Saturday, 5 November 2016

week 7 - Final session 16th September 2011


Friday, 16 September 2011

Week seven - presenting to the client and closing the book

Our final session was electric. The children had worked extremely hard on their birds eye view plans of the playarea - and had rehearsed the details of how their work was to be presented to the 'clients'.

Tim and Gerry from the council had received their invitations (created electronically) and arrived right on time. As we arrived in the "board room / classroom" we were welcomed with a waiata sung by a student. The classroom was organised with a stage area at one end. The bat research boards were on display. The finished birds eye plans were also on the walls - grouped according to the zone. People had prompt cards and had rehearsed all morning (and through morning tea) to get their moves right.

We were greeted in Maori and taken through a series of experiences to show the process the children had been through. Metaxis was strong here, as children were clearly in a familiar "show and tell" classroom mode and only residualy aware of their identity as a company. At the same time they were very clear about what they had been doing, who for, and the purposes and challenges they had experienced.

The presentation lasted for an hour and was co-ordinated by the children. We saw a slide show of pictures from the field trip, we watched the enthusiastic "bat moves" generated in the movement work. we heard one of the letters that had been written to the concerned resident, Gwenyth. We were also invited to tour around the bat research boards and ask questions and then finally the finished designs were shared.

Perhaps my favourite moment in all of this involved the children's inclusion of "Gwyneth". At the start of the session I had signalled that Gwyneth was present, by asking them to agree to representing her by the black hat i had worn when I went into role. The hat was placed in a front row seat and one of the girls welcomed Gwyneth and thanked her for coming. Later, when everyone was walking around looking at the bat boards, one of the boys approached Lynette and I to say, "I don't think Gwyneth is too impressed - she's just sitting there". Sure enough, the hat was still just sitting there on the chair. I wondered if I should offer to go into role as Gwyneth. But the boy in question solved things by saying "I think I should show her around". He picked up the hat, looked over at me and held the hat above his head "I think she's about this tall?" - then, still holding the hat high, he walked over to the first group. The children in that group responded by saying "hi Gwyneth" and proceeded to share their research information. The boy was careful to make sure that Gwyneth visited all the bat research boards and saw all the concept designs.

At the end of the sharing, Drama for learning was used again. Gerry and Tim stood in front of the class and I asked the children to imagine the two of them driving back to their office at the council. "I wonder what they are saying to each other?" The children were asked to be the voices of the two men, giving their responses to what they had seen. Children showed how proud they were of their work, by responding with lots of congratulatory messages "They must have worked so hard - That Wild at Heart is an awesome company". Other comments made it clear how aware children were of the values and principles underlying their work "They stayed true to their mission statement" "I liked how they used all recycled material". Other children enjoyed the opportunity to extemporise in role and took a lighthearted direction "Do you fancy a coffee? Yes, let's stop at Starbucks"Then I challenged the children to take a different perspective. "Clearly the clients are very satisfied with the work the company has done. At the same time, as professionals, they will of course be weighing up all possible issues. There will be questions remaining, things they are still wondering... I wonder what they are still wondering, or worrying about?"

Again children provided the "voices in the head" and they had many responses "I wonder where they are going to get all the water from - they can't use the river water because it's dirty" "I wonder if it's really the right place for a play area?" "What about the bats - it won't harm them, but will it help them?" "Have they communicated properly with the neighours?" "Do this company really mean what they say?" It would be interesting to know how many of these were re-expressions of the concerns I brought in as Gwyneth, and how many were new ideas conjured by the children themselves. Either way, they demonstrated an awareness of the complexity of the issue.

Once we had said goodbye to Tim and Gerry in their role as clients, we had a further discussion about the questions Tim and Gerry had raised. I did some musing out loud about whether they were questions with an easy answer... and whether some of the most important questions perhaps did NOT have answers....

This led to an even deeper discussion about why we continue with things when they get hard.... As I said to the company members / children "This playground design business is HARD every time we do something there's another problem to think about - every day there's something tricky. You've been doing this for a long time - why do you stick at it, if it is so hard?" Each child was invited to think of their answer to this - and to stand up and make a statement.

The statements sounded to me alot like statements about classroom learning. Children may not "really be" expert playground designers, but they know about sticking to things that are tricky and they know about coming day after day to work (in school). Each person said something different - including things like "It's in our mission statement that we are for the people" "We never give up we just try harder" "The hard stuff is the fun stuff" "It's the challenges that we enjoy the most" "My team mates rely on me" "It's worth it for the smiles on the customer's faces"

I love how drama / MOTE allows participants to be the best person they can be: without the constraints of reality they can play out the highest ethical stance and feel what that (really) feels like. It felt like goosebumps to me...

Children were tired by this time. I felt we needed to hear from Gwyneth since she had played such a key role in the whole process. A sort of 'conscience alley" was attempted in which the hat was passed along a line of children for them to speak in role as Gwyneth, but I don't think I facilitated it terrifically well. Children did their best but it wasn't as rich as what had occurred earlier - or what came next.

The final reflection involved looking back on the seven weeks we had spent together. I introduced the metaphor of a large book telling the story of Wild at Heart - we all used our 'drama eyes' and agreed we were holding our own book of memories. One child struggled a bit because apparently his book was only the size of an atom - though he agreed to hold my book for me, especially when I showed him my favourite page, which had a picture of him in it.

Children were invited to look through the book and talk about their favourite page. Different ones were chosen - one boy said "I can't chose because they are all my favourites" a girl said "I'm looking at page 752, where we were working so hard on those designs". A number of children mentioned the value they placed on the relationships with student teachers and myself. Others talked about how they had enjoyed the exactitude of working on the birds eye view plans.

It was time to finish. We took a moment to write a private (imaginary) message inside the last cover of the book, and then we put it on an (imaginary) shelf just over our shoulder, so we could open and read it anytime. The bell had gone so this bit was rushed but still felt like a useful closure ritual - one I learned about from Julia Walshaw at the conference and have used a few times... thanks Julia!

There was quite a bit of emotion all round as we said our goodbyes. Just as well we have those books to remember each other by! I think I agree with the little girl who claimed "we will remember doing this for always" and was very touched when one child said a little sadly - "I don't want it to stop - I just wish we could do this all the time". Me too.

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