Fail Better Soon- Tiny School
My vigilante fighter brain hasn’t turned off very much during Corona moments. The brain is always problem solving, always strategizing, always trying to make things easier or more pleasant. It really won’t stop.
The Vigliante brain kicked into high gear in July and started working out a plan to organize a tiny school. The early moments of V-Brain:Tiny School edition felt very similar to V-Brain: Escape to a community off the grid and take everyone with you moments of March and April. I workshopped the idea with anyone who’d listen. There was some hesitant interest, more so than the March/April episodes. And so, with what seemed like a spark of interest from folks, I dove in.
My priorities were: do something realistic but impactful, address educational concerns of kids nearby (including my own kids), make it work- communally. A combination of families began to emerge as our tiny school participants. The emerged from proximity (kids next door 1st and then kids from a little further away), school compatibility (I naively thought that when CMS said that kids’ schedules would reflect the school bell schedule that meant that if we had kids from the same school in our tiny school, their schedules would sync up more easily. Nope. There are kids who go to the same school who, during pandemic, to not start school at the same time. This wasn’t revealed to us until after we’d already recruited folks.).
I thought it would help to have parents share responsibilities: errands, meals, shifts at the school. We had two parent meetings and everyone was excited, on board, communicating eagerness to volunteer and join in.
I thought we’d easily be able to get volunteers to supply Friday lunches and serve as crosswalkers.
I thought once things were running, we’d iron out details in a week’s time and everyone’d be happy and set.
We worked hard and got the space ready and the donations of supplies, furniture, and recreation equipment in place.
The results of the tiny school support initiative are as follows:
Grades of children participating, number of kids in that grade:
K- 1; 1st- 2; 2nd- 2; 5th-3, 7th- 2
Schools represented and grades at that school:
Oaklawn Language Academy: 7
Myers Park Traditional: 2
Ashley Park: 1
Quail Hollow Middle: 1
Number of children who live in Enderly Park that are a part of the tiny school: 5
Race breakdown: 6 white kids, 5 black kids, 1 latinx facilitator, 2 black volunteers, 4 white parent volunteers
Here’s where I was right: The kids are happy being together and they are showing less signs of depression and boredom. They are laughing and playing.
Here’s where I got it wrong:
I thought we’d have enough support for the kids to meet school requirements: All the kids are on different schedules and at very different developmental levels. The remote learning requires an adult to walk through the information with the kids. We don’t have enough adults to make this happen. They aren’t turning in their assignments- that they are getting graded on- on time.They need help maneuvering around the multiple systems that the teachers are requiring of them.
I thought we’d have enough adults: Because of varying schedules, lunches, breaks, we need adults who can supervise the “off time” and we do not have enough parents who can volunteer. I end up filling in the gaps.
I thought once we organized the school support, parents would send their kids because it is the best thing ever: Since we’ve started the tiny school, we have not had 100% any day and it is not due to illness. There are various reasons why kids haven’t been coming. [There are kids there everyday, though.]
Did I swoop in and try to save everybody, including myself, from difficulty? Did I choose the wrong population to focus on? Are there things out of my control that are influencing things? Should I take it upon myself to solve all these problems? What would happen if I didn’t solve them? At what points did I move from a place of scarcity rather than abundance? In what ways did I participate in White supremacy culture throughout this process?
My V-brain wants to keep fighting, keep problem solving, keep figuring out what I did wrong, how I could have done better, what to change to make things better...and there don’t seem to be answers.
I wouldn’t call this a total failure...the initiative isn’t over yet. There’s room for improvement and pivots. There’s also room for more mistakes. I will call this a failing...my own participation in the failing is certainly present- as is the failing of the State, the failing of the schools. We’re in the process, together, of failing. And it doesn’t feel good.
One thing I do know is that I need to persist and breathe through, even in the active failing.