Executive director update – setting expectations


At the end of every day at camp next week, John, Bonisile and Fozia Safodien, the Director of Life Orientation at LEAP, will have a group session with TWA fellows to reflect and process with the team as part of their orientation into the LEAP School program. They will be learning about the LEAP School program in an extremely hands-on experience.

Through these evening meetings, they will have the opportunity for group process as well as one-on-one discussion and exploration. Here the LEAP School and the fellows will begin to explore the processes, projects and programs in which they will individually work for the next several weeks.
The LEAP School and Teach with Africa staff have been very deliberate and intentional in the process for fellow placement in LEAP projects. While relevant experience can be determined from a resume or c.v., the responsibility that we have to very carefully place each individual in a successful project – in which he or she is able to teach and to learn – requires very careful gleaning of experience, interests, personality, process style, and strengths. The number one priority is respecting the rights of the learners – both those from LEAP and TWA – to have an emotionally safe environment in which to share and learn. It is important to remember that entry points are difficult for every single person – in any capacity – coming into the LEAP School; the fellows’ project placement must be carefully identified and undertaken. (The camp next week is a very good point of entry, for example.) Above all, the LEAP School learners are children who have experienced oppression on every level – intellectual, mental, economic and social; these children are precious and deserve the respect with which we are approaching this process. For these children, the LEAP School is their home – and we are entering into that sacred space.
Additionally, individual interest can be sparked by on-site visits to various projects which might not have been thought of prior to actually arriving. The ideas that team members might have prior to seeing the LEAP School may be very different from the ideas that can be ignited once site visits take place.
It is very important that we remember our mission – to teach and to learn. Adding another layer of complexity here is that we must hold true to our mission while acknowledging the reality that this is TWA’s VERY FIRST project, in which we are creating processes and systems and gaining definition in real-time, as we go along. We cannot pre-determine what the outcomes can or should be. We are partnered with a school that has holds vigorously to an incredibly successful model in which exploration and reflection inform the process and determine the next step. It is important to move forward in phases, even when excitement and anticipation might cry for a more rapid pace. A successful framework for the systems and structure are in place for each project area – education, Green MBA and psych – and the program and the process are in good hands at LEAP.
We cannot super-impose a prescribed structure on top of this experience. Through this process, everyone who fully and truly participates in the process of exploration, sharing, reflection and commitment will find it impossible not to discover best practices to bring home to share with Bay Area schools and organizations, while also being an integral part of the education – both academic and life lessons – of the LEAP School students.
At the same time, we know that we will learn much about the coordination and facilitation of the project, that there are many lessons to learn and that there will be many aspects of our project to refine. This is a period of exploration on many levels, but it is a very rich time from which much will be gleaned. Indeed, explorations by their very nature are intense, phenomenal, difficult, mind-blowing, scary, informative, transformative. I don’t expect this one to be any different!

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