A Week of Learning and Living at the North Branch School

Note: each week a student at the North Branch School compiles the weekly notes, which describe the week that has just passed. It’s a way to get an inside look at what happens at the school. These notes were compiled by 9th grader Axel de Boer.

Monday

I walked into school wearily, not because I didn’t want to go to school, but because waking up on weekdays, Mondays especially, always seemed to induce a weariness upon me. My eyes felt like they were being beaten down by anvils as I walked into the basement to put my things into my cubby, walking past the Big Room which was full of my classmates, sitting around the table or at the chairs in a second ring, around the table. Once I was in the basement, I opened my computer and printed my lit response, to which I was notified by one of my classmates passing by that Tal wanted everyone upstairs. I glanced at my computer screen, hoping that the print had finally worked, and then ran upstairs to avoid me being yelled at by Tal. At first glance the entire room was full, with no room for me to sit, but as I looked over it again, I saw a spot, in between Campbell, a seventh-grader, and Seely, a fellow ninth-grader who was hunched over her notebook. I sat down with my notebook, and as soon as Lila began to talk about her going to a museum with her family, I began to write. Soon a storm of people began talking about their weekend. Owen talked about how his friend’s sisters were bothering him, and I related to that. Sometimes it felt like when my sister was around her friends, she targeted me, along with her friends, or even if she was in a place with none of her friends, she still seemed to make conversation out of trying to embarrass me. Meeting seemed to pass by all too quickly, until Campbell, who was dressed in purple with a unicorn hat, for spirit day (which was to wear as much purple as possible, even though most people didn’t own that many purple clothes), began to talk. At the beginning it was somewhat muffled and quiet, but as it progressed it began to become much more clear. Campbell was talking about how she felt that in Math and Science people were going much further ahead than her, when Campbell was working together with her class. I didn’t exactly know how she felt, because I was normally on the other side of the spectrum. I was normally the person that was working perhaps too fast, and giving out answers to people that were still trying to figure it out. I was going to change that, I decided, it was my ninth grade, and I wasn’t going to be the one that was going to be ruining classes for another person. On top of that, when I do something fast I’ve learned that it isn’t my best work. The week before this one, Steve had been talking about the people that go fast on their work, and it’s never the best work. Peter read the poem for the day, which was Wild Geese by Mary Oliver:

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

Meeting wrapped up,  and everyone left besides the eighth and ninth graders. I left the room, and hustled to grab my lit response, which I had managed to print before meeting. I walked into the Big Room, and sat at the table, next to Leila, who had already begun to draw things in her notebook. It seemed that everyone around the table knew what to talk about, and I did as well, and soon my arm began to ache, but instead of just letting everything just pass me by I wrote people’s thoughts down. The one that particularly struck me, at the beginning of the class, Owen said “It’s crazy how just one rainstorm could kill an entire horse,” I added onto it. For those who don’t know about the book we’re reading, The Red Pony, (Spoilers ahead) there is a boy named Jody, and to not become too elaborate, Jody is pretty much a lazy butt munch, who doesn’t really do anything right, because he’s too lazy (To give him credit, in the book, he’s only 10 years old). Then one day his dad buys him a horse, and to basically make these next few sentences sound like a 5th grade book report the horse and Jody get a bond, and then the horse dies because of the strangles. It’s pretty morbid. But something that really struck me that I didn’t share in the literature class was how one mistake (The mistake being that the ranch hand, Billy Buck, didn’t bring him in fast enough during a rainstorm) could destroy an entire relationship. Lit went by too fast because it felt like when the eighth graders left the room, it was still bursting with ideas. I continued to sit in my spot, with nothing to do because I had finished most of my homework. Eventually Leila got up and brought in her gourd, which had been decapitated by Oscar’s soccer ball. Leila and I began to attempt surgery on the gourd, which Leila had affectionately named “Mother Goose” because she had added eyes, and a scarf (Which was placed over the decapitation wound that Oscar had inflicted) Eventually we finished the surgery of Mother Goose, with two sticks, a scarf, and maybe too much clear packaging tape. Tal was somewhat laughing, somewhat exclaiming at that now that study had hit the 30-minute mark, and he still hadn’t done anything. He told me to write how annoying and unproductive this study had been. 

I left study, and went to break, in which I had told Anika that we should practice soccer, in anticipation of the game that was coming up later that day. It was raining, to which I said to Anika,

“Since you’re my friend you’ll still play soccer with me, even if it’s raining, right?”

To which she responded with

“Well, friends can be mean sometimes.”

I laughed, and then began to try to keep the ball away from her. Which failed. Eventually, Oscar came out, and along with him came Quinn. I went inside, because I was cold, and went into the math room. I looked at the 9th-grade homework bin, which was a see-through green. I began sorting through it, looking for mine. I was thinking about what Campbell had said earlier that day, about some people going too fast. I felt that I wasn’t proud of the Math homework that I had done on Friday. I felt like I had done it too fast, like I hadn’t put as much work into it as I could. I began to read over my homework, and as I looked over it for the second time, reading through the questions. I began asking Anika questions about the work. Not necessarily the answers, just how I could get to them. I went over the questions and began correcting myself. Eventually I was finished and began drawing on the back of my sheet, which soon held something that perhaps would form questions in some people’s minds about how sane I really was. Math slipped by, and after a quiz, which apparently had been incorrectly assigned (It’s okay Steve), I left Math, to the basement, where I sat in my cubby, along with a few other people. Soon people came into the cubby area, and then Finn turned off the lights. Immediately Campbell began to scream, and people began to scare each other, as the basement was pitch black. Greyson turned his phone’s light on, and put it in my eyes, I cringed away from it. Eventually, we began to all hum intensely, in a sort of mock prayer. Lila, who is in a musical, suggested that we should begin a harmony, and apparently I was really bad at keeping my note, because she kept telling me,

“You changed your note again!”

Lunch felt good, it felt like it was the first time I had connected with people that perhaps I hadn’t really attempted a connection with. I left the basement after people began to stream in, looking at us as if we were insane, because they must’ve heard us doing our pretend Sermons. I left science and began vigorously taking notes. Soon Science finished, and we entered the Big Room. Cullen was about to read his speech. He did an amazing job, he put his own spin on the speech, saying it like no one had ever said it before. Reading it differently, and doing hand motions to exaggerate points. He did a great job. Soon, school had ended, and people were gearing up to go to the soccer game. I left the school excited, and as my mom’s van pulled out of the driveway, I pretended to be the crown queen of England, who was also an avid spud farmer.

Tuesday

I walked into school and looked through the glass door which showed the big room, where people had already begun to sit. I walked downstairs, put my stuff away, and walked back up with a little conversation in between me and anyone else. I looked for my notebook but couldn’t find it, until I realized that the notebooks had been laid out in various spots. Assigned seats. I found my seat in the back of the room, where I had sat the day before. I was sitting next to Colt, and once Oscar had realized that he asked if we wanted to trade seats. He apparently was sitting next to Leila. I shook my head, I knew that if I switched spots with Oscar, he probably wouldn’t be able to keep himself from talking to Colt. Meeting began once Tal entered the room from a meeting with the teachers. Tal began talking about the soccer game we had, because he didn’t know the score. We quickly informed him about the fact that we had won 6-1. Jacques had scored four of the six goals, and Tal congratulated him. I interrupted Tal by saying that I had gotten an assist, to which Tal responded to something along the lines of

“Calm down, it’s Jacques’ time to shine.”

After that, when Tal had finally sat down and Meeting had really commenced, Tal informed us of a way to reach true Utopia, which was that before October began everyone having their notebook covers done and taped. Most people had finished theirs, most people had a collage, and we’d cover it up with clear packaging tape, to prevent it from water damage. Tal picked up Jacques’ notebook as an example of what a good notebook looked like, and began reading a passage from it. This immediately sparked a thought in my head and I began to go through my notebook, which instead of writing had various drawings in it. It was easier to draw my thoughts than put them down in a comprehensible script. Eventually the conversation was drawn about cats disappearing, to which Tal began one of his many short stories about the students that had been at this school in its 20-odd years. This one was about a cow that had escaped from its herd, and apparently there was a student in this school who’d occasionally see the wild cow, and they’d call it “The Wild Cow of Shoreham” to which Finn began talking about how if people had heard about the Wild Cow of Shoreham fifty years from now they’d think we worshipped the cow. To an outsider this conversation may seem like a conversation not fit for school, but to me, this is the chaos that comes before the quiet perfection of intermingling connections form like a glistening spider web after a damp morning. Towards the end of meeting, Fiona shared what she had accumulated so far for burning School, and after she was done, Wiley read the poem for meeting, which I couldn’t find the book it was in, and I couldn’t find it on the inter-webs.

The ninth graders left the room and then went to the science room. I was forced towards the back of the room because everyone had gotten there before me. We were going to watch a documentary about Earth’s Creation. I began copying down the 23 questions on the board, but was then told by my classmates that I didn’t need to copy them down. I still did. Science class slipped away with a few technical errors, and soon enough it was time for study. I began in the big room where Finn was passing around Sour Cream and Onion Lays chips, which apparently was now something that my class was doing, because the day before Greyson had brought Salt and Vinegar chips (Or whatever they’re called I probably got that wrong). Once the chips were gone I went downstairs because it was quieter down there, and I began doing my Math homework. Normally I don’t feel like I did well enough on my Math homework. Sometimes it feels rushed, or sometimes I feel like there isn’t enough that I can do, like I’ve exhausted all my mental abilities. This time I felt invigorated, though. I had promised to Steve that I’d go over my math homework twice to decrease the amount of easy to correct errors in my work, and I did that. I turned in my math homework with pride, something that I should’ve been doing for the years before, but I was glad that I was doing it now. I returned to the basement and began working on my place description corrections, which I finished before break had begun. I went outside, where it was cloudy. Everyone was sitting on the patio, eating various different kinds of foods, and I grabbed my soccer ball and began dribbling around the patio. I’d been practicing over the weekend, and I was glad that it was being noticed by people who were really good at soccer, like Oscar or Lillian or Colt. It felt like the people who were so far up the soccer hierarchy sometimes looked down on people like me who were trying to improve. It’s a good feeling, and it’s something that I want to do, because the feeling of being appreciated is a great feeling, like the things that you’ve been working on. Break ended and I entered the Math room. I was excited because Ezra was going to teach a class on Origami. Once everyone had sat down people began to fold to Ezra’s instructions. When people asked Ezra what to do, he’d simply say “Use your best judgement” which was something that Steve would say whenever we’d ask him a question on a quiz. In Math class we made a Butterfly, a Swan, and a Lotus flower, and I was pretty proud of mine. Once we were done we pinned all of our lotus flowers to the wall, and left for Lunch. I played soccer for a little while before I got tired, and walked downstairs to the basement, where Anika and Greyson were sitting. I sat in Anika’s cubby, because it was the cleanest by far, even though Anika was trying to paint it. Eventually more people arrived in the basement, until eventually people turned the lights off, and we were right off where we were the day before, although this time, it didn’t feel as special, as all things seem the second time around. Perhaps it’s best to leave the things that made us happy in the past, because if you re-enact them then they’re bound to not be nearly as special, and the other thing is aren’t you just back tracking to when that happened? Either way Lunch ended with people giving us the odd stares that they had the day before, and we went into All-Tal, which now had the podium on the table. Lillian began her speech, and it was about her dad, and how she felt bad that she hadn’t been appreciating him, or at least that’s what I got out of it. I commented on it and talked about how it’s hard to appreciate someone that you feel like works three times harder than you do, because it’s hard to put yourself in their shoes. My dad also works a lot, and I appreciate him for that, but whenever he comes home and says he’s had a long day I don’t know how to respond, because I’m sure that my definition of a long day is not his definition of a long day. After Lillian’s comments on her excellent speech finished, we clapped and whooped as she walked out of the spotlight and collected notes. Next up was Finn, who went outside and screamed, as Lillian had done (It’s to get the nervous feeling out of your chest). He began talking about trying to lift people out of their own holes. I glanced over at Oprea’s notebook, and read one of her notes, which was something along the lines of You talked about pushing people down to get yourself up, but isn’t a good idea to push other people up and hope that they’ll pull you up. I thought about that, there definitely have been points in my NBS career when I’ve pushed people down for my own gain, and this idea was interesting. Not only does it employ the idea of goodwill towards others, but also to trust them to pull you back up. Trust is a fragile thing that takes an entire year at North Branch to carefully fabricate, yet I think that so far the process has been going well, and I was proud of that. I was proud of this class, this school, because we have come far from the first day, and we definitely haven’t reached our peak, which is also a good thing. Fiona walked up to the podium, and I was surprised when she walked outside screaming. Most people who seem quiet in their first year here don’t scream, but I guess it was Fiona showing that she trusted us. Or at least enough to scream, which was still something. She talked about her brother Levi, and about when he was younger he had a thing called Failure to Thrive. She related it to the fact that when she was younger she wanted to avoid crying as much as possible, but then her speech took a curveball, she talked about how can we thrive when we don’t cry or can’t even show our emotion. I talked about how sometimes North Branch feels like it doesn’t live up to its good credit. Sometimes it feels like there’s too much work, or that the people are just so far ahead of you, but what makes North Branch different is that hopefully, you will eventually feel comfortable, or even if you aren’t comfortable you’ll begin to cry, and that’s what makes North Branch special. It’s a place where people can show emotion without feeling scared. That’s what creates my love for North Branch, we can be vulnerable. I sometimes struggle with being vulnerable or showing my emotions, but eventually, I got here. To this place, the proverbial peak. I loved Fiona’s speech, she writes her words carefully and with intention, and she reads it the same way. Soon I left the Big Room, because it was the end of the day, and walked to the bus with Colt.

Wednesday

I stepped off of the bus after saying goodbye to the bus driver, Scott, who had just come off of a vacation in Colorado. Later in meeting Ezra brought up the fact that he had asked Scott how vacation had been, and he was trying to make a small change. Everyone in the classroom agreed that it hopefully made a small difference. In meeting,  the primary thing that struck me was when Tal was going around the classroom asking people what they’d done to show how they want to live the day before. Lillian began to talk about her friends at Mt. Abe, and how she had normally been feeling stuck in between two places, but now she had been feeling better. Tal asked her to describe the stuck feeling, and she began to cry a bit. This was the vulnerability described by Fiona the day before, this was Lillian beginning to thrive. I was glad that Lillian felt like she was out of the stuck feeling. Meeting ended with Seely reading poem, which was called This Be The Verse, by Phillip Larkin (a very famous poem)

 They fuck you up, your mom and dad

they may not mean to, but the do

they fill you with the faults they had 

and add some extra just for you

but they were fucked up in their turn 

by fools in old style hats and coats 

who half the time were soppy stern

 and half at one and other’s throats

man hands on misery to man

it deepens like a coastal shelf

get out as early as you can 

and don’t have any kids yourself

Everyone cleared out besides the eighth and ninth graders, and Lit class kicked off. Wiley, who was sitting in the outer ring of the chairs which were backed against the wall, was asked by Tal to sit at the table. Wiley came into the inner circle, and Tal began asking him questions about the lit. His answers undoubtedly surprised everyone. Sometimes it was hard to believe that Wiley had something to say. Most of the time he spent his time in the outer circle, or reading Calvin & Hobbes, yet he clearly had thoughts about this book. Soon, people began raising their hands after Wiley had sat back. I looked over at him, to see what his facial expression was, and I couldn’t read anything. Although throughout that lit class I noticed Wiley speaking a bit more. It wasn’t anything big, just bits here and there, and I just want to write about that, because I think that sometimes we forget the quieter people. It’s hard to remember the people who are on the doorstep, looking in. Sometimes we forget those people, because we’re too caught up about what’s going on the inside of the house. It’s important to invite the people on the outside of the house, because then they might feel more comfortable, or at least know that they’re welcome on the inside of the house. Lit went by, and I commented on and off, but I was also folding origami butterflies, which Ezra had taught us to do the day previously. I had the idea of colouring them in later. I would take a piece of paper out of my notebook, fold it into a triangle, and then rip it, which would create a near-perfect square, then I’d begin folding. Soon I had six different butterflies, each different size. After class had ended and the eighties were leaving for Math, and the nineties began study, Ezra handed me an origami lotus flower that he’d made. I thanked him, then put it neatly next to my butterflies in a neat pile, in the unorganized desk. At first, during study everyone thought that we were in the midst of a crisis, for no one had brought the chips, but then Seely ran in and plopped some Dill Pickle flavored chips in the middle of the table. I was skeptical at first, but then was educated by Finn about how good they tasted, and then I grudgingly took a bite, and took a handful more. Study passed and we went to Math, where we began to overview the homework.

An hour and 45 minutes later, we dismissed math class. Everyone had been stuck on one problem, problem number 14. It was finding the dimension of a rectangle inside a rectangle when we only knew the perimeter of the outer rectangle. The only thing was that instead of it being something easy, it was Algebra, something that we’d learned the year before. In the end though, I had learned something. I went outside and for the remainder of the time I played soccer in anticipation of the 2v2 possession match that Oscar and Colt had set up. I had chosen my partner as Ethan (unwillingly) for two reasons, one: Lila kept saying no, even when I tried to do my baby eyes or whatever they’re called, and two: because I thought that it’d be fun to do with Ethan, despite the fact that I was pretty sure he’d never played soccer before, but I wanted to bond with him. Lunch ended too early, probably because we were 45 minutes over. While the eighties and sevies went to Study, the nineties went to science. I sat at the table (Finally) because I had gotten there on time, rather than late. Science went by in a breeze, and it was All-Tal, where we read two place descriptions. One was Leila’s, it was about last Spring, going up to a rock with Isabelle (A previous ninety), Anika, and me, and the silent tension that was happening in between us, which was eventually broken after Anika and Isabelle had left, and Leila had placed a crown of ferns on my head. The second place description was Anika’s, about the day that her cat had died (It was titled “Title, which after the place description created a big debate on what it should be called). I thought that her description of the place was clean and sharp. It kept every detail and feeling, and at some points the grief that was described felt surreal. After All-Tal ended, I walked downstairs to do my job, and then walked upstairs to soccer.

Thursday

I walked into school cold, because it had seemed that since the beginning of the week the weather had just gotten worse and worse. The day had started off raining and gray, and in the beginning of the morning I didn’t want to be at school, but the entrance into the school changed that. Once I was there, I didn’t want to leave. I quickly hustled to the Big Room, and sat down at the table. Almost immediately meeting began, Owen had brought up how much he had enjoyed doing math with his mom the night before. I found myself smiling, I knew that Owen had been struggling, and I was glad that he was finally doing something about it. I raised my hand, because I had something to say, and once I was called on, I began talking. I talked about how when you’re writing weekly notes you get a new perspective on things, and I talked about how I had seen Wiley sort of begin to enter the school. I was proud of him, or felt happy for him, because this place can be especially overwhelming, and I can’t imagine what it’s like to enter in the middle of the school year. Then someone brought Quinn up, because she had been sick for a few days before, and I don’t remember who, but the person talked about how much Quinn’s presence affected this school. She was the person that would play any sport with anyone outside. Overall, she was someone who was super positive, and I can’t agree more with this statement. Quinn is someone who’s positive energy is so overwhelming that it’ll make anyone smile, even if they’re having a bad day. I know it might be too early to say this, but when I say the current eighth grade class as a ninth-grade class, I can see Quinn helping all the new seventh grader’s into the school, and helping the eighth graders through strife. Meeting ended, and Quinn (Rather fittingly) read her own poem:

‘Conversation of A Lifetime’

“Hello stone, can I talk to you?” I asked, 

Wondering what the stone may say

“No, why must you talk to me?” The stone replied unwillingly.

“Well may I talk to your friend?” I asked, not surprised by the response

“Yes” The stones friend said before it could intervene 

“Well, did you have a nice day?” I asked, looking at the darkness behind it

“Yes, but is that what you really want to be asking?” The stone replied,

It had known I was not there to make small talk

“No.” I said, taken aback

“Well then, get on with it.” The stone said

“Well, what do you like about being a rock?” I asked, somewhat bluntly.

“Surely watching the change around me, 

Things getting smaller and bigger.” The stone said knowingly

It dawned on me then the amazing lives of living and non-living things,

The rock would see many moon cycles and all the change

“Do you watch the moon cycles and if so do you notice things about them?”

“Yes, it is a cycle at some times but it also changes randomly. 

Also none of the humans know this or even think about it but there are sun cycles too.”

This made me think more of the things like this that may happen,

that maybe trees see, or… or dirt

“Thank you rock, thank you!” I said filled with joy and wonder.

“It is my pleasure, I rarely talk to any of you humans,

For some reason you think it silly to talk to us rocks and others.”

“There is just one more question I have, 

How do you see these things?”

“Oh, of course

It is something you humans don’t consider.”

“I am a rock, I have no eyes, but I can see.

I have no ears, but I can hear. 

And I have no mouth but I am talking to you.”  The rock said,

It was as though it had prepared for this but I was here witnessing it.

“I will let you now ponder over this and you may come back if you gather more questions.

However for now, I will say, goodbye”

“Goodbye.” I said dumbfounded 

“Oh yeah, and thank you. Really, thank you”

Meeting ended, and I left the room for Science. I walked in and took a seat at the amoeba-shaped stone table. My class normally crowded around it, perhaps nine people sitting at it at once. I guessed it was because of the fact that the last year that we were able to sit at the Science table was in 7th grade. Or at least, that’s why I did it. We did a brief lab, where we guessed the density of liquids, which we did by testing the flow of the liquids (which was our class’ idea). Rose then informed us that we wouldn’t know the true density of the liquids until the next day. Rose then began sorting cards into lab partner groups. I waited patiently as my group was named

“Ezra, Axel, and Oscar,”

Oscar and I immediately started laughing, as Ezra grimaced. In 7th or 8th grade this would’ve been the omen that the world was going to end because we would probably be the most unproductive group in science class history, but now we would see how our growth would do.

Despite the fact that Ezra seemed to dread doing science labs, I think we did pretty well. I felt that we were productive, and instead of talking to people outside of the science lab group, we kept most of the conversation about science and within the group. Eventually we finished the lab, and went outside to begin letterboxing, which was basically using coordinates on a compass to find a box, sort of like geocaching if you’ve ever done that. Oscar, Ezra, and I found the letterbox pretty quickly and then ran back down to the school building after signing all of our trail names into the book. Study began and after doing a bit of finishing up on the homework before, my class began practicing the Burning School poem, which I’m grateful that I recorded. Everyone in the ninth-grade class realized that reading was a lot harder than it seemed, and the frustrated curses never stopped. Study ended with jovial laughter and happy exasperation. Break came and ended, and I entered Math with enthusiasm. I knew that I was finally getting somewhere, so I exclaimed

“Math is going to be so fun today,”

Steve raised his hand, and I gave him a high five, and I wasn’t being sarcastic. Steve handed out pieces of paper with questions on it, and then we began doing some practice questions. For some reason, when I looked at the questions, instead of just seeing numbers, or in this case, lines, dots, and letters, I saw what connected them. I began writing things down that made sense to me. 20 minutes later we went over the quiz, and I realized that the answers that I had that made sense were right, and the ones that I got wrong, I knew what I had gotten wrong. I was proud of my work, and left Math with pride. I mingled in the basement for a bit, before going upstairs, and outside. I quickly returned inside after realizing how cold it was, and walked around a bit before it was time for the first project of the year, Jacques’ project about The Garden of Eden. For those who don’t know, Projects are an hour-long presentation about a certain topic. We had already chosen topics, and this year’s theme was Eutopia. Jacques’ project was a good example for what projects are supposed to be. At the end of his project, he asked us what our Eden was, something that we had been in, but then kicked out of. I immediately wrote “North Branch”. Tal began talking about it, but then I called him out for stealing my ideas, even though he was halfway across the room. The fact of North Branch is that it’s isolated. That’s why so many people think it’s either “Some hippy school in the woods” (Tal would like me to point out that he is the farthest thing away from a hippy as possible) or a place where people go to be antisocial nerds. Sure, we have antisocial nerds, and that’s what most of the school is, but is that really a bad thing? It’s a place where the antisocial nerds can be less antisocial, and still be nerds. On a more relative topic, it’s like an Eden because it’s isolated from everywhere else. But instead of temptation or a serpent, kicking us out of this paradise, it’s time. We have three years in this school, and I know that at the end of this year I’ll question every second that I spent on this. Was it right? Was it wasted? I dread the Summer after I graduate because I know this is what I’ll be thinking about, so I’m going to try my best not to waste any moments, and encourage others to do the same, even if it’s hard to imagine leaving the school in ninth grade, and maybe it’s best not to think about that. Eventually, Jacques’ project ended after most everyone had said their Eden, and then we went upstairs, for we had enough time to do Wiley’s speech. I didn’t know what it’d be about. I hadn’t talked to Wiley a lot, he seemed fairly comfortable when he wasn’t in class and was getting growingly comfortable in class, as I mentioned earlier. After he finished his speech, which in my opinion was to not think that writing was a waste of time, I re-commemorated what I had said earlier that morning, and also talked about how I was a similar way about Math compared to he was about Writing. It felt hard, and sometimes it felt better to give up because of how annoyingly hard it is, but eventually as you keep going, in Math it gets easier to use your mind and see problems differently without exhausting it, and with writing it probably gets easier to find things to write about and then write about them. I clapped loudly for Wiley because I knew that he was going to figure out this entire situation this year. I knew it. After pretending to play soccer with Ethan, I walked outside to the bus stop, and waited for the bus to come to bring me home.

Friday

I walked into school excited, as it was the last day of the week, but also because this was the last day when I’d have to remember things for Weekly Notes. Just kidding. I walked in and saw all the people sitting at the Big Room table, so I went down the stairs, put my backpack away, and did a 180 and walked right back into the big room, out of the basement. I took a seat next to Lila and took out my notebook and began drawing cars on it. Finn shared about his family going to trivia night the night before, and dominating because they had a few college professors on their team, Finn’s dad, Andy, and Finn’s grandmother. In North Branch, it’s sometimes hard to find time to do things with your family, because there’s a lot of work, and when you come back from the day you just want to collapse on your bed because the day has probably been both physically and emotionally stressfu or vigorousl. That’s why I was so glad that Finn had found a way to do something fun with his family, especially since he’d enjoyed it. I raised my hand, because I didn’t want to interrupt anyone who wouldn’t normally talk. Tal looked at me, signifying that I could speak, and I began to talk about the night before, when I was working on my Weekly Notes, but then sent a text message to Giles, who was a ninth grader from last year. I hadn’t really talked to Giles besides the graduation party night, which was before Summer had started. Eventually we talked about a large range of things, from NBS to stealing toilet seats from public schools. It felt good to talk to Giles, because he had been a sort of mentor or role model for me, someone who I looked up to. I forget who wrote it, but someone wrote about when we were in hybrid school, and seeing Giles throwing the wood into the fire, keeping the fire alive, which is a metaphor that I won’t explain because it’s fairly easy to see. Meeting ended with someone reading Poem, which I forgot, which is my fault. After poem was done Tal began speeches, because we had such a packed day. The first speech we read was Quinn’s, but before it began, Tal seemed somewhat down. I don’t remember what prompted the conversation, but Tal began talking about sometimes only boys talking in meeting, and those boys had said something every day. I felt the same way he did. Meeting that morning had felt empty and dissatisfying, as all meetings did when no-one who didn’t share often shared. As one of the people who perhaps talks too much, I hope others will too. To the people who feel like they talk too much: The best thing you can do is to raise your hand, but don’t wave it in the other people’s face, just place your elbow on a surface and wait for it to be completely silent, or for you to be called on. To the people who don’t talk that much: If you feel like you won’t be heard, you will, it’s amazing when Oprea or Fiona speaks in a meeting, because it feels fresh, and it feels like an empty void is being filled. If you feel like what you have to say isn’t important compared to what other people have to say, it is important as long as it has meaning to you. Don’t share about something meaningless like… Well, there really isn’t anything that isn’t meaningful, because as long as it happened to you, you can attach meaning to it, or we can help you realize why you chose to share it. Wiley continued the conversation by saying how good he felt once he started talking, after much encouragement from Lillian and Colt, two of his classmates. Cullen said the same thing. The reason you have classmates is for them to be talked to about your problems, so if it feels so bad that you don’t really feel comfortable bringing something up in meeting, then find someone you’re comfortable with and talk to them about it. Eventually the conversation ended satisfactorily, feeling much better than the end of meeting. Quinn went outside and let out a beastly scream, and then began doing her speech. It was about fear, and how she had overcome it. I think that in a lot of speeches it’s hard to follow through on what you say in the speech, but it feels different with Quinn. I’ve never known her to lie, and it seems like in the speech she had already been working on it. I brought up about how much her presence matters to this school. She walks into the school or the room and the good feeling of being around someone kind follows her. After Quinn, we had minimal time, so Oprea did her speech, and it was about being there for people. Oprea’s only been here for a few weeks, but she seems to be one of the people to help her classmates if they need help. She keeps her own personality instead of letting other people know her, but she’s also not completely ignorant to people, she walks the fine line in between, which I think is an admirable trait of her’s (Even though she hates Pizza because she’s Gluten Free). Rose separated us into groups, confusing the two Leila/Lila’s multiple times, but once we had settled down in the science room Rose separated us into lab partners. I was partnered with Cullen, and we both took turns doing the work, because the lab was really only able to be done by one person at a time. After a little while, we finished up science and went downstairs to Steve’s class, which was cartooning. I loved cartooning, because I did art, and my art style was sort of cartoonish. Steve told us that we were going to be doing comic strips about what had happened in the school. I drew a comic about Monday, when we had been in the basement and the lights had turned off and the chaos that ensued. Eventually we finished cartooning class, and I got ready for the 2v2 possession game that Ethan and I were doing, which was against Lillian and Ezra, which in my opinion was a ridiculous match up because it was me (someone who’s an okay soccer player) Ethan (Who’s really good but hasn’t really ever played outside of lunch) against Ezra (A good player) and Lillian (Who plays club soccer for Far Post). No surprise, they won, but I was happy because I had played soccer with Ethan, and as Tal pointed out later, I had sort of brought him in a little bit, despite the fact that he might’ve not wanted to bring me in. What made me even more jubilant was when I was sitting on the bench and Ethan walked up to me and sat down next to me and said good job, and I said the same back, he responded with something like “You did most of the work,” which is not true, because in 2v2 possession you need two players playing, and although we did lose by quite a bit, we still both had possession at one point, and I was proud of that. The bell rang and we went inside, to the Big Room, for the final speech of the day before we decorated the Burning School structure. The final speech was written by Owen, and I thought that it was about how you can’t let your view of someone be consumed by their political/social views are, because even though you might think that you are right and they are wrong, behind that black and white view is the fact that they are human, just like you. Owen did a great job, and although he was reading about things that were somewhat sad, he read it joyfully. Owen’s speech finished, and after everyone handed in their notes, we all went downstairs to grab the things that we were going to hang up at Burning School. I grabbed my stuff and rushed outside to the sound of staples slapping against the wood and people scuffling around with papers. After finishing hanging up all of my stuff on the burning school, I sat down next to Colt, who was sitting next to Lila, who was sitting next to Lillian. These were the same people who I cried with the year before, and I wouldn’t be embarrassed to cry with them again. Owen sat down, and his face was red. I patted him on the back, along with Colt, whose eyes had begun to form pools at the bottom. Colt patted me back and Owen nodded at me. My eyes began to sting, but I never began to cry, or at least I wasn’t sobbing. Maybe a few tears spilled. I looked over at Lila, who raised her eyebrows at me, for I had said that I probably wouldn’t cry during Burning School. I don’t know why I said that, but my face probably contradicted that statement. I stood up and walked around the Burning School, reading what everyone had put up. Eventually, we began to go around a circle without raising hands, reading things that were meaningful aloud. Once we finished, we were instructed to grab to leaves from the woods. I found one, and then found another, which was spotted by Stella, but I grabbed it before she could. Then I gave it back to her, giving a dry laugh. I grabbed another orange-ish leaf that had probably fallen from a tree above, and walked back to the Burning School and stapled the two leaves to each other. The day finished with everyone walking inside together, and I had finally begun to feel connected to my school. This has been a good week, I concluded, in my mind.

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