education instruction at the Bridport Central School in Bridport, VT. Stites and his wife have 2 lovely children, Natalie and Jay, and make their home in Westport, NY.