“Can we have a meeting with you?”

February 7, 2013

“Can we have a meeting with you?”  I hear that question many times each week.  I hear it in classrooms, on playgrounds, as students arrive at school, and as they depart.  I’m not talking about parents asking for meetings, but rather the students.

Let me elaborate.  A few times in any given week, figure about eight times in a five-day week, I meet with small groups of students.  The groups range in size from three to five students.  The meetings last about ten to fifteen minutes, tops, and I usually ask three questions.  I might ask about class activities, how recess is going, friendships, Hot Lunch, events like the Halloween Carnival, specialty classes, what the students are finding difficult about school, whether math is too hard or easy, what book they’re reading, and a bunch of other possible questions.  I think what the students like about the meetings, and why they ask for the meetings, is that they have the undivided attention of someone they believe can make decisions at Walden. They understand that I have some responsibility for what happens on our 1.3 acres.

I don’t always think of The Walden Fund when I’m having a meeting with students; however, the meetings aren’t merely an academic exercise.  Over time, the conversations take on a practical meaning.  The meetings the students have with me and the conversations they have with their teachers translate implicitly into uses of The Walden Fund.  We don’t create projects or invent program enhancements without some thought and research, and we include those initial conversations with the students.  For example (students talking):

•The computers keep crashing. (New iMac computer lab)

•We’d rather play instruments. (Orff instruments for music program)

•We think recycling is important.  (New rainwater harvesting tank)

•The writing program is something we enjoy every day.  (Professional development for every teacher and teaching assistant at Columbia University)

•We’d like to be challenged more in math; it feels too easy. (Partnership with USC School of Education on math differentiation)

Over the past five years, The Walden Fund has generated over $1.2 million, and those funds only further the success of Walden’s students.  And, the funds raised are for the students.  The same students who meet with me regularly and openly share, in their own way, what they consider to be Walden’s greatest strengths and areas to be improved.

I am truly grateful for your generous contributions to Walden School.  Thank you very much.  From meetings with students to writing Annual Report missives, it continues to be an honor and a privilege to come to school at Walden each day.

Matt Allio, Walden School Director

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