Wednesday, November 29, 2006


after almost being attacked with a matt knife at work today...edit/update below

he is like a paper doll,

talisman or totem

my flat glowing friend -

arms, legs of frozen light

splayed open. dismissed at the push

of a button. a timed signal

still .......... that flat crimson dummy warns

stop ............. look ............ this bitch

has me in her eyes -

steady unblinking command

backed up

by a fleet of trucks on her tongue.

first my spine straightened

then my head cocked to one side

only silence and eyes in this intersection.

the stanley knife swished.

today the boy killed a wall.

God/dess bless my children.

UPDATE - Just so people know, these are not my lovely kids from the Tower. I’ve taken another residency at what will remain an undisclosed location. But, just so you know - these are kids that even their PRU isn’t pretending to attempt to educate anymore.

But - on to today’s story....

Once I’ve processed the whole matt knife flashed in my direction thing today, I have to step back. On some very bizarre level, I’m fiercely proud that a student tried to stab me today. Part of me is jumping for joy. This is the part of me willing to give my students everything. This is the part of me which doesn’t take things personally. This is the person (unlike other entities about whom I’ve recently blogged) who can be professional, distant, engaged and analytical. This is the part of me who says, ”interesting, very interesting” whilst I scratch my chin.

This is obviously not the part of me which prefers my skin and organs intact. This is certainly not the part of me for whom raising my son to adulthood is the most important activity I can imagine.

But, switching teacher-self has to take a step back and analyse this incredible breakthrough. I think to myself, what did that mean? Why would he do something like that? How did I help him get to that place of frustration?

Easy. My team teachers and I have made some terrific progress. We’ve gotten to a place where we can almost practice what we believe. We have positioned ourselves to become facilitators. But, how did we get there? And why is almost being stabbed a victory?

When I walked onto the project, the young people were in control of the show. And the show involved them playing football, doing almost zero art, and a lot of moaning, insulting us and their peers and acting out.

They are children with challenges who have won their battle against the world. And it is this reason that pure autonomous education can often not succeed in traditional settings. The damage to their psyches has been so extensive that, as Kate Bush says, “'it's so deep you don't think that you can speak about it
To anyone,”
(1) If we had an entire school year to let them do whatever they like - we might end up with something. But, we don’t have an entire year. So - we are forced to provide direction.

During the past two weeks, we have given them what they need - consistency, choices, consequences, and challenges. Something I might call the Magical 4C. We have gracefully accepted their choices and provided appropriate consequences. We have done this consistently. And we have been present in allowing them to challenge us whilst demanding that they meet our challenges in return. We have done it with respect. We have done it with empathy. And we have celebrated those tiny moments when they choose to excel. (In my case - okay I’m American - loudly)

So - why did I almost get stabbed today. You’d think that we were doing everything right. And we have been. We have been patiently opening them up to a crucial, powerful inner change - accepting responsibility for their own success. We have been taking the smallest of steps towards helping them make positive choices.

This is the scariest thing in the world! Their homes are “out-of-control,” their friends are “out-of-control,” their school is “out of control.” Suddenly - they have one place in the world where things are under control. And they are active participants in making that happen. They are in control. That must be the scariest, strangest, most awkward feeling in the world.

If I had been in his shoes today, I’d have wanted to be familiar and comfortable. I’d want to be safe. I’d want to be able to count on being let down.

Hope is disquieting. Self-esteem scratches, bites and maims until you get used to it. Love - unconditional - is a useless and charming theory that will cause your heart to be ripped out and danced upon if you dare to believe in it. I, too, would want to kill those symbols.

So - today - we won together. I didn’t get knifed. He redirected his discomfort. Hooray!

I can’t wait to see what we end up finding together between the paint and the words and the dance.....................between the Love And Anger

'Cause it's so deep you don't think that you can speak about it
To anyone,
Can you tell it to your heart?
Can you find it in your heart
To let go of these feelings
Like a bell to a Southerly wind?
We could be like two strings beating,
Speaking in sympathy.
What would we do without you?
Two strings speak in sympathy.
(What would we do without you?)
Take away the love and the anger,
And a little piece of hope holding us together.
Looking for a moment that'll never happen,
Living in the gap between past and future.
Take away the stone and the timber,
And a little piece of rope won't hold it together.
We're building a house of the future together. “

(1) Bush, Kate; Love And Anger lyrics

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