Fourth graders are balls of energy. One or two can cause a scene or earn some dirty glares in a public place, therefore we interns knew that 50 or so, in a hotel lobby, with no pool to splash in, as it was on the first night of the 4th grade trip to Williamsburg, was like waiting for a hurricane to hit.
In an effort to evade the impending storm, I drew on my former Girl Scout Camp Counselor-In-Training skills and taught a group of them a hand game. The one I taught them was played in a big circle, complete with a cute little song.
I hadn’t taught them the game in any effort to learn something for myself, and yet I did observe something that just amazed me, not just about these kids, but about Randolph as well.
I came to Randolph in ninth grade. Like most students, I came for the education; otherwise, I would have been tossed into the chaos that is public high school. But I didn’t just find higher quality in the teachers and classes, I found a whole new culture. In public school, you are just there. I’m not saying that no one is interested in learning or teaching, because there are plenty of students truly seeking knowledge and teachers looking to give it. What I am saying is that learning is almost the full value of what you get there.
At Randolph, that’s not the case. You come for the education; you stay for the community and experience.
Here, the cliques and exclusion and lack of individualism that you can see elsewhere just don’t happen. However, I didn’t really notice this until I saw those students playing together.
For one, the game they learned was one I had always pegged as more of a feminine game (which probably stemmed from learning it at Girl Scout camp). However, when I showed the kids, and they got the hang of it, it wasn’t a girl game, the boys got just as into it as the girls. In addition, it didn’t matter who played with you, and no one fought about whom they sat by (with the exception of wanting to sit by the interns). There were no cliques. Everyone was equal.
Prior to this trip, I knew that children weren’t born with a sense of social order. However, I could have sworn that it was learned by age 10. That’s when I knew that what I was seeing was a Randolph trait. There’s such a small, intimate, involved culture that breeds friendliness and inclusion. Unlike in a larger school, at Randolph everyone knows everyone, and more importantly, everyone is friends with everyone. One of the 4th graders summed it up perfectly for me when, on the last night of the trip, she said how much closer she felt to all of her classmates, which is truly an indispensable and rare gift.
Photos by Skyler Eastin '17