The Next Step – Engaging in Educating the Spirit.



The long days of summer are shortening now, but for the last few weeks there have been many days of blue skies and warm sunshine.  Through the shadows of the trees a warm breeze flows playing with the leaves, bringing the scent of the newly harvested fields and the dust of the dry ground.  Copper leaves shine and glint among the dark and light greens of the other majestic trees.  The soft sounds of the pigeons float across the mottled browns and greens of the lawn.  For now the place is deserted; devoid of human activity.

Tomorrow we begin the next step in a process that began just under three weeks ago.  What has emerged through a flurry of questions and chaotic confusion is the skeleton of a framework for further exploration into education.  For over forty years this place has engaged with the challenge of ‘learning about the whole of life’.  Many students and staff have passed through contributing to a sense of constant change in the heart of the English countryside.  Now another change is being brought into being.

As the state sponsored systems of education throughout the world narrow further and further, funneling young people through rigid steps of disjointed learning towards a view of success that is only a reality for a lucky few and is almost entirely measured in economic terms, we are attempting to move significantly away from that approach.  After thirty five years as a teacher I have found myself in a place that is asking the question; what is the function of the teacher?  Here the content of my teaching is new as is my work in helping those students who will be finishing school take the next step in their lives; so, thankfully, I cannot fall back on past experience.  It is an enormous responsibility, but it does not weigh heavily on my shoulders, as, for the first time since I began training as a teacher nearly forty years ago, I do not feel that someone is looking over my shoulder waiting for me to make a mistake.  Accountability is a word that has been given greater and greater importance over the last few decades, its harsh spectre haunts many teachers, often making the process of teaching and learning into a crass commercial exchange.  The teacher has been made accountable for the progress of the student and, especially when it comes to exams, has to explain success and failures in terms of her or his own performance.

Here I am responsible, not as a separate entity, but as an integral part of the community and the students are responsible for themselves.  So in a sense they are also responsible for me as we work in shared exploration and understanding.  They will be teaching themselves and teaching each other.  I will also be learning.

This is my first description of the tentative beginning I am making to my time at Brockwood Park School.  So far I have been eating delicious vegetarian food, cleaning the place, washing up, waling, sitting, listening, talking and getting to know all the other people who make up the community of about one hundred and twenty young people and adults.


I intend to keep writing this blog as a contemplation of my life here with this question in the background  – Is this educating the spirit?

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