Transformative Educational Leadership Journal | ISSUE Spring 2023
In this multimedia narrative about the impacts of bringing staff and students to a community breakfast, Naryn Searcy provokes reflection into the tension between rigidity and relationship.
By Naryn Searcy
As we sat at the long tables filled with chattering community members, students, toddlers, and elders, I was struck by 3 scenes:
- A grade 11 student, a towering athlete, crouching over to gently escort his grandmother to her seat.
- Two tables over, a grade 8 student holding his baby sister, bouncing her happily and introducing her to his friends.
- Seconds later, a grade 6 student racing over to hug her mother and her uncle when they appeared at the gym doors.
That morning we had brought seventeen students to a breakfast in their community. We had also found a way to release 2 secondary teachers to come along. To bring some students and a few staff to a function that is a 15-minute bus drive away from our school might seem uncomplicated, but it was anything but easy.
That Monday morning at the school was particularly chaotic. Scheduled provincial assessments had required staff to be rearranged, and a shortage of coverage meant that releasing two teachers for even a single class would require compromises from various individuals. Ultimately, we sent the two teachers in a separate car so that they could depart early if necessary, to teach their next class. In the moment, it felt like an unfair sacrifice to pull two staff members and cause further pressure on everyone else.
However, despite the many obstacles we faced in organizing the trip, the result was undeniably worth it.
Many barriers prevent schools from connecting with communities and families on a deeper level. In many ways, the breakfast was a microcosm of the challenges many schools face when trying to reach beyond the school walls. One of the attending teachers commented that the whole experience was a glaring example of the rigidity of our education system juxtaposed with the authentic daily reality of students and families. It’s not that educators don’t recognize that community connections are important; it often just feels so difficult to prioritize them.
A day after the trip, I began hearing positive stories about the community’s appreciation of seeing both the students and staff at the breakfast. This reinforced the importance of our efforts. Each of the staff members who attended expressed they had a stronger awareness of the lives of their students and felt it would be beneficial if every staff member could at some point have a similar experience.
What does this provocation inspire in you?
- Where might rigidity in our system inhibit connection?
- How do the elements of power, safety, and control influence the dynamics of connection?
- What can we learn from families and communities? How does authentic family-school engagement benefit our students?
- What assumptions might we make about students and/or families if we only seek connection in a school setting?
- How might we create transformational experiences for staff without increasing their workload?