Tuesday, 6 February 2007

Weavers' of Magic

I had been looking forward to yesterday for sometime to have the opportunity to listen to Celia Lashlie speak (Stratford Primary School TOD); and to extend my thanks to her for the things she had to tell us in her book “Growing Boys”. This book had such an impact on me as I worked through difficult patches with my own teenage boys.

Celia was up-front, down-to-earth, coarse and compassionate in her delivery, telling anecdotal stories of young people and their lives that were so far removed from the lives of any person in that staffroom today (outside of reading ‘Once Were Warriors’ – excuse the stereotypic generalisation …) She also offered her wisdom with humour & practical good sense ideas that really made you think about how we can make a difference to our students – especially to those most @ risk & to our boys.

Through her work in prisons and schools, as Prison Warden/Manager in both men’s & women’s prisons and then in the SES (Education), Celia began to make the connection between the troubled children she saw in schools, seeing their life paths heading straight to prison. So who’s most at risk of following the path to prison? They are kids we would probably now call ‘at risk’ in our schools, those whose family members are in prison or been through prison, who have backgrounds of violence, abuse and neglect – they may be born into it but nobody is born bad.

Celia calls teachers ‘the Weavers of Magic’ that they can make a difference whether they know it or not, now and in our children’s future. Here Celia tells a story of one of her staunchest most challenging teenage woman prisoners who they discovered had an extraordinary talent & love of writing. For all that had happened in the miserable life of this person (& Celia was very graphic in her description of that life) a teacher at some time had lit a fire and a passion for writing which this girl had carried with her. Teachers can provide the only safe haven that some children experience. So when that ‘ratbag’ is tearing up your classroom and making you pull out your hair out, find out where are they coming from (remember Maslow’s Hierarchy) and follow your instincts and not the manual. Don’t be judgemental but try and get alongside them when you see the opportunity (the 30 second moment) to let that child open up to you – even if its something you have no experience of, no solution for, just listen to them and affirm what they are saying – it helps validate the child’s perspective of reality (even though that reality might be pretty sad and awful…) Be persistent in building relationships with the family (especially the mothers).

Celia talked a little about boys in particular. How we need more men teachers (oh yes!) and how the education system is becoming feminised – boys need more relevant hands-on learning. She says within this feminised system we have lost the difference between ‘boys behaviour’ and bad behaviour, we don’t understand boys’ energies and touching is definitely out. We should push back against political correctness and follow our intuition, shut up and let the men talk and listen. Uuumm I'm sure i could do the first two things but I'm not sure about the next two....

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