Wednesday, June 6, 2012

how the wooden button got its name

Many thanks for all who joined Tuesday evening for inspiring stories and perfect sangria. Our teachers Leigh and Maria presented their vision for The Wooden Button and spoke both broadly and specifically about the many benefits of a Waldorf education.

 Leigh also told the story of how The Wooden Button got its name:
When Leigh taught as a Handwork teacher at a Waldorf-modeled charter school in the Bronx, she worked with a troubled 6-year-old boy. The student was surprisingly large for his age and was often in trouble for fighting, however with Leigh's attention he soon became a speedy and skilled knitter. He was so speedy he would finish his knitting before the other students and Leigh would give him extra projects to keep him occupied. One of these projects was a felted pencil case. But while the student was a speedy knitter, he was often impatient and rushed ahead without listening to the instructions. When it came time to add a buttonhole to the closing flap of his pencil case, he grabbed the scissors and cut a 3-inch diagonal slit. The slit was so large that no ordinary button would work to keep the flap closed. When Leigh looked at the wide-cut buttonhole a moment she turned to the boy and asked, "You know what I'm going to have to do this weekend, don't you?" He thought a second, "Um, I don't know, call my grandparents and tell them I'm in trouble?" Leigh smiled, "No, I'm going to have to look far and wide to find a button big enough to fit the hole you cut!"

And that was indeed what she did that weekend. With some perseverance, she found an enormous wooden button that would fit the boy's buttonhole, and she brought it to class the next week. When she showed the large wooden button to her student, his eyes lit up and a broad smile spread across his face. He sewed the wooden button onto his pencil holder, and it worked perfectly—despite the fact that the button was, well, over sized for the relatively small pencil case onto which it was sewn.
This story stayed in Leigh's mind. It seemed a metaphor for the ways in which a Waldorf education meets its students where they are, instead of expecting them conform to an external measure of success. It accommodates a 3-inch buttonhole and the mischievous boy who cut it, without shaming or sidelining him. It doesn't attempt to make all children, or their schoolwork, identical. The large six-year-old boy and his large wooden button is one of the reasons Leigh believes the Waldorf method worked.

When Leigh and Alex first met to talk about starting a school, Leigh told Alex the story. Alex too immediately loved the story. They decided the wooden button would give its name of the school they started together. And so it is.