How to transform the school into a space of greater relationship and free expression?

Sisters Andressa and Patrícia Novais learned to lead the school founded by their family. Now, looking at the future of education, they built a project to encourage students to appreciate this environment and learn how to relate to each other

The school environment is remarkable in any child and adolescent's life. But for sisters Andressa and Patrícia Novais, it was much more than that. The school principals of Interação Modelo School, where they studied in São Paulo, Brazil, were their own parents. For them, life at school was an extension of the family routine.

When they were at their teens, the idea of ​​taking part in this family project was already in the sisters' minds. They helped their parents in different areas– at human resources, school events or inside the classrooms – and always watched how they ran the institution. "I helped my mother in school since I was 11 years old", says Andressa, the older sister, who is 28 now.

But it doesn't mean that this path was without obstacles, especially for Andressa. She never had any major difficulty or disciplinary problem, but she hoped that the school years would end soon. "It didn't make sense to me the things that I was studying. I didn't know what I was going to use it for."

Six years younger, Patti spent her teenage years at school at a time when her sister had already graduated. Unlike Andressa, she really enjoyed her high school years. She loved her relationship with friends, the school events and the experiences. "I think I would go through it all again, without a problem," she says.

Despite the different perceptions, Patti agreed with her older sister on one point: the experience at school could be much more interesting. "We talked about these new classes possibilities for students since I was 13, and Andressa was 19", Patti says.

How to make school a nicer place?

Andressa was never satisfied with the limits of the traditional educational system and always wanted to change that. She had the main tool already – the school itself –, so she prepared to work at the family business aiming to take it to a more innovative path. "I grew up and realized the importance of the work that is done at school. So I would take part at it, making sure that I would believe in the work that was being done."

When Patti graduated, she partnered with her sister on the purpose of renovating the school. Gradually, they also increasingly gained the trust of their parents, who let them accept more responsibilities within the institution.

With the acquisition of a new building in front of the school, Andressa and Patti realized that they could finally consolidate an extracurricular classes project, which would help to transform the school into a nicer experience for students. But when they sat down to talk about their ideas about that project, the lack of alignment between them was evident.

"We started to fight, actually. It was my opinion against hers", sums up Andressa. The ] sisters, who have always been partners in various activities, knew that this was not what they wanted.

Looking at what the students needed

In that same period, Andressa discovered the Clear Purpose Framework and realized that it could be a perfect tool to help her find the best format for this new project at the Interação Modelo School. But her biggest question was: how could they do it together?

She thought about the possibility of inviting Patti to also go through the framework. And since their processes were directly linked to each other, they asked: why not go through this framework together? It was a chance to make sure that they were really aligned.

The sisters agreed to undergo the process together and received unexpected help. "When my parents heard that we would go through a process that would clear our purpose, they not only supported it but also offered it to us, as a gift. That was very important", says Andressa.

This project of extracurricular classes started to take shape and became the Clubin, a space that will be built in this new school building and will offer children and teenagers artistic activities, sports and workshops of all kinds. "Basically, these are classes that you can't take during normal school hours, as there is a curriculum that we need to comply with, by law", explains Andressa.

But their intention is not restricted to learning new skills. In fact, the Clubin will be just a tool to encourage students to develop a greater relationship with each other. "Basically, this is what they want. They just didn't learn how to do it, because school has never been an open space for them to relate to each other", says Andressa.

"The idea is to build a place where they can express themselves and learn to be independent and free in their choices. So we imagine a format where the students themselves are the Clubin monitors, without this hierarchy of coordinator, assistant, monitors, as much as possible ", says Patti.

In addition to benefiting high school students, the sisters intend to offer the Clubin to children and teenagers of the local community. Another idea, still under development, is to establish partnerships with other schools to use the space. "We know how much schools need to focus on the pedagogical side and can't think about other possibilities. They want to be a nicer place, and the Clubin can help with that," says Andressa.

Learning to relate and delivering it to the world

While they were undergoing the Clear Purpose Framework and developing the Clubin project, they discovered that they could work together with the same purpose on mind and realized how much their relationship has improved.

"Right at the first meeting of the framework, everything became clearer in our mind. We were looking from a very individual place before. Today, when we have an idea, we ask ourselves if it is something that we want to defend or if it is something that the Clubin really needs", says the younger sister.

"The Clear Purpose Framework was very important in developing the Clubin and our own relationship. We improved our professional relationship a lot", says Andressa. "And we realized that thinking about people is way better than just thinking about us."

With a clearer knowledge about what relationship really is, they hope that the Clubin will help students to see that they don't need to be afraid to relate to each other – and take this knowledge to the rest of the world.

"If students deliver this to the companies that they work for, for example, it will make teamwork a lot easier for them. If they are less afraid to express themselves freely and practice a philosophy focused on relationship, empathy, respect and care, this will change any environment. It’s what the world needs", sums up Patti.

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