Leaves upon the water.

The question asked may be like leaves that rest upon the silent water; floating for while before sinking to the river bed providing vital nutrients.  It may be like a dropped pebble creating calm concentric ripples, reaching out to the lake shore.  It may even be a vast boulder cast into a placid sea, plummeting into the depths and making waves of disturbance taking all before them.

Teaching is the art of questioning; encouraging doubt and inviting exploration.  The small child slips its hand into that of the adult and seeks protection, but she still asks the question.  They are connected, not just through words, but in a feeling of safety created through understanding.  The adolescent looks with an assertion of independence, sometimes with a sense of challenge, other times with a studied lack of interest; gauging the reaction and judging whether the adult is really interested in her as an individual.  Her question might be a challenge, but the response, even though it may be just a smile, may the beginning of a connection.  However, many an adult has learnt to manipulate, to exploit, and often this means that the trust of the young has been replaced with a self-absorbed cynicism.  Nevertheless, the ground for connection for all humanity is the same:  the absence of judgement, no fear and no preconceived outcome.

Teaching is the flow of relationship: the waves of the sea, back and forth.  The adoption of rigid roles, student, teacher, learning, play work, effort discipline; the inability to explore outside predetermined parameters; and holding on to assumptions are all barriers to this flow relationship.  Authority, status, formality, formality and hierarchy stand like vast concrete dams of control;  controlling learning, controlling behaviour, seeking to mould, to ensure obedient servants to a corrupt world.  Teaching is a unifying process, where difference is understood as being part of the whole; so no division is caused by competition, comparison and the constant creation of categories.  The conventional approach to teaching is to break things down, to fragment and seek out disparity, and to look for disconnections.  There is very little holistic in this approach to learning.

Mostly they are friendly, smiling and wanting to enjoy our time together.  At the beginning many were suspicious, withdrawn and unsure of the grey haired, bearded man who had appeared in front of them one day in April, taking the place of the teacher they had expected to see and who had been there for them since September.  In a school that encourages openness, where there is no uniform and everyone is on first name terms, the teacher can appear to be vulnerable, even lack authority.  Direct questions are asked and, as with many teenagers, there is a fine line that divides genuine interest from outright rudeness.  I am instantly reminded of my humanity and recognise the relationship that holds us all together….

Now it looks as though Maggie and I will be joining the staff of Brockwood Park School in Hampshire, where I will be teaching full time.  This is a unique opportunity to inquire deeply into the activities of teaching and learning in a community that that is 'place where one learns about the totality, the wholeness of life.'   I intend to continue to write and will take the opportunity to reflect on what actually happens.