(Recorded on April 28, 1994)

~ Introductory Text by John Sherin ~

Part One

THREE YEARS EARLIER, one of the two co-founders had resigned to reflect, travel and matriculate to higher education where he added a third Master’s in Mathematics to his first and second Master’s Degrees in Biology and Social Studies. The other co-founder followed in 1982, declining his Superintendent’s request to remain an additional year. He chose instead to return to conventional teaching where he’d be spared being witness to the painful withdrawal of M-T’s life supports.

One other facilitating staff member went back to the system in 1982, only to return in 1983 just as yet another was having their position eliminated. There were in all two full-time facilitators, one clerical and several volunteers who filled out the remaining staff positions. There were fewer juniors and seniors enrolled this year than at any other time in the school’s history.

It was for everyone involved an experiential year of “Future Shock.” The M-T family had formerly been slandered and splintered, then dislocated, relocated, separated and simultaneously swallowed up by the “old’ system. The constancy of a unified staff was now less certain than it had been. Circumstances unprecedented seemed to govern day-to-day operations. As prescribed by Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, the physical survival of the school became a priority of the highest importance.

Part Two

A group of four represented the class on this evening. They described how M-T was scaled down in 1983. With less staff, they’d created their own world in Room 606, with safety and security needs also high on their list of priorities. Unfamiliar with the violence and drug abuse in the high school, they formed a new kind of support system for problem-solving that utilized the confrontation model with which they were familiar. Group process gave them confidence to “figure this thing out.” Assured of support from the new Superintendent’s belief in Alternative Education (one former student had enjoyed a student/teacher relationship with him years before in North Elementary), they also had a full-time facilitator move back with them. It was she who they trusted and depended upon for support.

The blackboards with desks in rows were still out. These vestiges of 19th Century learning were superfluous for futuristic learning to occur. Here, a portion of the new curriculum was learning how to learn. By integrating both hemispheres and applying their discoveries to real life situations, as in “negotiations” with the Board of Education regarding the future of the school, the small band of learners pushed against the tide. “Negotiating for the school meant a lot to me”, one man said. “It meant I was taking responsibility for my actions.” This was the same man who, with his former Principal’s support, had introduced creative marketing to vending machine sales as part of the school’s legal fund-raising effort.

Part Three

A professional businessman who attended last week described the nature of his work with people and explained how the new location had worked to everyone’s advantage. Life awarded them lemons, so they made metaphoric lemonade by having lunch in the high school with friends and took advantage of resources the high school had to offer - like a shared gym. Weighing pluses and minuses, the pluses outweighed the minuses for a few. “Wanderers” from the high school would be given in-house tours to dispel rumors and gain converts. This same man came to appreciate the importance of saving the two-year program in order that the first year be used as a model for those who followed. Sadly, as they learned, the next year would be their last.

Their facilitator observed how, at first, it was frightening to be back. In spite of everything, student leadership qualities developed and evolved. They began to sit on site-based management teams. The list of their “firsts” continued to exist as M-T out-distanced all regional competition as far as its learning styles, group process and outcome-based education was concerned. Reflecting upon feelings of abandonment students had felt when their trust was compromised, questions concerning whose best interest had been served by certain staff member decisions surfaced when - it was agreed - they’d never been confronted. A voice of optimism pointed out “as long as you’re learning new things, your brain continues to grow.” But the trauma of one man’s experience this year was still palpable as he observed:  “We were destroying ourselves from the inside. Concrete issues had to be addressed,” he said, “but they never were.”