Wednesday, November 29, 2006

RedMan

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.

NOTES:
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 hats....my 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

Once Again - this time with feeling!

Thanks to Madness On Ice's comments on one of my previous posts about Ms. Ford, I went scrolling through comments in Pewari's site. I came across this ultimate gem.

Who Knows Where Thoughts Come From I have to hand it to Ian! Bravo brother! I'm suddenly lamenting never purchasing one of her books. I want a book to send back. But, if you do - and are having issues with Ms Ford's attitude and behaviour regarding freedom of speech - please do as Ian did.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Irate Ennui - Gina Ford, again

Gina Ford VS Mumsnet Again

Gina Ford’s listed “Public Enemy Two” Perwari says everything I’m about to process more succinctly. Please visit Perwari’s erudite illuminations.

I have to honest. This whole waste-of--taxpayer’s-money by one prosperous author had slipped my mind. As you can tell from previous posts, I’ve been busy transforming the lives of children in positive ways. I have been so immersed in a day-to-day commitment to support and empower children while at the same time trying to support and empower my own children. Regretfully (or not) , Gina Ford’s vendetta against Mumsnet and other small, organically grown voices and support systems for women slipped my mind.

Then suddenly - my inbox reminds me that a particularly vindictive and egomaniacal soul still troubles some women I greatly admire. And at this point, I must respectfully thank Gina Ford for increasing traffic to this tiny little corner where I contemplate, evaluate and share the conundrums of modern motherhood with a few souls who are kind enough to think I have something of value to share. And I tip my hat to her for citing me as a worthy adversary. I am honoured and privileged to be cited unfavourably by you. Makes me think of Emily Dickinson.

I'm Nobody! Who are you?
Are you—Nobody—Too?
Then there's a pair of us!
Don't tell! they'd advertise—you know!


The answer to the first stanza is - yes. In this digital age, Gina Ford is a nobody who advertised. She told; she advertised and now she is open to scrutiny.

How dreary—to be—Somebody!
How public—like a Frog—
To tell one's name—the livelong June—
To an admiring Bog!
(1)

Both of us are nobodies. But, like the first stanza, I want to keep it secret because as in the second stanza, it is dreary to be “somebody.” Gina Ford wants to be a “somebody.” Unfortunately, it involves responsibility, scrutiny, acceptance of feedback and most awful - continual justification of your beliefs. One must after all - cultivate “the admiring bog.” I’d personally rather seed a field and move on just as the wildflowers start to bloom. But - this is all irrelevant.... or will be ... as when as Neruda so aptly says “

“What we know comes to so little,
what we presume is so much,
what we learn, so laborious,
we can only ask questions and die.
Better save all our pride
for the city of the dead
and the day of the carrion:
there, when the wind shifts
through the hollows of your skull
it will show you all manner of
enigmatical things, whispering truths in the
void where your ear used to be.”
(2)


“What we know comes to so little, what we presume is so much, what we learn, so laborious, we can only ask questions and die.” Yes! Yes! And yes! It takes a poet to state it all so simply.

But, I digress again. I could care less about her books or her philosophy. They have no meaning to me. The only relevance they have is in relation to the context of my life’s work. I never forget those who have been left behind. (As if I have to actually take responsibility for some 300 million people.) But, still, I hold them in my heart. Every parent who tries and fails using her methods is a failure on my part....I did not do enough to spread the word about alternative methodologies. For every parent who tries her ideas and succeeds, CONGRATULATIONS!

What everything essentially boils down to is the fact that every parent has to take actions which resonate inside of their own individual heart chambers. But - most importantly - they must be able to make an informed choice. Their choices should be backed by research, scrutiny of prevailing trends, tangible scientific and academic statistics pertaining said trends and what their hearts say. Informed choice occurs in the context of having all of the relevant and pertinent information, whether scholarly, scientific or anecdotal.”

But, this war. This awful, heinous, ugly “War Against Mothers and Children’s Voices” rages on. Mea culpa, I am simply a lieutenant marching to the orders of a higher universal truth. I get sucked in to these battles. I win them...one child at a time...and then I move to the next most strategic vantage point. I am so in “the trenches” I’ve forgotten the reason I came to be in this place.

This place - this exhausting place wherein the larger picture is plastered against the eyelids like Generals post world maps on a conference room wall. This place where a terrorist whose sole aim is to muzzle the mouths of mothers wins a victory because the resources of the freedom fighters are few. And, yes, I stand by my definitions. I’m happy to recap them below.

1. Fact. On two separate occasions, Ms. Ford has attempted to silence women who wished to express negative opinions about her work.

2. Fact. She does this by attempting to hold the owners of web sites which provide a forum for mothers liable for the contents of the site.

3. Fact. Ms Ford prevents mothers from discussing her by having the web sites enact bans on all posts which mention her or her methods.

4. Fact. "A statement that amounts to an insult or is mere vulgar abuse is not defamatory. This is because the words do not convey a defamatory meaning to those who heard them (simple abuse is unlikely to cause real damage to a reputation)." In the Mumsnet case discussing the comment about WMD, this was an insult - not slander. as defined by YourRights.org

5. Fact. Ms Ford expressly chooses web sites which are unable - for financial, not legal reasons - to fight back.

6. Fact: Ms Ford's behaviour falls quite neatly into the definition of terrorist under Psychological Impact and Fear. "The attack was carried out in such a way as to maximise the severity and length of the psychological impact. Each act of terrorism is a “performance,” a product of internal logic, devised to have an impact on many large audiences. Terrorists also attack national symbols to show their power and to shake the foundation of the country or society they are opposed to. This may negatively affect a government's legitimacy, while increasingly the legitimacy of the given terrorist organisation and/or ideology behind a terrorist act. "

In the words of one of my favourite poets, Ernie Cline, my ideas - like Gina Ford’s - are summarily reduced to “Exhibit A: Monkey making noise.”

“Nietsche was just another fucking monkey.” (3) But, at least I know I am a monkey making noise. And I don't take myself so seriously that I offended or need to silence anyone with a dissenting viewpoint.

I have 20 years of parenting which have worked for me. I have 15 years of youth outreach work which has benefited those who have participated and been empowered by my philosophies. (I might add, these philosophies are not mine....they are the result of critical readings, analysis of scientific documentation and following in my heart what works for me.) I am not - nor would I ever hold myself up as a guru. My experience is inconclusive. My data shows ups and downs. It incorporates that intangible and undocumented process called “life and all its variables.”

And noise do I - this monkey - make! It is these tiny battles which make us loose sight of the war. Walking into a PRU filled with children who a afraid of being seen and making them desire some sort of recognition for their inner brilliance - is a tiny battle. Walking into a PRU with a child who bears the label ADHD like a swastika in a Post WWII world - then - teaching her how to be energetic and “seen” in a positive manner is another battle. They are worthy battles. They are child-by-child battles. They focus on the individuality of the human being this underage human is and could become. These battles bring me joy. I win some. I lose a lot. But, mostly, I have been present in the process.

Query: I’d like more information about her credentials as an “expert.” I define expert as:
1. earned degrees from a recognised university;
2. academic or scientific support for theories;
3. distinguished and documentable anecdotes regarding field work.


But, even more important than these irrelevant items would be her answers to the following questions:
1. Do people have a right to freedom of speech?
2. What place does satire have in modern discourse?
3. What exactly is the value of an individual’s experience? And at what point do we have an obligation to silence their right to express that experience? Does an individual’s credentials limit their right to speak freely?
4. Should celebrity status circumvent people's right to discuss issues freely and at length.?
5. What responsibility does a public figure have to his/her constituents?
6. What penalties and damages are parents entitled to expect when “experts” are proven wrong experientially, scientifically and academically?

Ultimately, every parent makes the best choices for their children using the information they have available to them at the time. My way is not the only way. And this is where I have issue with Ms. Ford. Women talk. We kvetch, moan and carry on. Ultimately, in spite of pettiness, judgement, and proselytising; we find some precarious balance in which we find within ourselves the power to provide quality care for our children whilst honouring our own experience as valid.

Many of us were highly valued professionals before our birth canals derailed or delayed our careers. We need each other. We need to - as poet Sara Holbrook says in “Chicks Up Front” -

resuscitate each other
in ways which only women do
mouth to mouth


or in this case...key to mouse to key.

Have you felt this urgency, Gina? Have you felt your sanity hang on the edge of an electronic connection? Has your frantic worry about a sick child been solved by a woman hundred of kilometres away? If yes, then why begrudge us resuscitating each other in that way women do...key stroke by keystroke. And if not,

then leave us. In peace.


1. Dickinson, Emily, http://www.bu.edu/favoritepoem/poems/dickinson/nobody.html

2. Pablo Neruda, Five Decades: Poems 1925 - 1970, ED: Ben Belitt, Grove Press, 1974, Pablo Neruda, “Flies Enter A Closed Mouth,” pg 201 & 202

3. Cline, Ernie, Dance Monkeys Dance, http://www.ernestcline.com/spokenword/

4. Chicks Up Front, Sara Holbrook, Cleveland State University Poetry Center; 1998

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Transformation

disjointed piece. sick. tired. deliriously happy

It has been a long day. Lovely. Amazing. Incredible. But long.

As a “reward,” we took the kids across to Hampton Court palace. They were all happy to be getting out of “school.” The staff was excited. It ended up being a very free form day. Why? Because the kids have learned how to become engaged with historical sites. they could be “trusted to “learn.” And learn they did!

I somehow ended up with kids who hadn’t been on the project. It was a different experience. Part of me regrets not falling inside of the enthusiasm of the youth with whom I’ve spent so many weeks. Part of me is delighted to infect new children with a love of learning.

The regulars - I’ve given them code names.

“Act Out Youth” has severe attention challenges.

“Invisi-Youth” wouldn’t even let us use their name or look at them. (Yes, I spent three weeks talking to this youth with my head turned to the side as if I were talking to an invisible friend.

“Sensi-Tall” is great with one-on-one, but freezes and worries constantly about being perfect. Sensi is fascinated with The Royals.

“Silence” has spoken a total of 100 words to me in this six week journey. “Silence,” however,r wrote me a lovely metered poem - voluntarily. And read it not once - but four times in our group meeting and another three for the videographer. (So, we’ve had maybe a total of 700 articulations in 6 weeks.)

When I did get a chance to check in with my regular students, I saw a most awesome spin. Throughout the day, we saw a very different dynamic, Act Out youth was shunned or avoided by Silence, Sensi-Youth and Invisi-Youth. More importantly, they would find positive ways to slip away or urge Act Out Youth forward - so they could....learn.

At one point during the day, Act Out Youth was getting loud.

Invisi - Youth turns to this person and says, “Ssssh! I can’t hear my audio tour.”

What is this? Peer pressure to engage with education? Unheard of! Unnatural! Teenagers who want to listen to history on an audio tour of a historic site?

Regardless, they were willing to embrace Act Out Youth in moments of co-operation. And when Act Out Youth was out of control, they found creative solutions to redirect the energy.

But, the fact remains - they did the work the teachers were supposed to do. And we’ve learned. If they are given responsibility for their own education, they will find a way for the entire group to learn, whilst at the same time seizing and safeguarding their own opportunities.

More importantly - the teachers gave them the space to work this out for themselves.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Tower Of London - Preview

" Rapping On Walls" "

A - age 12 wrote this haiku:

Haiku

wall are not the same.
can’t see anything. people
look around. stories


Christina, age 42 wrote this one in response to the project:

Haiku

day’s rhythm witness

discuss freely raise ideas

priceless orchids bloom


Note: A dictionary definition of the word "rap" includes: "to discuss freely and at length." Yeah - we did that.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Witnessing: My Daughter's Unhealthy Choices This Weekend

compulsive lip biting
saucer eyes

now

at the table
we are peaceful after 24
hours of no sleep

for her and precious
little for me
tender solutions

choices offer complex
detailed strategies

sagging

eyes lips bend to claw teeth
curling into a ravaging desecration
of my mouth on her face

as if she nibbles me
to my genes bites
what we share away joy

duty

pathos shitted away
or flakey pie crust relished

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Conversation with a student

as we walked into the Tower yesterday.


R: I love this. I’m getting out of so many lessons. I’m out of school!

C: This is school.

R: No it’s not.

C: It isn’t? You haven’t learned anything?

R: Well, yeah. I know a lot about this place.

C: Like what?

R: Stories of the people who were here.

C: Yeah?

R: And saying stories.

C: Yeah? Like making poems?

R: Yeah.

C: But, it isn’t school?

R: Yeah it’s not boring like geography and maths. I haven’t had history in 4 years.

C: Four years?

R: Yeah - we just get geography.

C: You like history.

R: Yeah. It’s not boring.

C: So, school is about being bored?

R: Yeah.

C: Should school be about learning something?

R: Yeah:

C: Have you learned anything?

R: Yeah.

C: So this is school.

R: Maybe.