Transcript – Principal Susana Lamela – The community, families, open school
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Transcript – Principal Susana Lamela – The community, families, open school

When I describe Media 2 [the school], I always say it had a distinctive characteristic: it was located downtown; our kids didn’t come from the [nearby] neighborhood, but they came from the whole periphery: Moreno, the North and the South, and they, and especially their families, had expectations to get away from the hostility of the neighborhoods, to break free from the circularity that is sometimes present in neighborhood culture. And maybe the bond with the community that we had in mind had to do with refraining from discrediting what happened in the neighborhoods.

We had to understand that, although we were in a privileged position due to our location—tarmac roads, running water, a building that’s fairly decent—, we couldn’t ignore the characteristics of our students and their communities. We had to have a vision of that extended community and we even had to keep this in mind every time we drew up the activities; for example, the school had to be open and we couldn’t watch out for the kid’s civil responsibility if he had to leave school at 1 pm, because if the kid had to be at the library or do an extracurricular activity that we made available and offered, such as drama, a workshop or music, he couldn’t go all the way to Catonas [far distance neighborhood] and come back.

So we had to make available— In fact, you could see that even the most terrible kids felt that they belonged in the school. And then there was also the approach with parents, and again, not from a perspective of disapproval, as is often the case when schools call the parents to give them a scolding for all the wrongdoings of their children, but also to invite them to a cinema workshop, political debates and other things.

I also remember when the “Ellas hacen” [social program] asked us to have a branch site in the school, so we invited the mothers who wanted to participate, and we spread the word about programs that could help these families in their everyday lives. In the first few years, we conversed a lot with families about the culture of Media 2, the Vilte [school], so they wouldn’t have fears about the transition from primary to secondary school, how to handle freedom, [and told them] that they had the chance to ask us any questions they had, to express all their fears, and to allow themselves and their children to enter an institute that would propose a journey through their teenage years. I’m saying this because in the first few years, parents were afraid because here we have in place an open door policy—the emblem of the open door to politicization. They are afraid of it and we paid mind to that fear, but we worked on it.

In fact, we used to say to the 1st year parents that participating in the Student Center yielded a great deal of learning. And that we understood their fears; in fact, their fears fit within an Argentine historical context with phrases like “don’t get involved,” “who knows what can happen to you.” We could understand this, but we told them to trust us, to trust their children, and ultimately, we told them that when those fears prevailed, they should come over to school and we would listen, but that they shouldn’t thwart their children’s chance to participate in these activities.