El Otro Lado Family Nights

We all have a story to tell, but how often do we get a chance to do this? The Academy for the Love of Learning’s El Otro Lado in the Schools program offers the opportunity to shift classroom culture through the sharing of students’ and teachers’ personal stories.  But student stories are not disconnected from student lives outside of school; they come from histories and experiences beyond the classroom too. Many of the stories are family stories. To that end, Nava Elementary School in Santa Fe brought together over 30 families on a weekday evening to explore their collective story.

Together, principal Brenda Korting, teachers Bill Rodriguez, Laura Mayo, and Kayle Koomoa along with Teaching Arists Philomena Salem and Vanessa Torres-McGovern led the families through a visual art experience about family identity. The 5th and 6th grade students completed their own individual identity maps in class prior to Family Night, so during the family evening the 5th & 6th graders transformed into teachers as they guided their families and created a Family Identity Map.

In the reflection circle at the end of the evening, families proudly showed their creative Family Maps. In the matter of an hour, a closer community was formed as families spoke about what makes their family special. For some shy students, mom or dad spoke on behalf of the family, for other students they translated from their native language into English so the whole group could understand the family story, and for some families, the artwork spoke for itself. This  touching quote  from a second-year El Otro Lado student ended the evening, “I put my mom’s last name on the paper too even though it isn’t our family last name because she is always there for me.” Nava Elementary School has inspired others and now Amy Biehl Community School will host their own Family Night at the end of October.