(Recorded on March 10, 1994)

~ Introductory Text by John Sherin ~

Parts One and Two

They came to reconnect and to share memories of lessons learned. Seventeen years after graduation, a mother of a middle school child expresses her gratitude for a unique opportunity and points to the disappointment she feels at never again having found the kind of community she remembered as defining Maslow-Toffler. Speaking in soft, self-confident tones, she compares her child’s journaling experience with that of her own in M-T. As if to underscore the point, parents in outtakes give witness to the changes they saw in their children. Former M-T students speak to how they are applying lessons learned in school to their own children. A former nurse and staff facilitator undergoing a career transition alludes to the necessity of making risky growth choices. An Instructional Media staff member was so moved by Brentwood’s alternative that he came on this evening to add his own supportive voice to the contributions their life’s choices had made.

Several teach classes of children with special needs. A number are working or have worked in the mental health and managed care field and emphasize the importance of “hugs” and the power of touch in human contact despite all systemic barriers. You feel the contrast of a traditional classroom with an alternative atmosphere when nineteenth century “bells” signal the end of evening school. Sitting in a single “unbroken circle,” the discussion considers how student lavatories without mirrors reflect a lack of trust and positive self-image in conventional schools.

Part Three

As husband and parent balancing work and family, an entrepreneur reminds those present how elusive success can be. Make no mistake: “Life’s not easy,” he says, adding an aside that time spent with his children is of utmost importance, as is involvement in the school, the PTA, or a School Improvement Team. Another successful entrepreneur reflects on how Maslow-Toffler taught him that “there is no such thing as failure,” only “educational experiences.”

Alluding to deep emotional connections and lifelong friendships, former students confess to heartfelt connection with former students and their teachers. “M-T will be with me always,” says one. Through personal efficacy or self-motivation, lessons were learned to overcome fear, reject rejection, and refuse “to accept no for an answer,” choosing instead to “think outside the box.”

Part Four

As children of single-parent families, several identified with the student today whose parent lacks the skills to mentor their children about what every young person needs to know to succeed. They believe most parents are “doing the very best they can with what they know,” especially in times of economic hardship when survival is an imperative. It makes them sad to think that by the end of elementary school (5th grade), so many parents are dropping children off at school only to see them when they return home, not knowing or caring what has happened to them in between.

“It’s what I needed,” says one man who was headed to dropping out of school. He called it a necessity that doesn’t exist for kids today, as so many are falling through the cracks. There was a consensus that there should be many different (alternative) ways for children to learn. BOCES is most definitely one such way, but so also is a place like M-T that taught inter-generational connection and responsibility to posterity. They agree on one thing: one-size-fits-all schooling doesn’t work.