Involving the parents – finally!

So, I wrote my last post on November 12th, and then my computer crashed.

Being wihtout a computer for so long is really frustrating for someone who uses writing as a means of reflection, sharing, growth and development on a regular basis. Now I finally have my computer back, but only temporarily. It needs new components before it should function properly again, and who knows when those components will find there way to Puerto Escondido (the Hidden Harbour, in Spanish).

After the feeling of total devastation I went through, when a group of new kids came in and tore down the entire Explora structure in a second, I picked myself up and started acting like the director I am.

I wrote a blog post in Spanish called “What the traditional school system does to our kids“, shared it with the new parents and also summoned them for an emergency Sunday meeting (which is highly unusual in Mexico, where Sundays are family days and not to be messed with).

I was a bit shaky on the inside but I know it didn´t show. I told them what had happened, why it had happened, that I wanted to prevent such things to happen in the future and in order to do so I needed to support their children in replacing destructive behaviours for more constructive ways, and that the only way that would have a chance of working would be by separating them and receiving them on different days – if, obviously, the parents were still interested in enrolling them in Explora.

The parents seemed a bit confused to begin with. This particular group is well off economically, and used to being the bossy ones – not used to being bossed around. But they handled it pretty well. I´m happy to say that I know my shit and if I have to adapt and talk in a way that makes this kind of Mexicans listen, then I´ll do so. I´m learning to use my knowledge and personality in a way that makes people down here understand that I´m an authority. That´s really hard for a Swede that was raised under the freaky cultural code know as the Law of Jante.

The result was: all of the parents understood that to me, the most important thing is creating a culture of trust, acceptance, respect and open communication so that all children may feel safe both emotionally and physically at Explora. And they all decided to enroll their kids and agreed to split the days up between all of them.

After that, things really improved. These little kids have quite low self-esteem, which is probably why they so easily fall into the bully mentality. On their own they are very gentle and soft – but already stripped off of their creativity and initiative taking. So we´ve been working on gently guiding them back towards themselves. Trying to figure out what they like and what they want to do. It´s obviously a long process, and when you can only work with a child once a week, the expectations have to be realistic.

The emergency meeting lead to another meeting that was for all of the parents. It turned out to be a really nice one. I shared the foundations of what an ALC is, the way we work with the kids (starting up with a fun group dynamic, using the talking stick and signs with the parents), the changes we´ve seen in the children and the huge differences we notice between the kids that come from the traditional system and those who are unschooled or come from my old project. They realized the monthly fee is really ridiculously low, but that it has to be and that if they want to help out with certain things I´d be more than grateful.

Strangely enough I realized some of the families seem to function through group pressure. What I mean by that, is that they will come to the meeting or enroll their child because otherwise it wouldn´t look good in the eyes of other, more powerful parents. Don´t really know what to do with that. So far it´s just an observation.

Working with parents that don´t have to assist to meetings because Explora isn´t formally a school, is challenging in the sense that they don´t have a lot of time to waste. I need to make them want to assist. It has to be fun, different and useful. I want them to look forward to the meetings and see them as a possibility of connecting and growing.  So this is another challenge that adds on to the others, but a necessary one. If I don´t work with the parents more actively, how can they ever understand and appreciate the concept of self-directed learning?

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