The Metaphor of the Locker Pod
By: Madeline Cooper
Middle school: Diamond Middle School (Lexington, MA)
High school: Gann Academy class of 2012
College: Dartmouth College
Why the gift of a Jewish education? To be honest, I am not sure that I can answer that question. I know that my four years at Gann have shaped me, both in ways that I can see every day and in ways that I have not yet realized. Yet, as a recent graduate, I do not feel that I am far enough removed from Gann or have had sufficient life experiences outside of Gann to be able to articulate exactly why receiving a Jewish education – such a broad and intangible concept – was a gift, even though I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to spend my four high school years at Gann. Therefore, I have decided instead to focus on one gift that Gann gives all of its students – the gift of the “locker pod.”
Let me explain – a locker pod is much more than simply a place to store books and hang a coat. By definition, locker pods are rectangular areas located perpendicular to the hallways. Yet, a literal explanation cannot do justice to the importance and value of these central meeting places in a Gann student’s life. The locker pod serves as a combination social space, study room and home base for students during the school day.
I can honestly say that my strongest memory of my first visit to Gann as a prospective student is of the locker pods. I entered Gann in November of my freshman year as a transfer student from my town’s public high school, having attended the public schools since kindergarten. As I was led through the halls on my tour at Gann in October of my freshman year, I vividly remember snippets of Gann life portrayed in the locker pods – students working together on a poster for Tanach in one, a teacher meeting with a group of students in another, and several students singing while another strummed guitar, sitting on the floor of the locker pod.
I was so struck by the locker pods because I had never seen anything like them. My image of a high school hallway from my first few weeks in my public high school was of students rushing by, attempting to travel from class to class with limited interruptions. The hallways of my town high school served as a highway of sorts, in which students entered the streaming masses, moving in one direction or the other, and exited when they reached their destination. These hallways were simply a means to an end – getting to the next class – rather than important in their own right. The journey was of little importance. All that mattered was the destination.
Yet, the locker pods at Gann turn the hallways into a space with a purpose, where students can talk about their day, discuss a new topic that they just learned or meet with peers to work on a project. They serve as an extension of the classroom, a gathering place for students to continue a discussion from class. They are a tangible symbol of what I believe makes a Jewish education so special – that is, learning through constant discussion, debate and engagement.
In contrast to the traditional high school hallway in which the purpose is to travel from Point A to Point B, the locker pods at Gann serve as a reminder that the journey can matter just as much as the destination. Thus, the locker pods serve as a symbol of the fact that Judaism values the process of learning, not simply the end result – the acquisition of knowledge – by engaging students in thoughtful discussion throughout the day, not only in the classroom.
In a way, the locker pods are emblematic of Gann’s approach to Jewish education, and embody pluralism. As members of a pluralistic Jewish community, Gann students constantly engage with each other about their similarities and differences, and question and challenge each other about their beliefs. The locker pods provide a space for such discussions outside of the classroom, as they bring together students of different ages and backgrounds, and their openness encourages interaction between people who may not otherwise have had the opportunity to have a real conversation.
If you walk by a locker pod in the morning before 8:10, you will hear students discussing their minyan or sicha, conversing about the English reading from the previous night, or engaging in a heated debate about the ethical issues behind current events. In a locker pod, you are able to find an entirely different set of views and opinions on any given topic than you can find in a classroom or a group of friends, because a locker pod serves as a microcosm of the school, bringing together students of different ages, grades, backgrounds and beliefs.
So, why are the locker pods such a gift? They help to create and reinforce the Jewish values and culture of the school and make Gann such a warm and accepting place. Symbolically, by transforming the hallways into a place of debate and discussion, the locker pods teach us that, in education, the journey is just as important as the destination – a concept that I have come to see as vital in a Jewish approach to learning. I could not ask for a greater gift than having the privilege of attending a Jewish high school in which every voice matters, and opportunities for learning and engagement never cease.
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