One afternoon when I checked my calendar for the following day, I noticed an entry that looked unfamiliar. It read “meet with JLA.” After checking with Mrs. Sunday, I learned that three third graders, Julia, Lena, and Amelia, had stopped by and requested a meeting with me. I noticed it was scheduled during recess and thought it must be something important if the students were giving up their recess to meet.
The day of the meeting, the students arrived with a proposal and a petition. The proposal: increase the number of dance classes for the third grade. The petition: a collection of signatures under the heading “More Dance” that represented the third graders who supported the idea. Interestingly, the few students who did not want more dance had also signed their names on the petition in a column with the heading “Same Dance.” After Julia, Lena, and Amelia laid out their case for why they wanted more dance classes, they looked at me expectantly. I knew they were expecting a simple yes or no, but I had so many questions. How many more dance classes a week? Who would teach it? What other classes were they willing to give up to make room in the schedule for more dance classes? What about the girls who didn’t want more dance, would they have to go too?
The girls pondered these questions and quickly realized that speaking up and asking for what you want is just the beginning. The next part, figuring out the details, is often where the real challenge lies. We had some divergent thinking to do, and we spent the rest of recess generating creative ideas to move past obstacles we identified. In the end, a plan was hatched to create a dance club, open to any third grader who wanted to come. It would occur once a week during recess and be taught by student volunteers from the Upper or Middle School. Julia, Lena, and Amelia even provided names of older students who they thought would be willing to lead it.
It took several weeks before all of the pieces fell into place, but the girls were patient and persistent. Eventually, “meet with JLA” was replaced with a new entry on my calendar that read “meet with dance club” and our group expanded to include Ellie, Zoi, and Reese, seventh graders who came with planners and new questions for us to ponder. Once we had a date set for the first meeting of the club and had reserved a gym, we shared the good news with all of the third grade who thanked their friends for bringing this idea to fruition. As I write this, we are a few days off from the first meeting of the dance club. The girls may encounter new problems once they gather together, but I am certain they will persist because that is what Ellis girls do.