We have created a horizontal organization. If you were to ask us what, exactly, that means to N4, we would point to Pennsylvania’s Springside Chestnut Hill Academy. There is little doubt that one of our most impressive models to date is being built by the students, educators and administrators there, and special thanks goes to Polly Kimberly for getting us in the door.
Polly is the Associate Director of the Office of College Counseling at Springside Chestnut Hill Academy, located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Below, she summarizes some of our initial work, and we invite you to follow this page and watch our progress in the Keystone State!
A letter from Polly Kimberly:
On December 15, 2014, forty-three students and eight faculty members from Springside Chestnut Hill Academy participated in a day long facilitator training experience that included a story exchange led by Lee Keylock and Lisa Consiglio from Narrative 4. Simply put, the students and faculty found the story exchange to be transformative.
As we debriefed the exchange that afternoon and in the weeks that followed, students and faculty repeatedly marveled at the way the story exchange fostered deep empathy, not only between the partners who shared each other’s stories, but also among all the members of the small groups who heard and held these stories. The broad range of stories shared that day touched on every kind of diversity and life issue you can imagine; stories addressed race, class, sexuality, religion, power dynamics, family, friendship, sports…you name it. Students and faculty commented that the story exchange was a much more effective way of getting at these issues than our previous attempts to “teach” cultural identifiers and their significance to a larger student audience. The experience of listening to first-person stories that addressed these issues led students to a much more profound understanding than they could have gained otherwise.
The students who were trained by Lee and Lisa will facilitate an upper school-wide story exchange on February 25th. As the faculty coordinator of our upcoming Day of Understanding, I have been blown away by the student energy behind the planning, which I attribute to the miraculous (only a slightly hyperbolic word choice) facilitation of Lisa and Lee and Narrative 4’s unique story exchange process. On a frigid first day back to school after winter break, the student facilitators gathered for a lunch to discuss next steps of the planning, and they were so excited to think through how they will transfer their experience of the story exchange to the rest of the students. This kind of sustained student enthusiasm points to the magic of the N4 approach, which enabled our students to hold onto the empathy endorphins they generated on December 15th.