Posted by james on Feb. 10, 2001
It has something to do with the fact that this School is a training place for staff. They come here for a few years to learn how to lead, then they go somewhere else where they take over more leadership roles. This is great for the people being trained, new and old alike, and great for the schools receiving these people. But it's hard for this School, and it's especially hard for its Students. We grow attached to great leaders, but we have to know how to say goodbye to them after a few years. There's a lot of other things that contribute to our problem, this is just one.
Basically things are just <a href="rants-12-10-2000.html">dead all over</a>, and we're still trying to figure out why. We had a meeting a bit ago, all the staff and all the students on any teams, to figure out what's going on. We discussed what we see as missing from the Group, and then what people thought was needed. People had a hard time not just jumping into the what needed to be done part, which wasn't even one of the two options. We had to keep trying to focus on the what's. What really is happening? Then, Why is this happening? Finally, What do we need? The question of What to do comes later, I think. But this meeting wasn't just coincidence. The staff has seen what everyone else has noticed; that there's something wrong. And tonight more things have come up that shed light on the subject.
First, the history of what happened. Two years ago was really good for this Group. A lot of people were in the Group, a lot of people were discovering it and joining, and there was a lot of growth happening. Staff were very involved in Student's lives, events were supported by the teams and everyone. There were a lot of the signs of a healthy growing Group. Mike planted an idea in us, like an apple seed that starts to sprout when you're not paying attention. He's been saying it for a while, but this is when I first heard it. This plan:
Take this Group we have. It's good and growing, people see it and see the good of it, and then want to be a part of it. It's because they see something in this Group that they want and can't find many places. There aren't many groups that have the safety and caring on such a large scale that we did. People need a safe place where they can go regardless of where they're coming from, and to be accepted in that place. These people should be able to count on being listened to, sometimes understood, cared for, and pursued afer. We were working well towards this goal. The next step is to stop revelling in how good we have it, and start bringing this group to other people. If you had this place where you know these needs were met, and it meant the world to you, how could you not try to help other people by inviting them in? This could be a safe haven for an entire School.
So that's the plan. Stop just accepting the few people that stumble on this group, and spend energy bringing people in on a large scale. <!-- I saw this and asked Mike about the group. I said I would be scared that we'd fall apart on the inside from neglect (since the energies of the group would all be focused outward), and instead become this husk of what we once were. We'd invite people in to something that was no longer alive on the inside, and then they'd have nothing. There wouldn't be any reason to invite people anymore. His take was that the inside would take care of itself. We had so many people looking inward, we needed to force ourselves to tear our eyes away and start looking outward, towards those people who hadn't even heard of the Group yet. -->
But something happened. Like I said at the beginning, one thing that makes it hard is that the staff changes every year. We know this, we deal. But it's still hard. For the last few years, ever since I've been here, we've had a lot of experienced staff here. And experienced staff is exactly what you want if you're going to start a new plan, with a new vision. You need the leadership and coordination of these leaders to keep all the parts of this Group working together. Otherwise you'd just end up with a bunch of smaller groups with the vision, but no way to cooperate and no way to pull it off.
Then this year, all the experienced staff moved out and in their place we have a bunch of new staff. And the leadership hasn't been enough to keep us together. Before we were many small groups that were brought together and lead as a whole, to create our Group. Now, without the bond and leadership to keep us together, we devolved back into the smaller groups. The people I was most likely to hang out with (my friends, the people I felt closest to, the people I live with, the people on my team) were the only people I really hung out with. And now we've realized that as much as we gather together for Group meetings, we don't have the unity to make it meaningful. <p>
So that's where we've been stuck most of this year. Everyone by now has realized this problem (again, <a href="rants-12-10-2000.html">dead all over</a> explains the awareness). The staff are trying to figure this out, and so are the students. So now things have surfaced that make us more aware of what's going on right now.
The original plan for my house was very different. I wanted our house to be a place where people could always come and look forward to something happening. Whether it was a movie night, or game night, or hot wings and a movie, or just a cooking party where we put all the wrong things into cupcakes and then try to get our friends to eat them, whatever. Just something fun that a medium group of people could do to have fun together. But the key was not to ever to encourage the forming of a core group. The core group is when you have a few people that are guaranteed to be there, and everyone else grows around them. This encourages cliques to form and makes entry into the group harder. Instead, the goal is to have it so that eventually people can count on things happening, and count on a good group of people there, but *never* know who's going to be there. And they wont care. They'll always hope their closer friends will be there, but it doesn't matter because they know that whoever's there they can have fun with them. And share things. And feel safe, and be listened to and sometimes understood. And no matter who's there, whether it's the people who they know well or have hardly seen, they can be sure that there's some bond that brings them all there. And the goal of this is to increase community.
This goal is on its way towards happening. For the past few weekends we've been going out with a different group of people each time, either watching a movie or going somewhere random, or going to a restaurant (and waiting for and hour and a half, and only giving a 15% tip. I'm so stupid and stingy). And it resembles my plan. We're a group of people that are always changing, we're doing things together and new people feel welcome. We're buliding community on such a small scale. And what we need now is to take that and let it spread. We need the small amount of community we're building every weekend, and build on that to connect more and more groups of people. And just maybe a large group of people that have built up enough community will have the trust, care, and respect to rebuild the growth that we had in the Group in years past. But this wont happen if we wait for staff to take over. I can't think of a movie night on friday and decide that staff should actually be setting this up so I wont. I can't depend on them to connect me with the new person and make sure we hit it off. I can't depend on them to connect our group with another group of two people that we usually don't hang out with. It's not that they wont help, it's that maybe they can't. It's just not their domain. When it comes to making another person feel comfortable with me, it only rests on my shoulders. And so the roots of this new Plan have to start with the decisions we make. We already have the community that serves itself, shown when we decide to call up the people we went out with last weekend to do something this weekend. And step after that is to include people that are new, which is already happening. So now we have the next step: consciencely making the effort to stretch beyond our small group and keep in mind something just a bit bigger. We need to take all these small groups that right now are surviving on their own and connect them together little by little.
It will take coordination and leadership, something we usually depend on staff for. But there's nothing that says that we can't take the same things and put them to use ourselves. Having people help you in the leadership area is not to say that you have to give up your right to lead also. So for now, the movement looks like it needs the motivation and support of the few people in the small groups working together. Then from there, who knows?