(This blog post was written on October 11th, and saved as a draft by accident.)
A recent meeting at John Marshall went all wrong: only three kids showed up, the teacher told us to reschedule (until after fall break), and no progress was made on the script we had just perfected.
However, on our way home, Taylor, Allison, and I agreed that it might have been the best meeting we’ve ever had.
Here’s why: when everything went wrong, a lack of structure actually worked in our favor, and gave us the flexibility to bond with our students (the few that showed up) in a really special way. When we first arrived ready to go and excited to read through, we were met with some defeat. The teacher, disappointed with the turn out, almost immediately told us we might as well go home. But we’d made it all the way there, so we decided to stick around. A few minutes into our awkward hovering, Judah and Amilia starting asking us about college. How did we get in? How did we get scholarships? Did we play sports? Did we like art? How can they get into Richmond? What’s it like there? Is it hard to get a scholarship? When did you apply?
I felt transported to my confused, overwhelmed, and hopeful high school self-I hadn’t thought about these questions since then. They’d all been answered as life unfolded. But for these students, the questions remained. And they were hopeful. Amelia, especially, focused in on a conversation with me about college- and her questions were direct. “What kind of scholarship did you get?” she asked, “How did you get it? What do you need?” In response, we started asking the students what they cared about: what clubs are you in, what do you like to work on, what do you want to do? The answers were amazing. Amilia is fascinated by biology and animals; Judah started her own magazine and writes poetry. We assured them that they were smart and capable and had what it took to be good applications. As we kept talking, we learned more and more about the girls lives at school, at home, and what their dreams were. What started as a casual conversation with a few of our kids turned into a moment that helped build our relationship. The meeting was boundary breaking, and reminded me how important a relationship oriented leadership style is to the nature of our project.