“Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress, and working together is success.” —Henry Ford
This quote by Henry Ford reminds me of the journey we’ve been on so far in Opal 2 this year. “Coming together” was the easy part for most of us this year. Returning to relationships most of us had already begun to develop was an incredible way to start the year, and it felt different than other years. It was a great way to start. But just because we knew one another didn’t mean that we didn’t have work to do.
The “staying together” part is always hard work. This is the place where we push ourselves and challenge each other, the place where we learn and grow and change. It’s the place where the real work happens, and it's complicated work and even sometimes exhausting. But this is the work that has the most value. It’s where we not only learn about ourselves, but also the others that make up our Opal 2 community. It’s where we leave space for everyone to have a place, where we share our power, and where we make sure everyone’s voice is heard. It’s where we find balance between our individual needs and the needs of the whole. At Opal School, our goals and expectations for students act as a guide as we navigate through that “staying together” part – as we experience our year together.
Two of those goals that illustrated themselves strongly last week in Opal 2 are:
- Develop an understanding and curiosity about multiple points of view. Have value and empathy for experiences and perspectives different from one’s own.
- Collaborate with others to construct ideas and create new knowledge.
Last week we had an opportunity to see in full action these goals come to life in the “working together” part of that quote. It was a Thursday afternoon and Elizabeth, our visual arts specialist, was here to support children to bring to life the characters that would live in our “city.” The children had all spent time imagining and then drawing their characters because, as BV said, “You can’t have a city without people.” So we wanted to know more about who these people would be and get to know more about one another. As you might imagine, trying to create over 20 characters in one afternoon was a bit of a challenge. We couldn’t do it alone! So, with the support of some willing volunteers from other classrooms, Opal 2 students went into the studio a few at a time, and began bringing these characters to life!
It sounds like a lot of fun (which it was!) but there were some tricky parts to this creating as well. For one, we didn’t all fit in the studio at once. We needed to take turns, and it wasn’t easy to wait. And when it was finally someone’s turn, they had to do this work in the hot, stuffy, crowded studio. And there were an abundance of materials to share and negotiate around. Also, this wasn’t a one-person job. The children were required to really work with another person, explaining and re-explaining, to bring the image in their minds out into a character they could hold and play with. So, as you can imagine, there were many places, many moments, where this experience could have turned into a direction we weren’t hoping for it to go.
But, it didn’t. The children in Opal 2 that day showed us the real definition of collaboration and perspective taking. Whether it was volunteering to help a friend who hadn’t created their character yet, or sharing the material they really wanted, or being flexible about waiting for what you needed, or not getting grumpy because of how crowded it was, or waiting patiently until their turn finally arrived, the children in Opal 2 were engaged in “working together.”
They showed us the power that working together can have on a group. We all left that day with big smiles on our faces and indeed we would agree, “working together is success.”