OF Reunions in USA
Monday, 11 November 2019
OFs of all generations met up in the US in October 2019.To coincide with Rick's visit to the US this month, we were delighted that some OFs based in San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York were able to get together to share some memories.
Even though those who could attended weren't necessarily at Frensham at the same time, it was great to see the many connections between different OF generations.
We hope these reunions were the first of many and that our OF community in North America will continue to grow.
Here are some comments from those who attended:
Robert Popper (OF 1941-46):
It was with great pleasure and interest that we met Rick Clarke last week at our home in San Francisco. It is clear from the lively discussions that Rick sees the many challenges facing today's progressive schools and has the energy and good humor to deal with them.
The four OFs who joined us for drinks represented 4 different decades at the school; all had different tales of life at Frensham and all felt we had benefitted from our years at Frensham where the emphasis on developing ourselves as individuals gave us the basis for our futures.
We hope this will be the first of future Frensham gatherings in the Bay Area.
Rolf Kane (OF 1952-58)
It was a great pleasure meeting Rick and some old Frenshamians .As you can imagine we all took our turn going down memory lane.
Rick voiced some of the plans he has in mind to improve Frensham he called it an evolution not a revolution.I in turn told him about my time at Frensham ( 52 to 58). Please thank Rick for making this a memorable evening.
I recently spent 10 of the most enjoyable days of my time so far at Frensham Heights. I decided that it was time for us at Frensham to reach out to progressive schools across the Atlantic; combining this with the opportunity to connect with Old Frenshamians living in America seemed a perfect opportunity to combine Frensham’s past with its future. Thus, my USA trip in October was born, and what a trip it was.
Many of you will know about the history of our school, founded by pioneering women as a response to the stifling and rigid authoritarian schools of the early 20th century. Researching progressive schools in America, particularly those that belong to the Progressive Education Network (https://progressiveeducationnetwork.org/), I started to see a number of parallels with Frensham. A number had been established in the early part of the 20th century, some by women, as a reaction to the education system at the time. I decided to contact schools in cities where I knew we had numbers of OFs living and see if they were happy to host a visit. New York, LA and San Francisco emerged as perfect cities, and I added in an extra city, Chicago, as it contains two of the most important schools in the birth of progressive schooling in America, University of Chicago Laboratory School and Francis Parker School.
The school visits were fascinating; there are a number of parallels with what we do at Frensham, and lots for both to learn from each other. My intention is to establish links and networks with schools, providing staff and students with opportunities to learn from each other. However, one of the most rewarding aspects of the trip was meeting Old Frenshamians. From east coast to west coast, common themes emerged: hilarious stories of high jinks and narrow escapes, endless opportunities for growth and development, a real sense that individuality mattered and was encouraged, the stimulating learning both inside and outside the classroom, to name a few. I did ask one question of all the OFs I met: how did your education at Frensham prepare you for the lives you have led? Answers varied, but there were some common themes: belief in the individual, care and kindness towards others and an open-heartedness were all mentioned as crucial aspects of an education that inculcated a confidence to make a difference in the world. I can think of no better legacy for a school, and I was hugely proud of what extraordinary individuals this incredible school had nurtured.
I have no doubt I will return to America at some point, not least because there were a number of OFs who were unable to meet up with me due to other commitments. Until then, I do hope that the OFs I met stay in touch with each other and the school and, if possible, come and visit this beautiful corner of Surrey to see how their school is building for the future.