Last week we enjoyed an exquisite evening of bidding farewell to our wonderful Grade 7s, each of them such sterling representatives of our Kairos School of Inquiry — and yet uniquely so. This occasion was a particularly momentous event for our school, for it included the farewell of the first child who has travelled the journey of Grade 1 to 7 in Kairos: Gabriel Poulsen. His journey from a little boy to an empowered young teenager is an inspiration.
I have been privileged and proud to have had Gabe play a major part in my life: I witnessed his journey through primary school, seen him experience various teachers until Jeffrey Davis’s passionate dedication over the last two years as his Class Teacher (assisted by our collaborative Kairos team), and now (next week) he leaves our little nest and spreads his wings, along with his fellow Grade 7s.
Meanwhile, over these seven years Gabe has watched me become a school principal and then a father. Simultaneously, Maya and I look ahead to the exciting journey as our own little sprogs traverse the tempestuous adventure of their growing up. “I can see / You walking away from me towards the school,” wrote Cecil Day-Lewis, contemplating the link between growing up and the love that enables that journey. He concludes that poem with the idea that witnessing his son walking away to school illuminated for him, “How selfhood begins with a walking away / And love is proved in the letting go.” The journey of growing up is a courageous adventure — sometimes painful, sometimes educational, always magical — and watching our children or our students, as parents or as teachers, is an experience of love.
Any meaningful relationship is going to be a transformative journey for everyone involved — in this week’s case, our Grade 7s, their parents and their teachers. Each moment is an educational opportunity, a seed in the emerging forest of memories that forms one’s psyche. If we adults respond in a way that meets the child with sufficient creativity, integrity and maturity that provokes him or her to gain some new understanding — of him or herself, of another, or of something in the world — the ultimate forest that forms that Self will flourish as a living ecosystem in an ecosystem of ecosystems.
The Greek word kairos speaks to this idea. Each moment is an opportunity. If the teacher or parent responds to a situation in the most appropriate way possible, the moment becomes extracted out of the sequential series of incidents as defined by kronos — clock time — and takes on a kairosian quality. For the ancient Greek, kairos was “the passing instant when an opening appears which must be driven through with force if success is to be achieved”. Etymologically, it was the exactly right moment for an arrow to reach its target, or the exact moment of which a weaving shuttle easily slips through the threads of a loom.
All experiences of discovery and anything sacred happen in kairos time. Christians like to regard the birth of the Master Jesus the Nazarene as a kairos moment. The meeting of one’s life partner is likely to be kairos moments. Every now and again a teacher or parent finds him or herself experiencing a transformative kairos moment, where a child gains a fresh perspective, a new insight, an aha-experience. Sometimes this happens in a group, sometimes it’s a passing interaction with someone in the corridor. A heightened mood of awareness is felt, a recognition that what is happening right there and then is significant.
Just as each teacher aspires to serve each educational moment with an intent for some kairosian magic, we as a school aspire to sustain ourselves as a community in such a way that kairosian moments are more likely to be experienced in the classrooms, corridors and playground. This is an ambitious challenge, and needs constant awareness and on-going efforts at renewal.
We need to maximize our diversity so that the differences between us enrich our experience of humanity. We need to free ourselves from oppressive influences of certain aspects of the schooling system, while at the same time empower our children to feel equipped with the skills and knowledge required by the world “out there”. We need to achieve all this while protecting the financial security of the school through often difficult, business-minded decisions. And we need to support each other, teachers and parents, in the emotional challenges of being part of an evolving school. All this will always be work in progress, and the journey towards any summit invariably brings new previously-unimagined summits yet to climb.
Last Wednesday’s valedictory farewell to our Grade 7s was for me, and evidently many present, a kairos moment. Many children, parents and teachers gained a fresh appreciation of the journey these Grade 7s have taken in their journey through childhood thus far, of which we at Kairos have been privileged to be a part.
The anonymous Chinese poem, translated by Lin Yutang, describes how relationships take on a transformative quality for each person. Teacher and student have a mysterious influence on each other.
“…Take a lump of clay,
Wet it, pat it,
And make an image of me,
And an image of you.
Then smash them, crash them,
And add a little water,
Break them and re-make them
Into an image of you,
And an image of me.
Then in my clay, there’s a little of you.
And your clay, there’s a little of me.
And nothing ever shall us sever…”
Farewell, dear Claudia, Daniel, Gabriel, Jude, Luna-belle, Nimué and Ruby Rose. A little of each you will live on in each of us at Kairos. And no doubt you will take a bit of Kairos magic with you as you continue with your unfolding adventures ahead.
With headmonsterly wishes for a beautiful restful preparation for the year ahead,