How to Tell Time at Fairhaven School
There are as many ways to describe and understand Fairhaven School as there are leaves in our forest. For some, it’s all about play and conversation. For others, the school is a beacon of social justice because it affords young people the right to establish the terms of their lives. Some see this place as a place to belong as the person you are, rather than conform to what others think you should be. For me, one of the best ways to get Fairhaven School is to look at the concept of time.
Ask most people today how they are, and it probably won’t be too long until words like busy, tired, and stressed come out. How we rush around these days! We work, we drive, we probably get less sleep than we should. Even when we slow down, we usually plug in, checking emails, texts, or social media. For young people, throw in homework, sports teams, music lessons, etc. Add in their electronic habits and connections.
When somebody enrolls in Fairhaven School, she immediately gets her life back. She’s back in charge of her time. Since we do not presume to dictate how she should spend it, she gets to decide how to fill her days. Social media? Reading Harry Potter again? Playing Dungeons and Dragons? Hanging out with her friends? Playing music? Doing nothing? Watching Gray’s Anatomy? Thinking about life? The great gift of Fairhaven School is that our students have the time for these and countless other activities. Ultimately, they have the time to grow up at a pace that makes sense. They can try things, lots of things, along the way. They can fail and learn from their mistakes. Finally, they can succeed.
In thinking lately about this, I have understood again the irony of time and Fairhaven School for families. While our students have all of it, our parents do not. In fact, some of them have even less time the moment they enroll their children! Suddenly, they are driving to Upper Marlboro. Sometimes, they are working more just to pay for tuition, so they have even less time. We get it, and we appreciate the sacrifice.
So time is the overarching gift parents give their children here. We invite families who enroll their children to double down on that gift. Sometimes, parents want to accelerate the process; they want to fast forward time. Inevitably, parents reach moments of concern or even crisis when they worry that their child is not using his or her time well here. They lose faith, either in the school or in their child.
How long does a tree need to grow? When does an artist achieve mastery? When does an adolescent become an adult? There’s nothing quite like seeing students leave this place too soon. They’ve made some strides towards independence, but they aren’t finished yet. Last month, we heard nine students declare their intention to graduate, and each of them, in one way or another, demonstrated what happens when somebody has sufficient time to discover what they want from this life. Whether or not they all succeed in graduating this year, they have each benefited immeasurably from the copious gift of time bestowed upon them by the school and their supportive families. How to tell time at Fairhaven: In 1577, a Swiss inventor named Jost Burgi was the first to add minute hands to clocks. When parents waver, when they want to accelerate the process, maybe they should think in terms of earlier clocks with only hour hands. Here at Fairhaven School, slow and steady wins the race.