First Week Wheeeeeee!!

Well, turns out three years of practice does make a difference. Earlier this week everyone in spawn was all talking at once, and the 8-year-old facilitator was completely distracted with his lego, and no one had written anything on the board, and I could hear kids from the other spawns already out in the hall, finished with their meetings when we hadn’t even started, and I wasn’t worried about it. Past Mel would have felt pressured to do something, but I didn’t. I resisted the urge to take control, to make the meeting more “efficient,” and I was able to tolerate the discomfort (less than it once was, after the practice of many chaotic spawns) because I really do trust the kids now. A big part of it is noticing where my schoolishness wants to eat that trust and actively choosing to reject the impulses of ordering, controlling, and making things smooth; another is recognizing the assumption that order, control, or smoothness are the primary goals of the meeting, rather than authentic presence, reflection, and relationship-building. Time is weird, but sometime in the last three cycles I’ve begun giving myself permission to relax in noticing the ways that it is circular. Things are how they are right now, so notice them. Be present in that noticing. Spawn is chaotic and that slows things down but we are here: a teen is trying to help the 8-year-old decide how to set the gameshifting board, a kid who has been practicing is sounding really good playing piano, everyone’s body posture is relaxed and sleepy this morning. This is only the second day of school. There’s plenty of time.

After a summer of littles, I’m particularly grateful to be back in a self-directed space with pre-teens and teens; I was reflecting on this after I spent a lot of yesterday talking to @timotree and @muffinsthecutest. We started with which language-learning apps we like (estamos practicando espanol!) and then, organically, moved through conversations about gender, patricarchy, the origins of hegemony, conspiracy theories, what money is, individual actors vs organizations, climate change, theories and schemas for manifesting cultural shifts, brains and bodies and networks and emergent strategy and so much more; a pretty comprehensive list of some of my favorite subjects to swirl my brain around. There are lots of kinds of self-directed spaces, and lots of kinds of play, but this particular kind – where we float on a conversational tide of our interests – is one that I love, and am grateful for the intellectual challenge of.

More first week highlights: ramping up a really big D&D game thanks to Xander’s enthusiasm and organization, lots of humans playing the piano, reconnecting over our fandoms, listening to culture keepers discuss culture hacking, a smooth(er) cleanup time than the end of last year, sharing books, listening to Sebastian’s evil laugh echoing down the hall, the return of geoguessr, wikitrails, and coup, the invention of a new currency, age-mixed roblox, naming the new projector, and listening to Timo and Iphy explain active voice to Hugo (happening right now!). Exciting things to come: field trips, park trips, the return of volunteer-led offerings like Acro and cook noob, art projects, anatomy and physiology, and a pokemon showdown tournament (that I might stand a chance in – we’ll see!). First things first: the D&D crew got $150 from finance club today to go to the Strand and Forbidden Planet on Monday to get supplies! Yay for a new year!

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Mel Compo is an interdisciplinary artist, playworker, and facilitator at the New York City Agile Learning Center. Their work with children centers play, art-making, city adventuring, and open conversation about language, bodies, gender, networks, emotional intelligence, brain plasticity, and cycles of growth. Mel studied the intersections of SDE, poetry, and the history of American education NYU’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study. They live in Brooklyn, New York.

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