whispered love
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October 7th 2006: School Open Day

I woke to brightness and blue skies after days of rain. It is Saturday but I'm in school at work because it's our Open Day. We have 40 sets of parents touring our classrooms as I type. The children have come in to school as well. We are here as a community, and open for people to visit us.

I've been teaching for 22 years and I see education as more than merely feeding children with information. Of course that is important, to equip them for their futures. And we try to deliver the curriculum in a way that engages them and enthuses them.

But the heart of education is learning to live in community. When you think of it, we care for these children for such a large part of their formative years, and through their interactions here, they pick up social skills that may last them a lifetime.

I believe in openness in education, because openness is more creative. When I was a child, schools were authoritarian, with the heavy hand of discipline and hierarchy. I was beaten. I ran away from school three times.

That approach to teaching is easy to implement but is ultimately cowardly. It doesn't dare to engage in natural human relationships. It intimidates and it asserts its own authority, but it takes no risks.

The kind of community I believe in requires openness and vulnerability. It listens as well as tells. It is a shared journey for pupils, teachers, ancillary staff, everyone. It is about value and respect, and the exploration of how we treat each other.

I like my lessons to involve humour, open discussion, excitement, and expressions of love - not unseemly love - just the love that is affirmation, and smiling to one another, sometimes challenging, occasionally crying together.

I remember having to break the news to one of our more vulnerable boarders that his father had died in tragic circumstances. That's not about SATs or school league tables. It's humanity.

Any school year has its share of tragedies like this - family illness, deaths, and sometimes the fragmentation of family relationships. But it also has immense joy as well. Achievement, laughter, contentment, magnanimity, warmth, acceptance.

Loving kindness.

Always reality seems to come back to that. We journey together as a community. We share our lives. We learn, above all, how to live in relationship with one another. Normal, honest human relationships. And kindness and love.

So much creativity can be set free when we open our lives to each other and to the unexpected. The unexpected insight of a 12 year old child. The unexpected freedom and laughter in a lesson. Love makes us deeply creative like that.

I will stop now because I have parents to meet. Outside the sun is shining and the rest of the weekend beckons. This community is an important part of my life. The children will leave and move on. But here and now, in the present, we share our lives together.

School Open Day. Yes, schools should be as open as possible!


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