Building Community
Building Community

When educators design and create new schools, and live next gen learning themselves, they take the lead in growing next gen learning across the nation. Other educators don’t simply follow and adopt; next gen learning depends on personal and community agency—the will to own the change, fueled by the desire to learn from and with others. Networks and policy play important roles in enabling grassroots approaches to change.

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The purpose of school is to develop the minds of those within its walls. To do that, we first must capture their hearts...by creating moments to remember.

Try and recall the first day of work at your current job. What exactly do you recall from that day? Chances are, nothing. Nothing remarkable, extraordinary, or outstanding. Perhaps someone showed you around the office or took you out to lunch, but likely most of our ‘first’ days anywhere don’t mark a new trajectory or direction.

Yet we know that brief experiences or encounters can literally change lives. Our best moments in life make us feel alive and can carry us for years. But those moments happen spontaneously and cannot be orchestrated or planned…or can they?

In their book The Power of Moments, authors Chip and Dan Heath explore why certain experiences have extraordinary impact. They found that defining moments are created from one or more of the following four elements:

  • Elevation: rising above the everyday

  • Connection: sharing with others

  • Pride: reflecting on courage and achievement

  • Insight: rewiring our understanding of ourselves or the world

The Heath brothers go on to say that powerful, defining moments do not have to be completely spontaneous, but actually can be planned and even designed.

So we tried to do just that. After a year of planning to launch a charter restart in Indianapolis—a new innovation charter school—we held last Friday an inauguration ceremony. However, since we were taking over an existing low performing school rather than launching a brand new building, we wanted to rise up and elevate an otherwise traditional ‘ribbon-cutting’ moment. We unveiled a new school sign, designed by world class metal fabrication artists Ignition Arts.

To make the moment a more social one of connection, we had every member of our community (staff, board of directors, community members, parents, and family members) collaborate on a piece of art that would capture their literal thumbprint onto our school’s flame logo as a symbol of the community coming together to relaunch this school.

Our staff clearly has so much pride in their involvement with this school turnaround that they could not keep from dancing during the event! It was an inspiring, joyful celebration of a new journey that we’ve begun together.

Lastly, and perhaps most difficult of all, is to provide insight—a means by which we could rewire understanding. But whose understanding are we trying to rewire, exactly? The first day of school for us was August 6, 2018. As students walked in through our doors and into our morning assembly, we wanted them to realize that they were embarking upon a new trajectory—one that would uncover the depths and heights of their potential to learn, to have influence and to make a lifelong impact.

To complete this marking of the moment, our good friend Rick Cobb, who serves as founder and director of the Indianapolis Choral Artisans had his choral community sing over our staff the morning of our first day of school as we huddled in a morning circle, and then over our children as they entered our building and new innovation charter school for the very first time. Their first day in our school was defined by a community singing over them in love and grace.

The purpose of school, any school, is to develop the minds of those within its walls. But to do that, we first must capture their hearts. Music in this way serves as a powerful metaphor: a community of choral artisans singing represents the new reality and emerging trajectory that a quality education provides every child, particularly those in poverty. Singing in community allows the metaphor to become tangible—to literally experience a foretaste of the latent potential laying dormant within each child, awaiting to be opened.

Years from now, will our staff, students and their families remember this moment? I hope so. I know I will.

Sajan George headshot

Sajan George

Founder and CEO, Matchbook Learning

Sajan George, Founder and Chief Executive Officer for Matchbook Learning, is driven by a passion to realize the dream that all students regardless of background can learn and succeed in our society.