There are days during my service when my back still hurts on Thursday because I had to carry 50 lbs. of apples to classes on Monday, when no one shows up to a parent workshop, when a kindergartener starts crying because his radish is too spicy.
There are also days during my service when I have a guest chef call me three times because she wants the pictures from the event of her and the kids, when I leave the Wellness Committee meetings with a huge smile on my face because I feel so excited by what’s to come and so supported by the people with whom I’m working, when I get to watch my students do the whip/nae nae/superman together while we wait for a parent fitness workshop to start.
The latter were all moments from Brooklyn Landmark Elementary School’s New Year, New You Wellness Campaign. From December through February, I worked with the Wellness Committee at BLES to put on a series of events to increase awareness of the importance of wellness. The campaign was truly a team effort between myself, administration, the Family Engagement Coordinator, PTA, parents, teachers, and other school community members. We created opportunities to get moving, eat good food, and start conversations about wellness. Events included a wellness poster contest, a Food Expo with four tastings including that of a guest chef, a Shopping on a Budget Parent Workshop, a cafeteria taste test, school community wide goal setting, a dance fitness workshop, and a smoothie party to celebrate poster contest winners.
While the success of the campaign can be measured by the number of people who showed up to events, the amount of time classrooms spent on their posters, or how many kids tried the kale salad during the taste test, I measure it by the number of people involved in making the events happen, their immense efforts and hard work, and the level of collaboration between those people. By any and all measurements, New Year, New You was incredibly successful.
I didn’t know it in September, but developing and nurturing relationships is the most important part of my service. Strong relationships are the prerequisite for change. Want to schedule nutrition and cooking classes? Get on the good side of the Assistant Principal. Want to do a taste test? Go say hi to the kitchen staff. Want to plan an event? Find the Parent Coordinator and the PTA. Want to get school community buy-in? Devote some serious time to talking to people.
The Wellness Committee at BLES is doing big things. But only because we are working together, as a team; only because we’ve built trust and found common ground. And, sometimes, we spend the first ten minutes of our meeting talking about what we ate over the holiday. It may seem trivial, but I’m learning that it’s just as important as planning how we’re going to get families talking about wellness.