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The Paths of Explorations Leading, Shall Lead ( 2009 Thesis #5)

(Fairhaven School has just graduated seven students. As a way to celebrate the class of 2009, over the next month, we will be posting the theses that they  successfully defended. Below is a brief description outlining how somebody earns a Fairhaven diploma, followed by the fifth thesis. Enjoy!

Students who have spent at least three years at Fairhaven School may earn a diploma by defending the thesis that they have prepared themselves to become effective adults in the larger community. Diploma candidates must declare their intent to graduate and answer questions at a special winter Assembly of parents, students, staff and public members. They also meet with their individual graduation committees, and defend their written theses before a Diploma Committee made up of three experienced staff members from other Sudbury schools. A majority of positive votes from the Committee is the final requirement of  the diploma process.)

The Paths of Explorations Leading, Shall Lead                              By, Richard Thomas “Max” Muffler

My idea of an effective adult is one who can provide for oneself without losing sight of what makes one happy. An effective adult will also give back to the larger community through their ideas and abilities. I believe that a person spends most, if not all, of their life trying to arrive at such a point.

Before I enrolled at Fairhaven, I attended a public middle school. I could not focus on my studies, for I was really displeased with my personal life outside of school. The chaotic environment created by so many of my peers in one room was distracting. The teachers would not assist me, so I just gave up on my responsibilities the school set for me.  If I could not grasp the information that was being presented, I could not successfully complete assignments. I got to the point where all I did was question life instead of just living it. So after the 7th grade, I joined the Fairhaven community. When I started at Fairhaven, I had a pretty bad outlook on life, so I tended not to be the easiest or nicest person to interact with. I really had no idea what to expect of a school with no assigned curriculum. My first impression was that I was free from responsibility and I had the ability to do anything I wanted, whenever I wanted. Then it hit me that I could really take advantage of the freedom and focus on my passions. Unlike the structure of my previous schooling, I could go about projects and things at my leisure, making the process more enjoyable with the end result of creating a better product. I found this to guide my way to a clearer and more positive outlook.

I started to play guitar and piano at a young age, but I never really had the time to take either of them seriously. Then I started playing Fairhaven’s piano and bringing in my guitar. At that point, we had a couple of students who were really passionate about music. They helped me understand different aspects of playing guitar, such as picking techniques and chord progressions geared toward specific genres of music. They helped me develop an all around appreciation for music. I also learned to play drums while at Fairhaven, just by listening to my peers play.  In public school, I took some clarinet classes and have used these skills to dabble in playing alto sax. I have made music via computer sequencing with the help of either a drum machine or programs such as “FL Studio” and “Logic”. I worked with the recording and editing of sound both in and out of school.  Playing music with others has been a big part of my life.  It is a challenge to find people that really dedicate themselves to focusing on a project. I played in a couple bands such as a three-piece   improvisational group called Motion Motion in which I played guitar, organ and synthesizer. We played a couple of small shows and then disbanded due to different directions within the band. I played electric piano and some synthesizer in another group known as Prehistoric, which is an experimental hip-hop group. I recorded some songs with them and have been in and out of contact. Lately, I have been trying to record with my current band that doesn’t have a name at this point. We are working on a demo and hope to be playing a show before summer.

While at Fairhaven, I have been Music Corp Chair more then once. Among my accomplishments, I identified the need for and assisted in the purchase of a new drum set for the school, which many people now enjoy playing and practicing with. I helped with several events such as coffee houses and the distribution of food to raise money for Music Corp. Perhaps one of the most important projects that I was a part of while in Music Corp. was helping soundproof the music room. This was done in response to complaints about the music being too loud. Now students may go about playing loud music without disturbing others.

After two or three years at Fairhaven, I started to grow an   appreciation for art. I have been exposed to it off and on during my childhood since my father is a calligrapher. I gained a lot from talking to and working with Leo Hussey, A former staff member and Peter Carlson, A former student. Working with Leo really helped me get a feel for my approach to sculpting. Art is not quite my forte, but I have such longing to learn and to make it so.   When it comes to my sculpting, I usually start with chicken wire or wood. I feel that I can go beyond this and I want to learn how to work with marble, granite, and other heavy-duty materials. I tend to like to work with others more than on my own since it allows me to share ideas and learn how to take constructive criticism. My solitary pursuit tends to be drawing, as my average sculpting pieces are fairly big and often require assistance.  I also build things by taking apart various items such as furniture and instruments and combining them. I am looking forward to acquiring more skills to improve my abilities as a sculptor.

I have recently started my term as J.C. Clerk. I have found it to be a very communal experience dealing with both young and older kids, with cases that vary in intensity. J.C. can be very stressful. The whole process of handling case after case has forced me to become a little more patient. I have also made it a point to attend most, if not all, school meetings for I think my vote and word is very beneficial to the community. I have argued for and against many rules and privileges in the time I have been here. My participation helped me to be a more efficient J.C. clerk. I believe if one uses the School Meeting system properly, one can really get what one wants out of this school.

During the winter break of 2007, I went to New Orleans to help aid those who were affected by Hurricane Katrina. I worked with Habitat for Humanity. While there, I stayed with my aunt. In the morning, I would go to the work site, which was a house on a corner near the Musician’s Village. The days were long, but well worth it. By the time I left the project, we had much of the base of the house finished. The work site was not that well organized and a bit chaotic at times, but I enjoyed the opportunity. However, I still felt that there was more that I could have done for the owner of the house as well as others affected by Katrina.

A couple months ago, I acted in a one-act play, directed by Ruth Yamamoto, a current staff member. It was my first time acting and I was a bit nervous about going on stage. It was overall a good experience. The work of memorizing line after line paid off and left me feeling very satisfied about my ability to act. After that, I started writing some plot lines and even part of a screenplay. I, with the help of Ruth, tried to act in and direct “Sleuth”. This is a play about an older man and a younger fellow who play mind games with one another over a woman they both love. Sadly, due to the lack of the right cast, it fell through. I am not discouraged though. I may pick up theater down the road. It was just such an awesome experience sharing the stage and connecting with my character and those of my costars.

I believe my dedication to my studies and participation in the larger community has prepared me to take the next step in becoming an effective adult. I volunteered to bus tables at a Thai restaurant known as Tamarind the summer of 2006. It closed down not too long after. I am in the midst of looking for a job. I am not quite sure what I want to    do in the long run, but I plan to attend Anne Arundel Community College in order to improve my academic foundation and to eventually study sculpting and anything else that may catch my interest. Once I have completed my time at Anne Arundel Community College, I plan to transfer to a four-year art school such as the Corcoran or MICA. My overall time at Fairhaven has been pleasant. I will take my experiences here and apply them to something bigger.    My life is a work in progress. I find that the more I achieve, the happier I am and the happier I am, the more effective I can be in supporting myself and contributing to society.