Monday, October 30, 2006

The Quickest Way To Reach The Destination Is By Submitting To the Journey

It has been a whirlwind here. And still, it is that - a resounding quiet within. My project, “Rapping On Walls” at The Tower Of London progresses at an astonishing pace. It has become a tremendously successful project. I am well pleased.

I had thought I’d be working with older people - 15 and 16 year olds. Instead, I’ve been working with 12, 13 and 14 year old kids from Tower Hamlets who are in Pupil Referral Units. (You get into a PRU by being so antisocial that you have been excluded from school. Or, you are just an immigrant who doesn’t speak the Queen’s English well enough. )

I’ve been trying to get these kids to write text pieces in the voices of the walls of the Tower. (During the first session, the majority of them wouldn’t even tell me their name. That was a 1/2 hour exercise... building trust.)

One week ago, we hit our fourth session and we have had a major break through. They’ve written some fantastic poems! And gasp! They’ve written two group poems without me! Because they wanted to!

Videographer, Jason Larkin and I will work with the kids on turning these into word videos. Just in the nick of time to shoot this week!

I’ve been blessed that the teachers at the PRU who are overseeing the project have been willing to work together as a group. I’m lucky that they’ve been willing to engage in the project fully and without hesitation. The support from the Tower staff, the active participation of the teachers, the kids and I have all energised this project.

What is even more exciting - is that the teachers have been willing to use their own classroom time to heighten the enthusiasm of the kids. They've been using my exercises, creating their own, introducing movies and discussions about Tower history. It has gotten the kids so excited that....the teachers are "rewarding them" for their good behaviour by promising to take them on field trips to other historical sites!

But, more importantly, we - as a group - have single-handedly changed the perception of PRU kids! At the beginning, any interaction with the kids by Tower staff was greeted with harumphs and great sighs about “performing one's duty.” But, my kids have fallen so deeply in love with The Tower - that there is quite a buzz about the project. If all great things come to pass as I believe they shall - there will be an unbelievable update forthcoming!

We did have one typical PRU incident.... They had new Royal Guards the other day. The kids are fascinated by them. I have two very pretty and verbal girls who decided they were going to make them laugh. And they did - during the Changing Of the Guard!!!! (They never laugh. It is one of the favourite things tourists like to do. They never succeed. ) Their Sergeant was so angry that as they left, the marched straight towards my kids, shouted, "Make way for the Queen's Guard!" so loudly the kids all jumped and scrambled out of their way. I feel bad for the guards. They were disciplined for it. And it's not nice to tease the guards. But - it was pretty funny that they did it. I guess they’ve really begun to internalise the power of the spoken word. But, that one incident - making a Royal Guard commit G.O.D....Giggling On Duty - has been forgiven.

Finally, this project has served to demonstrate that the philosophy of directed autonomy is such an effective teaching style. And it gives me hope for my journey with Winston. Unschooling is so much harder than traditional education! Every week, I scrambling to find a way to support their interests, create activities which will hold their focus and in general follow their lead.

All of us are having so much fun learning together! It gives me so many ideas about fixing the educational system using theories about autonomous education combined with the power of the high student -teacher ratios. I think - if only....if only...

Then - I think back to Yellow Springs, Ohio and The Antioch School. I have seen these theories successfully in action. I know - somewhere in the world it is real and it is working. I just hope it continues to spread outward and onward.

I sense one day, I may just become a master Jeannie , Ann, Kit and Chris. It is not very far away. It will be in this moment that I will have realised my higher self.


Jax said...

sounds fabulous Christina.

I trained as a teacher once upon a long ago, and I do remember that the few lessons that worked, where I was allowed to do my own (somewhat off the beaten path) kind of thing, we got a real buzz going. And that was in maths.

But I was also frequently hauled up for not looking like a maths teacher, for not following the stodgy curriculum text books closely enough, for just not being the cookie cutter teacher they wanted to produce cookie cutter pupils...

I quit before I qualified. And I've never really regretted it.

Christina Springer said...

Yes - the system is quite stuck. Like the law enforcement industry - it seems to attract and retain the power hungry, the cruel, and the drones. Any real innovation challenges the need to dominate and control.

Maybe I just happen to be at an exceptional PRU. These are some really awesome teachers here. If I had a child in that cachement area and knew about the cool things the PRU's were doing - I'd be encouraging my kid to act up just to get in. I can't generalise, to all PRU's, but, this one feels more like an alternative school.

For that - I'm grateful.

Em said...

That does sound fabulous. It is great to hear positives about children at PRUs, who seem to get labeled for the rest of their lives sometimes as No Good. If only they had been given that freedom and responability from the outset.