Since the beginning we’ve had two Info Sessions a month. We ask currently enrolled families to come out to them to help provide alternative perspectives for interested families, to help set up and clean up, to give facilitators feedback, to fill dead air with conversation, and to lay the foundation for connection and community building with potential new enrollees. Having current parents at info sessions has been essential to them going well.
Our first few we got a great turnout of interested and enrolled families. As time has gone on we’ve gotten less people to RSVP and show up. Our most recent session had just one interested family and one current parent.
We set out for them to run about 90 minutes long but as we get better at them they’ve gotten shorter. The original programming of them included introductions, an icebreaker game, collection of questions, review of the ALC Network, review of the Agile Tree, review of our schedule and boards (Set-The-Day, Spawn, Culture Meeting/Change Up, Community Mastery Board), address the parent questions, tour the indoor and outdoor space, a review of how the session went, and then further conversation and chit-chat once the meeting is over.
A lot of this has trimmed down and for multiple reasons. Some of it we just forgot to do, other parts stopped serving us or the attendees, and as the size dwindled it became silly to give a full presentation. I just recently arranged the website so that an email automatically goes out to anyone who RSVPs with all the basic information they need to know about our network, model, tools, and practices. Drew’s one-pagers are a HUGE part of this initiative. Now that we deliver this information to families ahead of time via email I no longer feel the burden or duty of having to present it at info sessions. While they may not read all or any of that info they can’t say it wasn’t given to them.
This feels great and allows info sessions to evolve into something that’s less rigid and robotic. We can now speak directly to attendees and their specific thoughts and concerns. Info sessions can now be flexible and adapt to the qualities and needs of the interested families.
Hopefully in the near future we can start experimenting with my immersive open house idea. There obviously is a huge need for interested families to see the school in action before committing to even a trial week. I am however not a fan of tours and visitations where the inquiring family is spectating as if at a zoo. “WE CAN SEE YOU STARING AT US AND IT’S TOTALLY WEIRD AND DISTRACTING!” is what I always imagine kids would say. It’s what I’ve always wanted to say. Being put on display and having to perform scholarship and discipline always rubbed me the wrong way, it felt degrading. It just doesn’t fit well with our education model or school culture. We’re not really about results or getting the kids to be able to do a specific thing and show it off to others.
Additionally, facilitators being torn away from the day to solely focus on guests is just not happening. Myself and Julia have set the boundary that the students are our priority attention wise during the day. This is somewhat based on our own desires but a lot to do with what they need right now. We aren’t always needed and we don’t run at their every call but it’s important that we can make ourselves available when necessary. So if we’re talking to a guest and then an altercation comes up or an offering we’re involved in is about to occur we will have to leave that guest.
All of those concerns, I feel, are addressed by immersive open houses. The plan is to have visitors be a part of the day and not just observers of it. They’ll participate in Set-The-Day, Spawn, and other activities as they wish. They’ll get scheduled time like any other offering or activity where they can sit and talk to facilitators, parents, and students about the school.
This is the hope & plan for now.