Laurel posted an update 2 years, 6 months ago
Checking in for some support on what is happening in Wilmington, NC. As you know my studio/school flooded last year and we lost everything…insurance didn’t cover any losses. We have struggled to regain ourselves since then. The initial strong efforts at establishing the Muddy Schoolhouse ALC project just couldn’t continue at the time…I kind of shut down. My dream had been ripped from me. Luckily the seed I had planted for the growth of a school for self directed education took root. This had been my most basic desire coming back from my ALF training and my community forged ahead without me and formed a co-op called Wilmington Cooperative School. I was invited over the summer to join the board after a founding family dropped out. I am the Parent Teacher Liaison currently and just got temporarily/permanently hired to help facilitate because things were going so badly with the teacher they hired. We had multiple parents pulling their kids out and leaving. They initially would not hire me as the teacher, and in all honesty, there is on my part a little bit of a bruised ego…I was personally asked not to apply by the president (ouch!) because they wanted to give the school more legitimacy within the community by having someone with a state teaching license and teaching degree. In my mind and heart this felt like discrimination. I was meant to do this. In a sense it kind of felt like my chance at making this happen had been stolen away from me. I still wanted to be a big part of making this happen so I embraced the role I had access to on the board, all the while offering up my ideas and more and having them just get ignored. There was no sense of collaboration beyond painting the schoolhouse walls. It took my eight year old daughter peeing herself last week because she was so upset with the negative culture of the school and conflicting styles of discipline from the parent aides to convince them to let me finally step in strongly with some training for the teacher. I called a parent meeting and ran an ALC style problem solving CMB board and we got through so much without anyone blowing up because they all left feeling like they finally had a voice in this project. So much energy had been put into rushing to get the physical space of the school open that the culture of the school had been ignored. No one ever met to discuss how we really wanted our children to be treated and educated beyond a few catchy conflicting tag lines on the website…Waldorf, Montessori, Unschooling. It was a mess. None of the parents really knew what they wanted or fully expected this radical learning experience(experiment) to be like. It was so hard to sit on the board and not be heard through repeated offers to invite help in from the Agile Learning Center Organization. This school isn’t close to having the basic element of trust that is vital for it’s health and growth. They have since formed a parent led culture committee. Big win, YAY! It felt good to finally be able to convince them to let me come in and implement some of the ALC tools that I had learned. I also offered to come in and model positive interactions and introduce the teacher to some and students to some tools like set the week and more. It changed the dynamics of the school entirely and the parents wanted me on board right away. This should feel good but it just doesn’t. It is this weird nauseating feeling of competition because they can’t afford to keep us both. It is literally a whoever comes out on top kind of situation that I really want no part of. I would rather just go in as often as I can to help build up and establish some strong tools for self directed learning than to have it feel like this. I feel like I am a bandaid that could be peeled off at anytime. I am onsite now as the co-teacher. We have already had parents rejoin because I am on board.
One HUGE thing I am discovering about myself from this experience is that I truly love training and sharing what I do. I can work magic in just about any school I go to and I want to show other people how to make their learning communities just as magical, collaborative and productive. Some of the parents refer to my being in the classroom as the “vibe” and I love it. I am also still working for the arts nonprofit Dreams here and there is a reason why I ask for all of the hardest outreach sites. I like to go in and show the kids that they can be treated like people and that their voice matters to me. I have been so stoked through all of this to share what I know about how to engage with kids and adults on a different level.
One of the parents that is my biggest cheerleader said she had never seen anyone as good at conflict resolution as me. “Peace begins with me” runs in my blood as does the desire to facilitate self directed community learning. I am having trouble finding that peace within myself because I feel like I am walking a double edged sword right now…with the internal conflict that this particular iteration is bringing about in me. I facilitate creativity on the fly from the heart fully in every moment. I leave school radiant from being in the company of these kids…energized. I go straight to another afterschool site and leave just as energized by my encounters. I want to work with other people who glow when they leave for the day…that glow all through the day because they love it! I want to have deep philosophical conversations with the people I work with about children, education, and change. I want a co-worker who wants to give me a hug and share in the joyful environment and experiences we are helping the kids create themselves. I cry tears of joy at the growth I see already and I cry tears of sadness for what I know it lacks at it’s core still. The teacher here does not love it and I am not sure if this is something you can train into a person. She has definitely grown and is softening but she still doesn’t express any desire to learn more ..just simply says “I’ll do whatever they want me to.” I want to work with people of vision and passion . I hope that some of this will rub off…I have extra. I hope that no matter how long or short my stay with this school is that some trust is built as a foundation for future growth.
I have reached out to several key people this week out of desperation and frustration because I still want to take my talents somewhere else somehow. I am spinning my wheels here. I don’t know if the co-op board and culture of this school will ever let me reach my full potential. I know that it is clear they do not want to align themselves as an ALC. I am glad that I can give this school this time with me to help lay the groundwork for success, to help get it on a better track. In my heart I feel myself being called somewhere else. I am an ALF, my tribe is not here. I still have lofty dreams of a travelling ALC on wheels or of helping with the globetrekking ALC efforts. Progress without hugs does not feel like progress.
Wow Laurel… Wow…I am so in awe at how much time, dedication, and support you have poured into this school. I am thinking about all the amazing impact you have had, and that is something that will stay with these parents and kids no matter whether you stay or not.
I hear you about wanting to work with people passionate about education and excited to be with kids everyday. I hear that you want to live your life feeling invigorated by your work and excited and inspired by the people you are around. I know this is possible for you. I am inspired by your strength and perseverance to support this school and try to help coach the parents and the other teacher there.
I am sending you love and hope you know that I am also cheering you on! Please reach out if you need anything. I really admire your passion, dedication, and creativity! Those kiddos are so fortunate to have your love and time.
Thanks so much for sharing, Laurel — I saw some stuff (I guess on Facebook) about the coop you are talking about here and was curious what you were up to.
It sounds like you’re getting to flex your muscles in this situation, in a really cool way — provide some serious value for folks and practice the things that you’re good at in terms of facilitation (with kids and adults). It also sounds like. in the process of experiencing your power in this situation, you’re learning how much more you have to give and how much you are truly capable of — I love that.
I hope you’ll keep sharing your love and you’re learning a lot along the way. Hold on tight to your dreams — of starting your own thing and being fully trusted to do so, of taking an ALC on the road. It sounds like the experience you’re having now will be super valuable in clarifying the vision that you hold 🙂