By: Anita Andrews-Hutchinson (Financial Director)
There is true magic that happens in Village Leadership Academy (VLA). Popping into any one of the classrooms throughout the course of the day, you can feel the magic permeating through your very being. Every single hand raised, looks of deep thought and bewilderment on little faces, gasps of delight when light bulbs in their minds go off, encouragement and direction provided lovingly by teachers to dig deeper. Simply amazing. Not only are these little acts of magic seen in the socially just social studies classes, but they are also weaved through all of our other
disciplines: math, science, French, art, literature, language arts, capoeria, etc. Our social justice curriculum has literally influenced every discipline that we teach at VLA. All of these ingredients for brilliance have been massaged and molded by our awesome principal and exceptional teaching staff, but what is just as impressive is how the administrators and support team ensure that these moments of magic remain steadfast. What has surprised me the most about this journey is how the greatness that I see in VLA goes beyond the activity in the classrooms.
Any good administrator or support staff provides the bedrock, the foundation for great things to be built on. If your job is done well no one should notice – technology is working, people are paid, supplies purchased, furniture built, children fed, etc. The question for me became: how does the work of an administrator at a cutting edge social justice school for elementary school children differ from other administrative posts? Is doing the day to day work enough? At our social justice institution the answer is no.
Expectations are broader. Engagement is the norm.
While our administrators do not necessarily have the immediate reward of magical classroom moments to provide continuous inspiration and regular reinforcement; through engagement, they create significant opportunities of enrichment that contribute directly or indirectly to the development of our students. They provide our children with a consistency, a steadfastness which serves as an example of the type of adult that we hope to produce – successful adults in various fields who are actively involved. The examples are numerous. Our technology coordinator, who manages the infrastructure of our three early learning centers and school, volunteers to co-teach the World Scholars Program (WSP) Class with the 3rd and 4th graders. His goal is to not only prepare them for their international trips in the summer, but to also gently coax out the leaders in every single one of the students. Our administrative assistant, who serves as the first line of communication with parents and all staff, gently reinforces the schools customs and culture when interacting with the children who pass her desk. She does not look away. She does not decide that negative behavior is just the teacher’s problem. She has established her role as a leader in our school. Our food program manager, who manages our USDA food program contract for all of our sites that allows us to feed 600 students three meals a day, attends teacher meetings, volunteers to help plan our World Scholars Program fundraising activities and educational excursions, and finds and attains support programs for our students and teachers. Collectively as teachers and administrators we all come together to make sure that the relationships that we develop with our students extend beyond the walls of the classroom. Teachers and administrators alike participate in school sleep overs (the Pajama Jammy Jam); individual teachers will organize soccer games or saturday field trips; and most importantly, every week all areas of the school come together at our assembly to celebrate academic learning, individual student accomplishments, and cultivate our communal spirit of activism and justice. We are a family working for the same goals.
VLA is very fortunate. Our administrators and support team are exceptional. All of our team members in and out of the classroom consistently exhibit what we want our children to be – leaders in every arena.
Yes, this school was founded to provide a microenvironment that breeds awareness, ignites consciousness, inspires the pursuit of justice, propels one’s will to act and ultimately catapults our students to success. It is true, some of our students will find their place in the international arena, some will find their niche on a national platform, there may even be those who will be integral in redesigning state or local agendas and we are eagerly anticipating that day. We will also be just as proud of our children who will become local administrators, managers, and coordinators that mirror our own VLA team.
Could you imagine a world where people did not just have jobs – they had commitments? Where people had a career choice that not only allowed them to do something they were good at, but also connected to the betterment of the whole? Who use opportunities beyond the parameters of their jobs to be a community of leaders? At VLA, we can and many do. If we want our children to be consciously committed, analytically thinking, innovative problem solvers, globally respectful, and actively engaged adults, then we all must be the example of that – no matter what the position. I thank all of our team at VLA for all that you are and everything that you do….every single day.