A letter from Tessa
Our Casa story is that of vision, action, failure, and determination. It’s the story of a bunch of courageous people daring to challenge the status quo and creating something new, something different, something bold. It’s our story. It’s Casa’s story.
Our vision was and is still clear: we provide such an environment in which all children can develop to their fullest - we support our children optimally in their quest for interdependence. Each and everyone will become what they should be.
When they will leave Casa, they will be empowered to be the ones to make a better world.
This is important: we are actively working at making a better world - every day.
We grew very quickly in these eight years. From 18 children, we grew to 430 children and 75 staff.
Now we have a large, diverse team
With team leaders and myself.
One key thing that kept us, and myself, afloat was the philosophy of Maria Montessori. The content. She gave us a wonderful gift- she provided us with much knowledge regarding the development of the child and regarding the way we should approach the child - she left us with a huge well of knowledge - a well that is so deep, it never stops providing us with inspiration and it is always bigger than all of us - no one can profess to know everything.
I doubt we would still be here if it wasn’t for that.
We are now at the point where we need a foundation to create a culture for all of us to thrive in. A culture of interdependence and flexibility. To create such a foundation we need a common language strengthened by our values and behaviours that are in alignment with our values.
Our values are that of courage and connection.
When you joined Casa, you did not know exactly what you were about to encounter. That means you - all staff members and parents are all per definition courageous. And courage is such a strong value:
Going forward I expect us all to be more courageous and
- do what is right over what’s easy or nice
- getting out of your comfort zone
- give candid feedback. To tell each other: “you know I really appreciate your effort and what happened here is just not ok”. To let the other person know: “I value you for who you are, and I want to let you know that the choice you are making right now, is not ok. How can I help you fix it?”
- Being vulnerable, “It didn’t go as I wanted it, I made a mistake” - “I want to fix it”
- and being courageous to say “I need help”, set clear boundaries and hold them
This is the sort of courage that we want to see from our children. The sort of courage that feels scary, yet right. The sort of courage we need to model if we want our children to be equipped to make a difference in the world.
COURAGE IS OUR BASE VALUE THAT WILL MAKE THE DIFFERENCE
We need a lot of courage to believe in this mission
- To participate in something that no one else has done before, the way we do it
- To join a journey where you know a lot depends on you - you can not pass the buck, it starts here with you.
- You need a lot of courage to take on the role of a valuable Casa member
- It takes a lot of courage to reflect and give appropriate feedback.
- And if you look at our second tier values: to really take the responsibility of taking care of the environment you need courage!
Courage will be the value that will help us to take bold action, to speak up, to step up and to take ownership and leadership for Casa and treat it as our own.
THE GREAT THING OF CASA IS: YOU ARE NOT ALONE - WE DO IT TOGETHER - WE STRIVE TO BE TRULY CONNECTED
We embrace our second value: Connection
- When we connect we truly strive to understand and care for each other
- When we connect we have empathy - we see the feeling/emotion behind the experience
- When we connect we set limits firmly and kindly without abandoning the other
- To effectively connect we need to be aware of our own emotions - we talk about feelings and we practice breathing exercises - the quieter we are the more we hear
- We are developing our awareness and sensitivity towards ourselves and others
- We are aware of our communication and aware not to judge and to be curious and inquisitive
- We avoid shaming and blaming
I expect you all have joined Casa because you love the children, the education and being among like-minded people. And it’s this connection combined with the courage to speak up and challenge, that will propel us to the next level of collaboration, trust, and responsibility with the team.
Working in a team that cares and yet speaks up - exactly because they care - is the best possible place I could imagine myself to work in.
These are the two extraordinary values that will create the boundaries and define what’s going to be okay and not okay for anybody involved in Casa going forward. These values will define our actions, and also our resilience and the choices that we make.
Last but not least, I want to talk about our Culture.
We have a culture of Purpose and our main focus will be on this, our purpose e.g to creating an environment that supports children to become the caring and daring citizens of the future. We will adapt to internal and external demands as necessary to ensure our ultimate purpose gets reached. Sometimes to the detriment of order and structure in the short term.
Our experience has shown that there will always be change at Casa. And whilst we are striving for a clear and professional backbone the latter will not be our main focus. Our vision is our focus, we are working with a purpose.
This for some of you might sound like bad news. And yet the good news is, that to safely navigate this environment of constant change we can fall back on our core values of courage and connection. During the times when we struggle and the going is tough we can take solace that we’re in this together and that we are not doing this by ourselves. We are surrounded by a bunch of other trailblazers keen to transform education. We are part of something bigger.
Where do we go from here? We are investing this year in a program where we will practice our values. This is being supported by the professional help of Manuela Damant from Azkua. We, together with a number of Casa Ambassadors from several groups, Manuela will be supporting the Casa team whilst implementing and embedding the new behaviours of courage and connection. We are working together to become the Community we need for ourselves and our children.