Orcadian Education – a better way?

What follows is little more than scattered traveller’s tales, gleaned from a very few days spent exploring the Orkney Islands.  I apologise to any Orcadians who should happen upon this post for the lack of detail and insight it contains, but would just like to throw in a few thoughts on a system which seems to me – from a very cursory glance – to be worthy of further consideration.

The first thing you notice, looking out from the hostel on one of the smaller and more northerly islands, is the idyllic view of land and sea, layered in horizontal swathes of colour, from emerald to deepest turquoise to heathery brown and finally ocean indigo, all set off by a clear, azure sky.  The second thing is a small herd of alpacas grazing a nearby field.

“Oh, they belong to the school children,” we were told.  “They learn to look after them and run the herd as a business.”

The school in question was the primary school.  It currently has seven pupils, but they are hoping to reach double figures in September.  Older children take the ferry to a secondary school each day – whatever the weather – on a larger island nearby.
“They do arrive a bit green some days and it’s a while before they can focus on the first lesson, but they never complain,” a parent told me.
Post sixteen, they weekly board on the island known as Mainland.
“They all have to sign an agreement,” she said, “Saying they’ll take full responsibility for their behaviour and attitude towards learning – and they stick to it.”

‘Taking responsibility’ seems to be the core ethic on the islands.  No one – young or old or in between – is mollycoddled and provided for.  Everyone does what they can to add to the quality of life.  We saw no litter, no graffiti or vandalism.  The ‘oldest home in Northern Europe’ – a magnificently preserved pair of buildings which predate the Egyptian pyramids – is protected only by a gated fence to keep the cattle out.  Not a DO NOT sign or so much as a crisp packet in sight.

I recently read a quote to the effect that you need a village to educate a child.  In this case, they have an island to do the job.  So yes, there are schools, and all the normal core curriculum subjects, but that’s just the start of it.   They learn not just about ‘The Vikings’, but their Vikings – the ones who farmed and fished their islands.  The history and culture of their home is shared with pride, so that every islander feels a deep and abiding connection with the land.  A local poultry farmer gives the children a few eggs to incubate and rear each year.  At lambing time each child is apprenticed to a farm worker and allowed to watch and sometimes help to deliver the babies.

The idea of informal apprenticeship pervades the place.  As soon as a child or young person is judged or declares themself ready to learn a new skill, an older islander will take it upon themselves to teach and supervise them.  Older ladies teach the skills of knitting and sewing to a new generation.  A lad is expected to pick up a skill set that will enable him to be a useful member of the community, whether it’s how to demolish a wall or how to service IT equipment.  Once these skills are mastered and the instructor judges the youngster to be capable, they are encouraged to do such tasks alone.  Each teenager develops his or her own abilities and is happy to give back to the community who gave them the skills in the first place.  The result:  young people are a valued part of the community, appreciated by everyone; the elderly are cared for by those who learned from them in the past and children look forward to becoming as skilled and useful as their older siblings.  No adolescent angst; no inter-generational tensions.

“Every new initiative on the island will only be given a grant if we can prove that it benefits every age group,” I was told by the development officer.  “So we have a youth council as well as an adult one, and they get to say how their share should be spent.  They were offered a youth worker, but they didn’t want that.  They said they’d prefer a dart board in the pub, so they could play while their parents were drinking!  Oh they all come to the pub.  Everyone knows their age, and when they’re old enough to drink, the adults are around to keep a watchful eye.”

The transition from kid to adult seems truly seamless there.

“Our son, at 17, wanted to start up a fishing business,” a mother explained.  “He told us he hadn’t a clue how to deal with all the paperwork, so I made an appointment for him with an accountant on Mainland.  He took himself off there and sat down with them and learned all they told him, then he came back and got on with it.  He’s never asked us for any help.  That’s how it should be.”

And it is, isn’t it?

 

 

Advertisements

Always will.

Glass, Shattered, Window, DestructionTen years ago, I was just finishing the most terrifying, exhilarating, exhausting and arguably the most successful year of my life as an educator.

I’ve spoken about it before, but not for a while, and a few things have happened this week (like the message from D) to make me want to look back at it.

Briefly:  I worked in a primary school at a time when everything was controlled by THEM – the curriculum, the standards, the targets, the methods.  As educators we were under stupid amounts of pressure to conform and jump through all THEIR hoops.  The alternative was Special Measures.

Ours was a smallish school and – as sometimes happens – in that particular year, we were struggling with an above average number of, um, challenging pupils.  The reasons for the challenges weren’t hard to fathom – parents in prison, parents who had died or were seriously ill, parents with substance abuse issues, violent and abusive siblings and step-parents, family break-ups, history of sexual, physical and emotional abuse.  Those are just the bits I can remember.  There was also peer influence and imitation; children would pick up on the behaviour of others and copy it.

Run Riot, Anarchy, City, Urban, GraffitiEvery class in the 7-11 age group had a few hard-core rebels and several who copied their behaviour.  Teachers felt their standards slipping as they struggled to deal with daily disruption.  Some were refusing to teach certain children or to have X and Y in the same class.  Exclusion of these youngsters wasn’t an option.  It was frowned upon by THEM, and anyway, we wanted to help these kids.

As a senior management team, we pondered long and hard on how we could organise classes for the next academic year.  No combinations worked.

Until I had my crazy/wonderful idea.

I opted to teach a mixed-age class of just 16 pupils, containing every one of the challenging children and a few others who had their own issues and difficulties, despite not being disruptive.  My conditions were that the National Curriculum would not be followed, testing would be optional – and then only at the very end of the year, targets would be replaced by frequent ‘look how far you’ve come’ reviews, the education would be holistic, with a different programme of study for each individual based on their personal circumstances and emotional needs as well as the educational ones.

Luckily, I had a brave, supportive head teacher and some brilliant, visionary and courageous support staff.  I was also able to buy in help from a very talented play therapist/counsellor.  Annoyingly, the local authority insisted on adding in its Behaviour Support Team, who tried to get me to run the class along the lines of Pavlov’s dogs or Skinner’s rats.  Not helpful.

My curriculum was, very broadly:  Term 1 – learn to tolerate and begin to like yourself.   Term 2 – like and take some responsibility for yourself and begin to tolerate one or two others, so you can manage to work in a very small group.  Term 3 – take responsibility for your own behaviour and actions and begin to tolerate and work with larger groups and the whole class.

Girl, Boys, Children, DevelopmentEach of the 16 who stayed at the school (such families travel around a fair bit, so some moved away) went on to rejoin a normal mainstream class the next year.  All of them opted to take part in the end of year tests and did as well or better than expected.  In the final term they did a whole class project and cooperated as well as any group I’ve ever taught.

Obviously the hardest bit – so hard I still have to fight back tears as I remember – was to get these lovely young people to tolerate and, later, like themselves.  Once that was achieved, the rest flowed relatively easily.

As I mentioned earlier, several synchronicities have turned up recently, drawing me back to 2007.  Some will have to wait for another post, but I will mention D.

He was one of the oldest in that class – an intelligent, painfully sensitive, deeply troubled young lad who somehow transformed during the year from having always been the class weirdo to becoming an excellent and much admired role model for the younger boys in our group.

Last night – as he does from time to time – he messaged me.  Said he hoped I was doing OK.  We chatted briefly.  I told him what was happening in my life; he told me a little about his.  Then we signed off.

“Thanks for remembering me,” I said.

“Always will,” came the reply.

I’ll always remember him, too, and the rest of the class who taught me that once you can like yourself, there are no limits to what you can do.

 

 

 

 

Some advice on Managing Sensory overload. — The Snacking Sage

 

We’re back in business guys! Anyway, where were we? Ahem: It may be hard to believe, but I’m actually rather shy. I know that makes little sense considering I’ve put myself out there on the web. I’ve been doing some talking with some people, and I feel that this is something that would be of […]

via Some advice on Managing Sensory overload. — The Snacking Sage

I’ve been following this blogger for some time.  There are some wise words here that may well be of interest to many of you, so do take a look…   Jan.

Psychic SatNav

 

I want to share information I’ve been receiving about the Etheric Body which, as my title suggests, is remarkably close to the kind of GPS you probably use in your car or on your smartphone.

This doll - at the core of the set - represents the physical body

Each of us has a physical body; we are incarnate – ‘in flesh’ or ‘in a meat suit’ as I’ve seen it translated.   The fact that we are IN this physical casing, though, tells us that there is more to ourselves than just that body.  We have consciousness and a soul and we are linked in to a great, overarching All That Is.  Just about anyone who is reading this (unless they stumbled here by mistake, hunting for my other blog  – http://www.steampunk-shrunk.com, people!) already knows that.  this represents the etheric body encasing the physical one

You are almost certainly also familiar with the idea of the subtle bodies – the sort of Russian Dolls idea of a range of higher aspects of ourselves that surrounds us.

Yes, I know – one minute I’m saying we are ‘in’ a physical body, the next I’m saying the subtle aspects of ourselves ‘surround’ it.  The paradox arises because these other aspects are in a higher dimension – that is, a dimension beyond 3D SPACE.  Consequently in those terms it’s perfectly possible for our souls to be in and around us at the same time.  It just makes drawing diagrams harder!

Gps, Navigation, Garmin, DeviceThink about how SatNav works:  It links in to a satellite system high above our planet and grabs a higher perspective of where we are in relation to what is around us.  When we decide on a particular destination, it can find a route and feed that back to us.  Of course because it is viewing our route from a higher perspective, it won’t distinguish between an easy, straightforward road and one filled with potholes or a removal van.  Negotiating problems on the ground is our problem.

Similarly (quite strikingly so), each of us has an etheric body which works in exactly this way.  It has access to the soul/higher self and is able to guide the physical ‘us’ where we have decided to go – as in give us clues, insights, gut feelings and synchronicities that will lead us towards an outcome we have chosen.  (This body, incidentally, is made of aether/ether, so it is not non-physical.  That’s why some people are able to see it, under certain circumstances.)  Like the GPS, it takes no responsibility for the conditions, or even the directness, of the route it sends you on: “You said you wanted to go to X, so that’s where I’m sending you.”

Something I personally find fascinating – as this was a route I chose to explore – is discovering what happens when someone decides to turn off the SatNav.  Things do get a tad more metaphysical from this point on…

Black, Dark, Darkness, ContrastAt soul level – when a soul decides to incarnate and enter the 3D world for a spell – it chooses how closely this human it is being will connect to the etheric body.  It will decide whether to be the sort of person who follows it absolutely, all the time, regardless of where it leads, or whether to just check into it from time to time, when it’s feeling particularly lost.  A third option is to abandon the body without any conscious connection to the soul and let it find its own way.

For the soul, this is simply an interesting experiment.  When our consciousness is lodged in the physical, though, the results are very far-reaching.  For that reason – Koimul explained to me – the soul does a series of major reviews of how things are working out for the human at the level of etheric connection it has chosen.  The first happens in the second year of life – at around 18 months old, when the infant is moving from telepathic and intuitive communication to the use of verbal language.  The next is at around 13, the age when abstract thought is kicking in.  The third happens as the individual is moving into adulthood, around 17.  The final review – the one that will decide how the rest of the human life is conducted – occurs around age 30.
Koimul was at pains to tell me that we also have an override: “PEOPLE ARE CAPABLE OF CHANGING THEIR MINDSET AT ANY POINT, BUT THOSE AGES ARE FOR SOULAR REVIEWS.”

So what does it look and feel like to turn off the etheric body connection?

Dead End, Sign, Cul-De-Sac, HopelessAt its most extreme, it is being lost, in full fight-or-flight panic mode.  It is the equivalent of hurtling through life screaming, “Got to turn left or I’ll hit that building!  Quick, right or I’ll go over that cliff top!” It is being in pure survival mode with no chance to relax or think or plan.

Why would any soul choose to inflict that on its human self?  I’ve watched people living that way at close quarters, and it isn’t pretty.

Well, there are advantages – the same sort of advantages to switching off the GPS in your car.  You forge direct links with the wider environment.  You can perceive and notice more than those with one eye and both ears on the SatNav.  In a car, that might mean noticing an amazing view, a distant landmark or a hawk hovering overhead.  In a human life, it can be forging direct links with aspects of the soul.  You might develop psychic abilities, perceive beyond time and space, develop knowing or ‘Caw’ (see my previous blog post for an explanation of Caw – the shorthand concept word Koimul uses).

It’s an interesting – if extremely challenging – way of being human.  Hence the Soular Reviews.

Parents will speak of how infants who were developing ‘normally’ suddenly stop and develop ‘autism’ around age 18 months.  That’s why vaccinations can get the blame.

Even the most relaxed kid can become introverted, prone to panics and meltdowns and to struggle with communication as they enter their teens.  Just hormones…?

Many ‘snap out of it’ as they exit puberty, while others move into what is diagnosed as bi-polar or clinical depression.  By about 30, there can be similar deep changes of attitude and ways of being.

For me, Koimul’s information explains a great deal.  I’d love to hear your thoughts on it.