The Ideas of the Body: Parents and Teachers Create Urban Promise Academy

During the summer before Urban Promise Academy opened, parents and teachers talked about the goals they had for the children in their care and how they would create a safe, nurturing, academically powerful school culture. With BAYCES school coach Joel Baum, UPA teachers used an exercise during Coffee and Conversations planning sessions to document parents’ visions of who their children were and would become.

“Parents paired up and told each other what their dreams were about their kids, what they want them to be able to know and be able to do,” describes Joel Baum. “They told each other about the things that their kids were good at right now, what they were thinking and doing. We captured those thoughts on post-its, and we put those post-its on huge, life-size bodies drawn on posters. Thoughts went on the head, what they said went on the mouth, and so on. We put all the posters up and did a gallery walk. Parents said, ‘Wow, look at what our kids can do.’ Now, what do we want them to be able to do in a year? Parents paired up, talked some more, did the post-its and put them on the posters. Then they looked at the hopes they have for their kids.”

UPA teacher Amy Goldberg has used the body exercise as a touchstone throughout the year. “It helped us get expectations, helped guide our vision. Our thoughts and feelings were aligned with what parents wanted for their children. I kept it at the back of my mind; this is what I know they want for their children.” Sandra Alvarado, parent of an UPA sixth grader, concurred in a discussion following the Coffee and Conversations sessions. “Getting to know us will ensure that our kids will get the knowledge they need.”

The Ideas of the Body exemplified the collaboration and understanding that emerged between UPA parents and teachers, says Joel Baum. “It created the space in a for parents to dream about the future of this school and what their kids could experience there. The simple act of inviting parents into the conversation created such a level of trust.”