Wednesday, March 12, 2014

What I'm Up To: Creating Vision, Of Course

One of the challenging joys about daily life at The Leadership Center is that we are new. Practically blank slate, wide open grassy spaces and mountain top skies – the limit is endless for the development and future of this school. But where to begin, to make new into a sustainable, living system?

Looking around the campus, it has already begun. The entrance to campus is freshly lined with painted white stones that proudly accentuate the sixty or so new fruit trees that students and volunteers planted several weeks ago: in a year or so, these will leave a legacy of both nutrition and pride. The second student dorm is nearly completed, the concrete floors to be poured immediately, and this will house our newest group of students – twelve or so fresh, eager women with brilliant potential and open horizons.

There are smaller yet equally as important changes everywhere you look: all the toilets are being converted to compost toilets, benches and tables and play equipment spring up every corner you turn, the worker’s bodega is being organized, library is filling with resources, garden beds are overflowing with help from the compost that students and volunteers make. Every morning one can wake up and give a gasp. Yet another thing is being born!

And so it was to keep with the rising tide of excitement and improvement that President Joseph asked long-term teachers and volunteers to gather once a week to help him plan for even longer and inevitable changes that would shape the future of TLC in perhaps less tangible, but equally as important ways. Each Tuesday at four o’clock, eight of us meet in our makeshift conference room of the dining hall to systematically discuss the following things:

1.     How can we improve expectations and experience for students?
2.     How can we improve expectations and experience for teachers and volunteers?
3.     How can we keep connections of volunteers, students and staff throughout the years?
4.     How can the school leadership be its most effective self?

When was the last time you had the opportunity to contribute to something so fresh (with baby fruit trees slowly growing outside), where you intimately knew each individual person these changes would effect? I gaze out the screen window and see two of my students reading a novel on a bench, and my imagination applies our discussion directly to them: will our decision help them read more books? Will it take away the bench? Will it mandate the reading? And how will this make them more effective, compassionate and intelligent leaders?

Each brilliant suggestion blooms like the hibiscus near the window. For example, creating Student Management Teams to put the day-to-day functions of the school into the hands of our more-than-capable ladies has sparked a thousand smaller ideas, most of which have now been incorporated into “The Plan.” And my imagination sings as from my meeting chair, I watch students flounce into the kitchen and I know that one day soon, they will control inventory, they will direct volunteers, they will oversee gardens and animal growth, and they will know what growing a community feels like.

I now know what growing a community feels like. I’ve just entered my sixth month as a teacher at The Leadership Center and the potential in each day rises with the orange sun. While I haven’t penned my name into the wood of my bunk bed, or left handprints in concrete (well, maybe my initials are scribbled in the foundation of the compost toilet!), or named a hiking trail after myself, joining our TLC Vision Group has been remarkably fulfilling. When I return home to California in April, I know that behind me our decisions will be carried out and up into the stratosphere. Because that’s the kind of place TLC is: when you have an idea, it gets done. When it gets done, it thrives, evolves, and becomes a better way of life.

Also, we were promised a pizza party for joining this group and boy, do I love pizza! (Just joshin’, Joseph.)

Envisioning the future for these stupendous women (only part of our community seen here, but these are the women I started teaching in April 2013 who have so far only started to shake the foundation of the world.)

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