“We Want More Art!” ~Ayanna, age 8, et al

June 7, 2010 at 9:22 pm Leave a comment

posted by Alisa Algava ‘08, leader of a small Hudson Valley progressive school

Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.  ~Winston Churchill

A conversation in four parts…

Part I:  A flurry of handwritten cards appeared in my hands and on my desk.  (Notably, most were written in cursive.)

Dear Alisa,
We want more art.  It helps us express our feelings.  It is one of our favorite classes and we only get it one day a week and it is unfair.  Please read this in faculty meeting.
From Sarah, Simeon, Jakob, Ayanna, Jossie and everyone else

Dear Alisa,
Me and my classmates want way more art!
Love, Ayanna

Dear Alisa,
All the teachers are saying we can’t keep our ropes up in our forts.  Please change that.
Sarah

Dear Alisa,
We really need to keep our ropes up.  Why?  We work very hard to put them up, and we feel really sad about it (putting them away).  Read this in a faculty meeting and have a vote about it!!!  Thanks.
From Simeon, Jakob, Sarah, Jon, Micah, Eric

Part II:  When I walked outside that afternoon, I heard chanting from the Upper Playground… “We want more art! We want more art! We want more art!”  There was even a picket sign.

Part III:  I visited the Investigators’ Circle (that’s the name of our 2nd-4th graders’ group) and asked them about who they think should make decisions about ropes on the playground and who should make decisions about art in the schedule.  They offered a variety of opinions, ranging from “the kids and a little with the teachers” to “the teachers” to “Alisa and Katlyn and Karen” (the three people who work in the Office) to “everyone.”  I told them that, at Randolph, I’m glad that I get to be a director who is a leader not a dictator.

Part III:  I wrote them a letter in response to their original inquiries/requests/demands.

Dear Investigators,

I appreciate the fact that you share your ideas and concerns so willingly.  Like we talked about this morning, I am happy to help decisions get made by the people who need to make them.

In terms of the Outdoors Time ropes (and other decisions like that), I support whatever your teachers (Goldy, Anita, David, Jon, Brad, Evan, Creek, and Maureen) have decided.  They are responsible for you and for the safety of everyone in our community.  They are a team, a great team.  Remember that if one teacher says something, they’re representing the team; if you dislike the decision, you need to then talk with that teacher instead of going to another adult to ask the same question.  And, of course, you can always request that they bring it up in Faculty Meeting or in an Upstairs Meeting.

Regarding the question of more art time, I will definitely raise the topic with the other teachers and administrators in the school.  This is a “big picture” kind of question that involves many people, groups, and schedules.  You’re right that I should be involved in helping to make this decision.  We may come back to ask you more questions about why some of you would like more art and some of you would not.  There might be a change this year and there might not.  Remember that there are lots of issues to consider when making these “big picture” decisions.

Keep sharing your thoughts.  Be respectful and kind.  Keep an open mind.  Ask genuine questions.  Dialogue is one of the most important parts of being in a community.

Thanks for including me,
Alisa

Alisa Algava graduated from Bank Street’s Leadership for Educational Change program in 2008. For the past 15 years, she has taught and learned in public, private, and charter schools in NY, NJ, and RI. She has written a handful of postings on the Alumni Blog about her experiences leading and learning in a small progressive school. Alisa loves learning. She loves moderating The Alumni Blog. And she really loves her nephew.

Entry filed under: community, democratic education, dialogue, leadership, social-emotional learning.

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