We’ve had three days of school so far, and each day has been vastly different than the last.

At the end of the first day I felt like, frankly, a train had run over me. There was chaos, confusion, a few tears, lots of nerves… and that was just on my part. Some of our older Eagles coming from Montessori had very clear looks on their face – the loudness and the chaos was not sitting well with them. This was how I discovered the power of my own silence.

During a particularly rambunctious few minutes, I gave up trying to establish order and stopped talking. I was silent for a very long two minutes. Soon, though, glimpses of self-policing began to appear. The older Eagles in the community started trying to impose order themselves. It got quieter, and then quieter. The learners sat down. They formed their own circle. It looked something like order. I asked them, “Does this noise stress you out? Does it stress you out when you have a thought or question, and someone else interrupts you and talks over you?” This is how we led into our Provisional Contract.

The contract is a series of promises the Eagles make to each other. We establish a temporary one based on what the Eagles think is our most immediate need to create a functional community, and we tweak it over the coming weeks for a final document. At the end of the creation of our provisional contract, we had a signing ceremony where the Eagles made a vocal promise to the community and signed the document while I rather dramatically rang the bell after each one. But the drama of it seemed to have a profound effect on them.

Our morning circles are becoming quieter as the Eagles listen to each other. They are sharing their thoughts with each other more, instead of just responding to my prompts. They are starting to answer each other’s questions instead of looking to me. Most remarkably, without my really telling them so, they are sharing their problems in calm, productive ways instead of accusations and fussing.

I thought my introduction of the Studio Maintenance system (our way of keeping our space clean and organized) would be particularly difficult. And there was some definite arguing with the “Champion” of each area of the studio that needed to be cleaned. But when I informed each Champion that it was their responsibility that the rest of the Eagles do their jobs thoroughly, they set to seeing it through without any pettiness or abuse of power. I am excited to see that play out in the coming weeks as each Eagle gets a chance to be their Area Champion, and they will remember what helped them or hindered them in getting their task done. They promised to speak to each other with kindness and encouragement, and they seem to be keeping that promise pretty well.

Next – resource management. Because ink cartridges are expensive.