All Roads Lead to Stories and Backsy Forthsy

Vortex by @andCreative

It’s 1:43 am on the first day of 2021.  I knew this would come.  It has been rattling around for some time.  I think the surreal part has finally dimmed just enough for me to articulate where The Beast lies.  Andrea and I have worked together at a school for a little over a year. I was the vice principal and Andrea an educator.  We wrote some and went back and forth some but hitting publish would simply not happen.  

On November 23, 2020, Andrea and I became the admin team of our school.  A wish we would have wished and an opportunity so damn juicy, putting it into words is difficult.  

Learning is still a beast but we have heaped leadership of an elementary school onto it so we can no longer not hit publish – it is simply too good.

In becoming an administrator there are one million books on the subject of school leadership, entrance plans and building effective teams.  When you become part of an admin team with your best friend, and everyone is aware of this friendship, we knew we had to land on communication and #sitbeside for our whole entire plan.  Our goal was to communicate and build honest and stronger relationships.

Andrea and I went back to the beginning – the long ago December in Starbucks, the stickies and the learning and moment The Beast was born and why.  We went back to our learning in the world with other people and the itchy tags and tension in education.  The Beast was born out of our need to learn and to talk about it.  Andrea and I knew that this leg of our journey – as a leadership team in an elementary school needed what The Beast represented to us – the rip in the seam to go deeper, to tell stories of what we heard and saw and give it back… to have a staff know “we were changed for simply having been in the room” with them, for them to be changed right back.  

37 was born.  Our school address includes the number 37.  I have been referring to our school as 37 for some time.  I like how it feels, I love the number on the side of the building, I like the sense of place it gives a very magical building filled with incredible humans with stories so deep, you wade through them when you read.

37 is our weekly give to staff.  Andrea sends it out around 4 pm on Sunday afternoon for the week ahead.  Late enough as to not interrupt a quiet and slow Sunday but not too late that it feels like an afterthought.  There is a narrative – or more than one – of a red thread from the week.  The thread could be relationships, community, learning, 12 precious minutes it takes to put on snow pants, trauma, important connections to parents and our community, math… but there is a story.  I do not name names – but I give as much detail as I can when I write but I am careful to guard privacy.  There are quotes, descriptions and spirals backwards and forwards as to why this story at this time.  

Andrea and I find a sliver of time over the weekend for a backsy forthsy – our trademark from The Beast – we think back and forth under the story about the why and the learning… it is there because it is a beast.  Our conversation is shared with the story to all staff – in some ways it feels far more risky than sharing with more degrees of separation on Twitter.  

37 includes common threads for the week ahead and important things to remember as a staff.  There are pictures we have taken or that have been shared to us by educators.  The layout is Andrea’s signature and it is beautiful.  I love when she hits publish and send.  I get nervous every time.  The tension is magnificent.

As a brand new – since November 23, admin team we are navigating all of the things covid, health and safety and  fear.  We are in uncertain times yet I have never felt more certain.  The staff and community at 37 is solid, honest and graceful.  Grace takes you a long way.  They also expect the same from the two of us and our transparency, honesty and communication are not negotiable.  Who we are together is solid.  Leadership is now our Beast.  We are going to write more… We have things to share that are incredible gifts in the world of education and learning and leadership.  We are back, imagine our joy.

7 am and the snow is softy blanketing the whole

A: Hmm the joy and the return to this very space is overwhelming in the best way possible.  37, The Beast – the title of our story, our journey, a series of threads connected and changed forever.  Like you, I am drawn back to entries like Story Yourself and Backseat Learning.  Allan Luke and anti-expository.  In grade 6, we used the hero’s journey – every day… then one day…so after that…  Well after that everything changed not for everyone else but for the hero herself.

K: I keep the printed copy of all of our Beasts on my desk in a pile with my sketchbooks – like a magical pile of documentation.  I took them out and put them in that pile the day we organized our offices beside each other.  I have revisited and added stickies.  Looking for the Real Space Between, Access and Abundance and looking at the number of times we come back around to why people learn … I ruffle the pages looking and relooking at our conversations and ironically – the ones we did not publish, I have not gone back to.  We were working at the same school, right down the hall, but then the threads would not pull – not like they should.  Then on November 23 – all roads…everything changed but went back to being the same.  

A: Tension, risk and hitting publish keep the door wide open.  We already have people and ideas to invite into our conversation here.  And although we have covered so much ground in thinking about learning and leadership, we still don’t know.  And I am still very curious as to why not knowing is so often evaded or goes unchecked.

Photo by Pedro Ramos on Unsplash

K: The wide open door… that place where not knowing is where the conversation starts, continues and spirals back around.  I’m not sure you and I… all brand new, could pull off “we know everything.”  That being said, it is not our style.  Thinking about things in a way we have not thought about them before, wide open and unchecked…hmmm – visible, integrated, innovative thinking.  In writing 37, in sending it out every Sunday, the invitation has to be to join the conversation and figure it out beside us.  Learning, trauma, achievement, assessment, well being, all part of our work at 37.  Not knowing simply starts the much needed conversations.

A: It never stops and we won’t ever know.  Every perspective that walks through that open door and builds on the conversation belongs there and is essential to the figuring.  I feel like our documentation in 37 and in the Beast slows us down and holds us in the thinking…the during.  It’s flow.

K: I missed it.  Working with you is not the same as working beside you… tangling with all of the pieces and looking in our notes… back and forth, for the words that came from someone in the moment that stopped us and made us go all the way back. The figuring out feels different today.  Each perspective is what will move the school, our students and each other.  We take learning seriously… that is who we are as leaders.

A:  Bigger. More beastly.  Your words to me earlier today: School is a special place…it’s where our story extends and we grow in the world.  Yes, we are back.

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