Meditations on a Cogen (No. 19) • Thursday, March 10, 2022

During the 2021-22 school year, I’m having weekly co-generative dialogues (or cogens) with my students. In an effort to help me process these talks and document progress, I summarize and write reflections after each cogen. This is the 19th post in the series.

Pre-cogen recruitment
With my current cohort of cogen students transitioning out, I went hard this week on my recruitment efforts. Last week, four prospective replacements were identified by my current group. The cogen students did their part and reached out to them. They told me that most of the students they identified were hesitant about joining. That was my cue. Time for some encouragement and cogen advocacy!

I found most of the prospective students during lunch. There I pulled them out for a few minutes and gave them my elevator pitch. I managed to convince all of them that the cogen was worth their while. Two said that they would make it today and the others said they would come next week. (After today’s cogen I learned that one newbie from period 3 — who said he coming today — now cannot do the cogen because of a prior commitment. I’ll be on the hunt again next week.)

We finalized the directions and logistics of our board game last week, so today has a singular focus: prep the materials. We’re playing tomorrow and Monday. The two major tasks are: (1) create four gameboards on chart paper based on a revised blueprint and (2) label 34 problems with their respective levels (1-4). I dig through the mess inside my desk to find markers to draw the game boards and bright paper for the problems.

As we begin, I realize that I’m short two members that should be here. I find out later that both are attending an Emerging Leaders Program meeting. I have no problem at all about this, but only one of the students informs me. I’m slightly annoyed because of how much we have to do in just 30 minutes. We’ve been planning this for weeks, I say to myself. With so much prep to do for tomorrow’s kick-off, how could one of them bail on us today?

I quickly shake off my negativity and focus on who’s here. I see the new member and quickly (and poorly) orient him to cogen. Other than the snacks and water, I mention that today’s meeting will look nothing like it usually does. We will not be sitting around the table and there will be no formal dialogue. He nods willingly and unassumingly. It’s clear that he’s grateful to be here. I’m grateful he is, too. He’s dependable and eager and will be a wonderful asset to the next cohort.

We divide up the work. There’s a total of six of us. Half create the boards and the other half (which includes me) label the problems. After some scrambling to find additional staplers and staples, my half finds our rhythm. The students who are creating the gameboards work together nicely, too. Unknownst to me, they even coordinate colors on the board with the colors we’ve chosen for the different levels of problems. There’s synergy in the room.

As 3:15pm approaches and we are completing everything, a few members have to leave. I bid them farewell and thank them vigorously for their leadership. They should be proud of what they’ve created — not just today, but in the weeks leading up to today. As they pack up, I’m placing game pieces in makeshift envelopes for the tables when suddenly remember that we don’t have a name for the game. Ha! Weeks of playing and we forget the most obvious of things. The kids quickly throw out one name after another. One sticks: Infinite Levels. It’s fitting. We run with it.

Upon finalizing the name, one of the students who missed today due to Emerging Leaders flies into the room. He apologizes for his absence and asks if there’s anything he can do to help. He was actually the one who came up with the idea of playing a board game in the first place. When I see him come in, it’s clear that he feels horrible about not being here to help us today. I thank him for coming back and checking in and then ask him to look over the slides he created with the directions. The cogen students are going to use his slides to introduce the game tomorrow. Now that he sees the game in the flesh, is there anything he wants to edit? We make a few additions. I give him a huge high five. He heads home.

Let’s play
After all the students leave, I tidy up and get the tables in order for tomorrow. I place the gameboards, problems, and game pieces out. I drop some whiteboards on each group and call it a day. Infinite Levels is born.

I leave happy.


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