“U” Belong at Alki
By Mel Spiker
Feeling welcomed by our beloved educators, staff, and principal is at the foundation of creating a climate to welcomes all families at Alki. We believe a higher level of work can be done to improve Alki’s family, caretaker and grandparent bonds at our school. During our kick off meeting, experiences about drop off/pick up were shared and most testimonies included words like awkward, stressful, and anxious.
Whew! I was a little relieved that I wasn’t the only one. Then irony sets in, here I am rolling out a program geared to improve school climate feeling like an outlier picking up my kiddo at pick up? Even worse is not knowing how to help others feel
like they belong too. Albeit true,I am at all PTA board and membership meetings; and, yes, I collaboratively work with his teachers to meet Individual Education Plan’s (IEP) goals. But, I admit to feeling out-of-place and awkward waiting for the final bell to ring, and it is as numbing an experience as it was at White Oaks Elementary in San Carlos, CA, circa 1978; trying to make friends on the monkey bars.
It’s a simple concept: being mindful to stand forming an open circle (in a “u” shape) during community based events to leave space so others can join your conversation. Ok, ok, I admit I was skeptical too, how can standing in the shape of a vowel make a difference? So, I sat with that question a few days. Over time, I started to feel that leaving space for someone to join can draw them in and change their perception that they already belong because there is already space for them. Jedi mind trick? Possibly. Could it break barriers? Definitely worth a try.
I hope our school and children inspire us all to be mindful to leave a space for someone to join the conversation. Nothing less than welcoming ALL has a place at Alki. It’s what we want for our children, and what we need for our community. Pledge to be mindful and/or share your story…. We’ve dedicated a bulletin board just inside the front entryway of the school to make the pledge that U belong at Alki, we all do!
Pick up a “U Belong Button” in the main hallway bulletin board (in front of Ms. Deese’s office)!
Stop building circles and build a U.
Excerpt from “I Don’t Fit in. They Don’t Really Want Me There. I Wonder Why I Wasn’t Invited. Circles Are Great if You’re on the Inside.” by Amy Weatherly
“Sometimes I feel like I’m not quite cool enough. Sometimes I feel like I’m not quite popular enough. Sometimes I fly like I don’t fit in the same way other people do.
Sometimes I feel like there is a group who maybe doesn’t really want me there. Sometimes I wonder why I wasn’t invited. Sometimes I walk up to a circle of people and I don’t know whether to force my way in, or be awkward hanging around on the outside, just twiddling my thumbs, kicking the dirt, talking to myself, waiting until I can leave and go home to the safety of my sofa.
Circles are great if you’re on the inside. They can be fun if you’re in one, but circles can be awfully cruel if you’re left on the outskirts, looking for a way to get inside.
They can be exclusive. They can be excluding. They can be exhausting.
They can be cliquish.
They can be childish.
They are far, far too common.
Stop building circles and build a U. Leave room for everyone. Make a way so anyone, any ‘you’ can walk up and feel like they have a place to stand.
Leave room for good people who look different than you, who run in different crowds than you, who like different things than you, who come from different places than you. Differences were never made to divide us.” They were made to build us, and to teach us, to fill in the gaps where our own gifts give way and come up short.
One of our goals while participating in the National School of Excellence program is to improve Alki’s school climate. We want all families to feel welcomed, valued and empowered to collaborate with the school about decisions that affect our children. Feeling welcomed by our beloved educators, staff, and principal is at the foundation of the School of Excellence’s program. There is another fundamental piece we believe a higher level of work can be done to improve, our family, caretaker and grandparent bonds at Alki. During our kick off meeting, we shared our experiences during drop off/pick up. Most included words like intimidating, a cause of anxiety, an unwelcome feeling, and stressful.