Co-Creation Groups

Working with other people is tough. All day long I work with individuals, starting with me, who have friction and inefficiency before anybody else gets involved. At the same time, everyone I meet knows something I don't. And not just something. Everyone I meet has a whole world of knowledge I only have access to through them. It's a core Kairos principle that we can stand in the same place, at the same time, look in the same direction, and get a different experience of the world around us.

I began my professional career teaching third grade. Often when I told strangers what I did, I'd get responses like, "They must be so cute." One memorable day, a guy behind the counter responded with a look of compassion as he said, "Oooh, Tigers." Yes! I thought. Someone gets it. I wonder if he wants to be my friend.

Every year, my students asked for in-school parties: a Halloween party, Thanksgiving party. Parties for the winter solstice and accompanying religious festivals.

And I said, no, no, no. “This is school,” I’d pontificate, “This is no party; it is no disco; there is no fooling around. You've got a lot to learn.”

That’s what I said. What I didn’t want was an unruly hour or so where they reverted to the Hobbesian state of nasty and brutish. (They were always short. Couldn’t be helped.)

In truth, I didn’t think I could manage one effectively.

One afternoon in early February, however, Kari, Annabelle, and Katie stayed behind while the rest of the class left for Music.

“Mr. Sopper. May we have a Valentine’s party? We’ll take care of everything.”

“We’ll take care of everything.’ Those are the magic words,” I responded in spite of myself, “go ahead.”

The three of them brought their combined age of 27 to the task. They mobilized their fellow classmates, enlisted parents, outlined the project scope, defined the elements, and sourced supplies. On Valentines Day, I watched in delight as various supply chains ended in our classroom to be taken up and sorted.

At the appointed time, 25 nine-year-olds led by Kari, Annabelle, and Katie, together with the parent chaperones they had recruited, self-organized food, drink, valentines for all, had a happy, yet contained celebration. A good time was had by all. Even me.

Once again, I had a lot to learn. I was right: I couldn’t have pulled that off. However, they could. Kari, Annebelle, and Katie had a better understanding of what it took to make a successful party for a group of third graders than I did.

The people around us know things we don't. We won't know until we take the risk to find out.


Francis Sopper

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