One Way Indi-ED’s “Village” Does It Differently

Saturday, Indi-ED had our first meet and greet with our students, our families, and our teachers. Not a “Meet the Teacher” or a “Back to School” night but, intentionally, a fun, social, meet and greet. What’s the difference you ask? Plenty, but here are just a few points.

Any good teacher will tell you that before you can get to any real teaching or learning that you need to establish a relationship.

Yet, in most cases the first time students and families interact with one another or with their teacher, still happens at a traditional Back to School night that entails either a teacher talking at you for an hour or a time for you to come in and see the space that the teacher has prepared. Teacher led, little genuine engagement, nothing really gained.

If you remember my prior post entitled, “What Do They Remember?”, you’ll recall how we discussed how what we remember and how we learn revolve around two things: experiences and relationships.

Which is exactly why we decided to do things differently! Instead of forcing our families to sit and listen to rules and procedures, we wanted them – the parents and the kids – to engage naturally, to meet each other, to look each other in the eye, to share what felt comfortable, and for the kids to simply get to know each other through play.

As any adult who has ever been to a networking event can tell you, it’s not always just that easy. So we prepared and planned an event that would allow everyone to do the above while also being able to begin exposing them to some of our values.

We decided to have our meet and greet at our local Crossfit gym. (Thank you Jen & Rob at Crossfit Blackbeard for always being so supportive and inviting.) A place where the kids weren’t told to just sit and be quiet but were encouraged to run, jump, play, and simply be kids. We also intentionally designed a workout for everyone that would have stations that would foster cooperation and some creative thinking, challenging ourselves, and growing stronger.

What happened in those two hours was more beneficial than all of my 10 traditional meet the teachers combined.

In a matter of minutes, one student made his way to the rings and was suspending himself upside down. Risk taken, success had, smile abounded. (His father was right under him and he had experience in gymnastics so no cause for alarm.)

During our first relay race kids and parents were cheering each other on, high fiving and laughing together. Trusting relationships beginning to be established.

As we split into teams that did not have people that we knew in them, kids began talking to each other and even pushing each other to do the workouts together. Friendships forming.

But the most jaw-dropping part for me was how EVERY PARENT engaged.

This may not seem like a big deal but let me set the scene. We’re in a crossfit gym which means no a/c. It’s June, in Florida. Some parents came in polos and flip flops. (Lesson learned for me-be more clear next time. This isn’t going to be your traditional meet the teacher-we’re going to sweat.) But when these parents realized what we were doing, they jumped in with BOTH FEET!

Polos and flip flops were tossed aside, hair tied back, and they GOT TO WORK! I don’t know if they realized what they were doing or not, but by jumping in for those 30 minutes, prepared to or not, they were modeling for all of the kids that health was important and that doing this together was important.

Then just like the kids at the beginning, the trusting relationships began to form. There was playful competition within the teams. There were parents helping other families’ children. There were high fives and compliments getting thrown around left and right. Even the two parents who couldn’t participate because of doctor’s orders even helped where they could. And by the end, exhausted-we all did it together.

I was sweaty, but my heart was overflowing.

This picture is our ‘after’ picture and what you’d see if I posted the before picture next to it, was that even as sweaty as we were, we were literally closer to one another.

Now it can happen.

Now we can hydrate together. Now we can eat together. Now we can chat with, laugh with, and feel comfortable with each other. Now we can discuss our challenges and what brought us here. Now we can begin this journey together.

I’ve read it time and time again, “It takes a village to raise a child.” You have no idea how happy it makes me to see the village that has come together around Indi-ED.

I’ve said it in the past, these families are top notch. But finally getting to watch them in action, together, doing something outside of some of their comfort zones, absolutely solidifies that these are the right families, the right village.

The happy tears hit me when I got home because I don’t know if these families quite understand the impact that we’re going to make together. I am certain that with this village, that we are going to change these kids’ lives this year. We value doing things differently, this experience was just the beginning.