Well, ALF summer has come and gone and we’ve all gotten started with our various schools/homeschool groups. We’ve spent a few weeks open and operational, and converged the past weekend at our ALC Cloudhouse location in Chatham, NY for our first ALF Weekend!
We gathered for the following purposes:
- Facilitators to share experiences and ideas in order to evolve our Agile Culture model and strengthen our communities
- Specialized teams of ALFers to work on network-wide projects such as: web tools,marketing material, documentation, storytelling, etc.
- Relationship building with a focus on healthy communication among the ALF team
- Creative problem solving around ways to increase resource sharing within the ALC network - exchange students, facilitator sharing, and alternative currency structures.
My experience at ALF Weekend #1:
The Roadtrip: Driving with Dean and Charlotte — A++++++++ experience. This provided crucial time for purpose #3 in the specific Mosaic Community. We spent 28 hours total in the car together, there and back, and being able to talk about our experiences so far in the school year at Mosaic, what we think could be better, and to simply connect was very beneficial. We all arrived back in Charlotte today feeling energized and clear about our work as ALFs with the students.
Group time: We started and ended our days with whole group time. We opened on day one with a discussion about what it means to “ALF from the Source” and answered the questions:
- What do we see possible? (Our Vision)
- What’s the difference we can make? (Our Mission)
- Why do we play/do this work? (Our Purpose)
- What can the world count on us for? (Accountability)
@artbrock, co-founder of the ALC Network, stated that this activity and the responses we gave would help us converge on what we want the mission, vision, and purpose of our network to be. We have notes on this and will be incorporating our collaborative efforts into the summer documents we started with the help of @Leigh and @Sarasmith (two ALFs that couldn’t be here this weekend, unfortunately).
During our closing group time session, it was clear that communication around roles of various ALFers was needed so that Purpose #3 could happen across the network. We are still in the beginning states of our collaboration between schools and evolving what it means to be a part of a network of schools as we go! Mosaic was the first big school to transition to an ALC and we now have our Everett, Seattle location started up. As we grow, new ALFs desire clarity as to who is responsible for what. We need to balance assigning roles with the need for everyone to constantly change and evolve their role as they gain new experiences and find different sweet spots for themselves in the ALC Network. We believe in constant upgrades to our experience and want to allow our roles to be agile!
The next morning, Arthur led us through an eye-opening session about membranes and boundaries that communities of purpose, like ours, need. Identifying levels and paths of engagement to people joining our community is helpful for maintaining its health. There are those that will join us for our summer programs that are new to many of our foundational roots and they will need a map to see how they can navigate towards a role in the community that they desire. This is helpful so we can maintain the integrity for what it means to ALF. We also want to be able to identify experienced ALFs that can support newer ALFs along their journey.
We created a diagram of membranes that newcomers pass through as they come in contact with our network – mapping a path for those who have never heard of us –> to newcomers –> to participants –> supporters (including volunteers) –> stakeholders (including parents, interns, staff). We have started documentation on this, but need to fine-tune and add more to the diagram as a part of our growing compilation of ALF Network Resources.
What grew from this conversation was an idea I proposed to @tomis and @bear for an activity for our current ALFs as a way for us to self-identify roles and share those with the other current ALFers. My intentions for the activity were to:
- Have ALFs self-describe what they do in the network currently and allow space for others to provide input if there is something missing from a self-description of a role.
- Have each individual to reflect on their list of what they currently do and identify what parts of what they do “juices,” or excites, them. This reflection is important to me – if someone writes a list of what they do and cannot identify something they like in that list, that’s a problem! What can also be an important practice is to see that if what you are doing is actually what you like and enjoy as a way to identify if you are in your “sweet spot” within the community.
- To have ALFs share with one another if there is something they wish to be doing within the network.
- To have individuals brainstorm action steps that could help them do what it is they wish to be doing. This is a “do-ocracy,” where we can create our own realities. I have little patience for complaining – I believe we are all empowered to create a life for ourselves that we want – but sometimes it’s hard to think of a doable action step to get us started on that path.
We asked all the ALFs to answer four questions as the first part of this activity: What do you do in the ALC Network? What juices you (from what you do)? What do you want (if anything) to be doing? What action steps can you identify that will get you there?
We all did this and shared – which was a much longer process than I anticipated! We had just come from a session about Metamaps and decided to document what everyone shared using this tool. @drew, @abbyo, and @artbrock diligently documented our process so we could create a map of our current roles and wishes within the ALC Network. This turned out to provide an incredible map of where we are now. Many ALFs felt juiced to use this tool to document and share what is currently happening in our network and relate those to contact ALFs. For example, as our network grows, a new ALF could look at this map and quickly identify which ALFs share common interests, like math, outdoor education, science, etc and then get in touch with those ALFs. Current ALFs can also see who else is interested in collaborating on projects in the future. From this activity, we’ve already assembled a team that has begun plans for our next summer ALF program!
Overall, I found the activity really beneficial and useful. It became kind of a lovefest by the end with lots of time spent with ALFs sharing appreciation for other ALFs. The productive side of me was not excited by the amount of time this took and felt that it led away from the purpose of what we were trying to accomplish, however, as I reflected further on the way home, I realized that we are still in the “getting to know” each other stage of our ALC Network. Art, Tomis, Bear, and Ryan launched this project over a year ago, several of us joined over the last school year, and another group joined as recently as this July. The most important thing we need to do now is build healthy, trusting relationships with each other rooted in gratitude & love. Just like building relationships with students is my number one priority at the beginning of a school year or getting to know a new student, it’s important for me to do this with adults too 😉
Small group time: In-between starting and ending each day with group time, the middle of the day was divided in times for self-space, breakout sessions, community projects, and food prep & meals together. Here are some of what I observed/participated in:
- “Book Club” breakout session: Nancy, @abram, @drew, @dinospumoni are starting an ALF book club. We picked our first book, “Punished by Rewards” by Alfie Kohn and are going to set times to meet virtually to discuss the book section by section. Our goal is to have a synthesis of the book created so we can link a shortened doc, or “cliffs notes” to each book link on our resources page. If you want to join, please do so here!
- “How to motivate kids without manipulation” breakout session: This was an incredible breakout session where ALFs shared strategies with one another that have served to help kids that have appeared to need more support to become self-directed learners. I’ll be adding a recap of that session in our Tools & Practices page soon. This breakout session marked a dream come true for me. I’ve been wishing for a group of alternative educators to share best practices with, and now I have one!
- “Metamaps” breakout session: We were given a presentation from one of the creators of Metamaps and brainstormed how we could use this tool to serve our community, then moving on to use it in our next group session! Learn more about Metamaps here.
- Web tools development session: This involved @Drew, @Tomis, and @Artbrock sitting around a table with laptops. Sorry, no summary from me since I didn’t join this one!
- Ultimate Frisbee: I learned how to play. I kinda liked it. I moreso just loved the support I had from my peers to learn a new game and try something out that I wouldn’t normally do.
- Community Project Time: We wanted to show appreciate for the Quaker Intentional Village Community hosting our retreat, so we chopped & stacked wood and painted the side of the farm house for them! I really enjoyed getting outside and doing some manual labor.
Then, there was the Werewolves game, played on our last night after group time. This was led by 15 year old Milo, ALC Cloudhouse student, until 2am on Saturday night! This role playing game was probably the most fun I’ve had all year. All of us couldn’t stop laughing and playing round after round.
Where to go from here?
Well we’ve got some loose ends to continue to work on – like the Metamap of roles, and continued collaborative effort to define our purpose, mission, and vision. We’ve also got ALFer’s already starting on projects that they have identified interest in working on.
I’m personally excited to work on the following:
- The book club
- Planning for next ALF Summer
- Continuing my focus on the kids at Mosaic. During our group activity, it is clear that working with kids and then sharing my personal ALF practices that work or don’t work well with other ALFs is a sweet spot for me. This is why I am excited to plan ALF summer too – I believe that it’s the ALFs that spend most of their time with kids are the ones that need to be sharing their insights with new ALFs planning to spend time with kids 🙂