After seeing @abbyo’s great post (yes, one of many) in which she laid out all of her roles, duties, responsibilities, passions, I realized that this was something that I needed to follow up with for myself. Despite the fact that we are growing the lexicon to reflect greater distinction between our roles, there’s only so much that a title – like Agile Learning Facilitator – can tell us about what we actually do. I found myself in recent weeks asking myself this very question: what has becoming an ALF meant to me?
Looking back at my time and involvement thus far with the ALC project I found my old bio from before ALF Summer 2014 (the first one!) and that has made something very clear to me: I have come a long way (literally and figuratively), and I am in deep with this project/ALF/ALC/Community/Life.
This year I have taken on a set of clear responsibilities as the After Hours Care person. When the opportunity came up for me to serve the community in a clear role I was ecstatic, it may not have seemed like it at the time when @artbrock was the one volunteering me, but standing in the wings as an understudy volunteer ALF for the past year meant I was ready to jump. To be clear, it’s basically an extended ALC day for those who need it, which means the kids are still self directing leaving me to just be in the space with them for support. It frees the full timers, @abbyo and @ryanshollenberger, to depart by the set time of 4.30pm saving them from potential burnout. I have keys and I lock the place up at the end of each day, after tidying up post-clean messes.
I’m a bridge of communications too. I can’t always be at the ALC during the daytime, but I’m always there for the gratitude circle at the end of the day and I am a part of the daily staff check-in. It puts me in a privileged position really, because those check-ins are where we vulcan mind-meld and decide how we are all going to respond to culture challenges. I get to spend a bit of time with each of the parents at the end of the day too because the kids usually get picked up at different times and they take a bit of time to pack themselves up. So if there are cultural conversations about how a child is adapting, or having challenges with meetings or with any kind of day-to-day issues, I get to update the parents as frequently laughing with them as reassuring them. Recently, I’ve just started my own communications channel/email, because there are parents who may have the need to pick their kids up later one day. So this is going to be a way of reminding them: I GOT YOU.
This role also gives me real time to develop direct relationships with the children too. Constancy is the key here. We’ve changed each other in little ways already. Most days now there is a considerable amount of improvised dancing happening, it makes me feel very special when they *kill* the lights to dance in the dark (directly influenced by my ‘no lights no lycra’ dance parties). I’ve been collaborating more and more in the mine-crafting too, *ooooh I get it now*.
I also make regular offerings, such as a weekly trip to the library on Thursdays. There is an amazing Manga collection at Aguilar library on 110th and it’s only a short walk. Sometimes it’s only me going, but constancy is king here too. Before I head out I check in with everyone at the school. Also it’s a great place to do some focused work of my own, or co-work with other adults. I also play guitar and can teach this explicitly when the need arises, it’s been an offering on the cards for a while but there is no natural interest in it right now. I’ve arranged the music studio room to be kid-friendly and group jam ready for when the time comes.
Beyond the ALC-NYC work I’m also very interested in thinking about the big picture and vision for ALCs. Abby also wrote a post on this recently, prompted as she says by conversations we had together as well as the awareness that these conversations will be happening more and more. My interest is in grassroots, organic concerns being the driving force behind network level action. I won’t write (much) about that here, but suffice it to say that I’ve been getting deep into academic concerns on this topic (heard of Murray Bookchin?). In brief: I think that popular assemblies and community building are the antidote to disaster capitalism and climate catastrophe. I’ve been busy having network vision conversations with @drew, @rochellehudson and Sara Casey Taleff [why no @ mention name?] to dig into this in practical ways.
In my non-ALC world I’m running a community dance event called No Lights No Lycra, because I love to dance and I think that everybody should do it way more often. Of course, everything gets my ALC lens, including my other passions and getting this thing off the ground and running and trying to build a community is an excellent way to cut my teeth as agent provocateur/social organizer. It’s hard. It’s also truly deeply rewarding. When new people come, even if it’s only once, and I get to dance with them as they are discovering how amazing it feels to get foot-loose in a dark room, I feel whole. You get what you give. It’s a small group of us that go regularly, and I have to laugh whenever I hear new people tell me that they *prefer* that it’s only 5-6 people “This is Magic! Don’t ever grow!”. I agree, except 15 people is pretty awesome too, right @bear? (and 40-50 sounds like a reasonable target). Sound familiar?
Yes, I plan to open an ALC one day too, in Melbourne, Australia, but don’t rush me. As I recently explained to another ALF, I may be here for years still.
On that note, I know that I touched on my passion for academic work and critical theory, but one last thing you should is that I’m currently applying to a Masters Program in Philosophy and Education at Teachers College. If I am accepted my work with the ALC and the network will shift gears a little. I intend to develop a thesis that looks at the work we are doing in our schools and as a network of schools. I’m extremely interested in digging into the work of John Dewey’s ideas about the centrality of experience in learning (Experience and Education, 1938) and redefining what the ‘Public’ in ‘Public Education’ means by drawing on Murray Bookchin’s idea’s of the ‘popular assemblies’ of his Libertarian Municipalism as a model for public life and citizenship. Sounds dense? Surprise! ALCs are already (kind of) doing this with our focus on ‘Intentional culture’ and ‘culture keeping’, as well as the very humanly scaled nature of our structures.
That is who I am and (most of*) what I love.
[*Did I mention I’m getting married to Qi Wei (‘Vic’) in July 2016?]