The Intentionality of Gathering Together
by Chris Ouellette, NEALS VP, Director of Learning Support at Emma Willard
Happy April Folx!
Last night, the NEALS Board finished up our final meeting before the April virtual conference on 4/28. I greatly appreciate the connections that I have been able to form through my work with this small group. Priya Parker tells us in the first line of her book The Art of Gathering that “the way we gather matters” (2018). She goes on to define gathering as “the conscious bringing together of people for a reason” (2018). My thoughts have been focused on coming together and building community for quite some time now. When Covid shut the world down in March of 2020, my partner Jennifer and I hosted all of the members of the Darrow campus bubble regularly throughout the Spring and Summer for outdoor frivolities. We were able to keep morale and spirit up through the conscious effort of building that community bubble. The great privilege in having the ability to do that is not lost on me.
Recently over Spring Break, Jennifer and I spent time in Boulder, CO. working with the Leadership + Design folx as participants in their Badass Facilitator Training. The days spent building community and learning by doing with other school leaders feels like it is already lending itself towards positive momentum forward! One of the most simple phrases that was shared with us from the mouth of Greg Bamford was that “when facilitating, your main task is to show up and be helpful” (2023). This certainly does not mean that you merely fly by the seat of your pants as you go with the flow, “don’t be a chill host” Parker reminds us. It means that you are ready to read the room and shift as needed, leading the group on “their journey, not yours” (L+D, 2023).
I have begun to meet more regularly with some of our younger leaders. I had been having conversations in the fall where my colleagues were sharing similar frustrations to the ones I had been having, and by channeling the “go get your learning” L+D mantra combined with the idea that “leadership is lonely” (Center for Creative Leadership), I have been offering up articles, clips, books, and time so that we can begin to gain a shared understanding around pedagogy and approach, and begin to build our community within a community, just as Dr. Ruha Benjamin told us to do it when we were lucky enough to have her visit our campus back in the fall.
The NEALS world has been mostly virtual for a couple of years now. This year we have decided to utilize a two-pronged approach for our annual conference: A virtual offering on Friday 4/28/23, followed by in-person regional gatherings that have already started to populate on the website. Friday we will have the opportunity to work with Rachael “Shelley” Haven, ATP, RET, BSME, as she leads us on a journey through the world of Generative AI and technology to support our own practices! As we move forward into the month of May, the following gatherings will be happening in person:
-NH/ME/VT will see a regional gathering on 5/10 at 4:30p at SawBelly Brewing in Exeter, NH. Register through the events page on the website.
-CT/Eastern NY will see a regional gathering on 5/12 from 12:30-2:30p at the Kent School in Kent, CT. Register through the events page on the website.
-Northern MA/NH will see a regional gathering on 5/16 from 2:00-4:00p at the Pike School in Andover, MA. Register through the events page on the website.
As we get ready to connect again, I will leave you with another quote from Priya Parker, “Every time people gather, they are being brought into the opportunity to help one another, to do what they couldn’t do, think up, or heal alone” (2018).
I am truly looking forward to the opportunity to do something together!
*We are looking for passionate humans who will be able to help us expand our board. If you have any interest in joining the NEALS board for 2023-2024, please reach out to Chris Ouellette, firstname.lastname@example.org.