Our VVA staff is truly something special. Up until the years of VVA, we had never worked with such diverse, supportive, and passionate group of educators who truly take risks together, share and reflect together to build such a positive work and learning space. Another dream conquered - a work environment that feels like home! Every day we see new layers of ourselves appear because we feel so supported and apart of an amazing team. Thank you VVA staff. Truly, thank you.
An extra special thank you to Mr. Ryan for writing this beautiful post, describing a very special day for all us of at VVA, the day we decided upon our Vision Statement. A couple year's into operating, and we still hadn't narrowed down our vision statement enough to confidently share it with the world, that is until this wonderful summer's afternoon. It was a day none of us have forgotten, and often long to create again. The wonderful mix of mindful reflection, nature at it's finest, and clear and confident minds that came together that day has truly left a beautiful mark on all of us.
Now that it’s January, I thought I might share a flashback to this one day that our teaching team shared back in August, when things were warmer, and our vision for this school first officially took shape...
Mid-August arrives, and the Via Vita Teaching Team gathers to envision how our year of learning together is going to look...
...But before we can start, there is a major list of tedious to-do’s to be done; rooms need rearranging, schedules need straightening, forms need filling, protocols need punctuation, new staff need to be shown the ropes, plus-this-plus-that and then some, among a bunch of other one-last-little-items. Phew. The first days of our first week back have us feeling a bit hectic, straight outta the gate.
Then comes a surprise: we’re invited to spend a day together out of the school, well removed from our list of to-do’s. There’s this place, on a lake, away from the whirring, clunking sounds of the city. A place surrounded by trees, whose leaves will be gently rustled by the crisp winds of late summer. A place where the year ahead might be more comfortably envisioned.
Also we’ll be fed dinner.
Away we go.
Upon arrival, everything that was promised comes to life. We are alone on the lake, where all but the Judas Trees are still green with the vivacity of August’s bittersweet ending. We set up shop in a wide oval on the deck, and for that day’s first hour, we do little but breathe this place in together, and exhale the last few days away. This place. This is where we’ll truly begin our year.
Working comes easily. We have a list of to-do’s for this day, too, but here, getting things done flows as readily as the lake lightly rippled by the breeze. So we explore things that might’ve been harder somewhere else--our personal strengths and struggles, how we can be more mindful in our learnings and teachings, and how to move forward as a new team, together. These talks are challenging, but they are beautiful, and as we share, our vision of the year ahead becomes ever more clear.
There is one item left on our list, but the day is young, so we stop to eat and laugh. Above us, clouds waver indecisively about whether to rain, while late summer sunbeams promise to keep things warm regardless. After several helpings of delicious food, we’re feeling ready to take on that last to-do: make a statement about the school, one that encapsulates, in one line, what it is we’ll be ever-envisioning for our school as we learn, teach, play, and work alongside our students.
Our team is in full swing; we’re especially pumped about this line, and it shows in our approach; in pursuit of something simple, true, and achievable, we take to willfully weaving our ideal pursuit. Somehow, what we envision has to fit into this one clear-cut sentence. It sounds heavy, it sounds intimidating, and yet for us, melding likeable minds lakeside, under the shifting summer sky, the day’s last to-do is done not long after we’ve begun:
Our vision is a culture empowered by community, compassion and wonder.
We’re finished, but, because we’re feeling pretty great about our day, we decide to keep it going. So into the lake we finally go. Some dive straight in, while some dip toes. Some swim to the raft, and some soon after leap off in a rush after spotting spiders. While we’re laughing and treading water together, The sky finally makes up its mind, and we watch as the wind pushes a warm rainfall across the lake toward us. And we stay put, and keep treading water, and laughing together.
Please join us in welcoming Ms. Hilary to the VVA team! We are excited to announce the start of an exciting year with Hilary on board! Ms. Hilary joined us early September as VVA's first ever Program Coordinator - directing after school programming, managing extra programming within the school, supporting students and teachers wherever she can. We are all sooooo thrilled to have her! And, we are extremely grateful to have found such a unique and wonderful soul to join our VVA team. We are ALSO excited she shared with you a personal passion of hers. A true delight to read! Hilary's kindness, understanding, and experiences make her an excellent support for our school. Enjoy!
Remember art class as a child in school?
Approximately once a week, it was a time to dedicated to exploring artistic ability. Remember sliding your tiny little fingers across the white sheet of paper covered in way too much paint? Mixing colors, using markers, stickers and adding just a splash, or maybe more, of glitter. Remember how proud you were to bring it home and post it on the family fridge or your own bedroom wall? Maybe you gave it as a gift because you loved it so very much and knew the receiver would love it just as much as you did (even if it wasn't quite true!).
As a child I too experienced this joy of art. Having an artist father, I felt more drawn to it than most of my peers. As an adult, I developed a love for abstract painting. I had experienced a surgical procedure which left me nearly incapacitated. Being in a place where i had no control and was confined to my home, placed a strain on my mental well being. I began to explore art as I once did as a child and adolescent and in doing so, discovered a new passion that eased my angst at being housebound and isolated. I could escape for hours into my medium of choice and lose myself in the process. The zen-like state that I achieved, I believe, greatly improved my healing journey.
I was able to lose myself in the fluidity of Abstract painting. It allowed me to escape into a meditative flow, letting my worries disappear. It aided my concentration, lessened my anxiety, and assisted me in letting go of the tension I was holding due to my circumstances. This form of art allows one to just simply let go and observe the way in which the paint chooses to flow...allowing the artist to simply enjoy the essence of being one with your canvas and your paint. Even the process of mixing your paints can create a zen experience, giving your mind a break from its regular reel.
Art has so many benefits for us all:
• Letting go
• Moving forward
Art is a creative way to fully immerse yourself into what you are feeling. It allows you to create a zen space to clear and quiet the mind. It doesn’t come at the snap of your fingers and there are so many different styles of art.
I used art as a form of therapy and it has been a great success. Being introduced to art from a young age I was able to tap into it as an adult to cope. It allowed me to move forward in the healing process.
I believe that art can have a similar, yet greater impact on the minds and hearts of children. Children who have trauma or have complex needs often find ways to express complex emotions through art that they may not be able to articulate verbally. It provides a release of pent up energy in some children as they become lost in the creative process, in whichever medium they are involved. The joy in a child's face when they can learn how to create a piece of art to which they can relate and/or share with a loved one, is priceless.
Children are proud of their creativity, and often, undiscovered talents are brought to light when children are permitted to play artistically, with no encumbrances or preconceived notions.
I believe that art not only speaks to children, but that it gives them a voice that may not otherwise be heard. As adults, we only need pay attention to what they might be saying, while remembering that sometimes, the only expression being shown is joy!
Please welcome Ms. Tori Portman - another fantastic new teacher joining Via Vita this fall! We are eager to get the year started with this enthusiastic, kind, and talented team player. Enjoy getting to know Tori with her recent blog post as she prepares for her first year, of many, with us at VVA!
Hi everyone! My name is Tori Portman, and I’m one of the new teachers joining the Via Vita Academy family! In my many years of adulting, and trying to stay a life long learner, it has come to my attention to pass on my recently acquired knowledge:
We are all continuous works in progress.
Isn’t that amazing? How has it taken me so long to realize this and yet we teach our students constantly to persevere, and know that another day, another year, or another change is right around the corner? So I think if there is any advice I could not only pass on to my fellow students or staff, but to myself, it is that we all deserve a chance to take a breath when it comes to growth.
I have always struggled with not being “immediately” perfect at a skill, or lesson, which has run over into my teaching ability as well. Why didn’t that lesson go perfectly? Is it obviously my fault? Why couldn’t I get it on the first try? Realistically, when do we ever get something the first try? Those odd opportunities when we have already mastered a skill, or find out we’ve been lucky to figure it out right away, but these are unrealistic expectations to meet on a daily basis.
So for this year, I have reminded myself to breathe, reflect, and realizing I am still building up the teacher I hope to be one day.
And that’s ok! Really!
I tell my students constantly that one day does not define their abilities. So why should we put the pressure on ourselves as adults, as educators, as parents to think the same rule does not apply? We are constantly rearranging the building blocks of our life and I hope take time for myself to do the same this year. This school seems to provide it’s staff and students exactly that space. Lesson didn’t go well? Try again tomorrow! Try it differently! Have someone there to tell you it’ll be ok and provide you with whatever support you need in that instance. What more could you look for when trying to find your “forever home” as an educator. Already from my few weeks of working at Via Vita, I can see the relationships and constant building up that staff and students focus on rather than breaking people down and reminding them of the faults they are usually self-aware of from the start. I can not contain my excitement at the success not only my students find, but that I hope to find within myself. Self-positivity is something I constantly preach in my teaching values, but not always something I practice actively. If I had primary goal for this year, it would be that. Someone remind me I said such coherent ideas when it’s December and I’m looking for somewhere to hibernate and de-frazzle my brain.
As a teacher I am ready to promote this theory. As a fellow learner with my students I am looking forward to practice building myself up every day.
Look out 2018-2019 school year, Tori Portman is coming atcha!
*insert power pose with ultimately clumsy results here*
A Work in Progress
Welcome to Our Blog
Each post is written by a supportive member of Via Vita Academy, be it a teacher, parent, student, community member, who is invested in the topic of education. Take a read and comment below!