Listening Session Paintings

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Love, life and Spirit

Wow, my first blog!!!
This is a learning experience!
Thought for the day: Love life, live each day well and enjoy the Spirit all about us.
Get inspired for a transformative future. A future filled with hope. Have you ever believed enough that our most inspired and well intentioned thoughts/dreams can manifest by simply believing and living the change? We live in a time where more and more are believing in a better future for all life on earth.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Paintings Come Home!

It was a blast figuring out that shipping them home on the plane was so much cheaper (free vs. a couple of hundred bucks) and faster! We went to a "Home Depot" and had it made on the spot. Perfect!!! Welcome home to our first International Paintings. Congratulations New Zealand.

Christchurch Listening Session is Wonderful!

The day before we left the beautiful waka known in English as the South Island, we had the great privilege of meeting with some amazing people and then leading our third Listening Session.

Our meetings and the magic of our visit in Christchurch was all arranged by this fantastic woman, Jocelyn Papprill (left). Through a recommendation, we had met with Jocelyn when we first arrived in Christchurch in late October. She was passionate, smart, connected, dialed in and in all other ways, fantastic! By the time we returned on the 5th, she had arranged several meetings and the Listening Session.

Our first meeting was with Jillian Heald, a Guardian of the Secondary Futures Project. From our meeting we learned that New Zealand has been studying how to change their secondary education for more than six years. The research they had done was creative, inventive and insightful and geared toward the year 2023. Amazing.

Then we met with Gaike Knottenbelt, the Principal of Seven Oaks Education Centre. They are a brand new school that is launching early next year. The school will work with young people to begin with and they hope to expand into secondary education when they can. The cool thing about Seven Oaks is that its core principal is sustainability! The have an amazing amount of land that had been previously used as a garden/horticultural center and so the young people who attend will be out doors most of the day learning about sustainability through experience! Gaike is a passionate, big-hearted, visionary and the kind of person we would all like to have our kids be learning from. We are sending them wonderful energy and hope that their opening is a huge success. You can check out their effort at . I love that -- Journey to Brilliance.

We also met with Vicki Buck, the founder of a new elementary school called Discovery and a new high school called the Unlimited School. Her vision and the high school's scope were really different from most public schools and it felt like being back in the alternative school I taught in many years ago in Richmond, VA called the Open High School. The next day we visited the school and loved it.

That led us into the Listening Session, where we met six fantastic young people: Pip, Morgan, Max, Cobi, Julia, and Holly. We also had a teacher named Lee, a parent/counselor , Glenyse, and Jocelyn participating. Following the last listening session, while we traveled along the roads, Stella and I had created new questions that were more focused on community, physical environment, the individual, education and spirituality, so this group was our first test of the questions. Their answers were amazing! Then they divided up and created two wonderful paintings and concepts. One was our first circular painting! All photos will be posted as soon as we receive the permission forms in the mail! I will get the painting photos up shortly.

We made many good friends and it made our last day in New Zealand awesome!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Imagining Aotearoa!

What a fantastic time we had with Stella and Charlie during their visit with us in Aotearoa-New Zealand. I first met C & S when they arrived in Christchurch late October, and immediately found myself excited and charmed by their passion for learning change.
I offered to try to put together a workshop for young people here in Christchurch for when they returned to our part of the South Island on 5th November .... and it all worked out!

Six young people - all wonderful - came together with 3 adults, and Charlie & Stella, at Tamariki School on Wednesday evening to share ideas, eat pizza and paint their vision of a learning environment that would nurture them. Two lovely paintings came from that evening and lots of aroha (love, connectivity) was woven. We were also able to share the excitment of Obama's victory in the Presidential elections - what wonderful hope for a future that we all can create together ...."YES, WE CAN!!"

All in all I found Wed & Thur to be two days of fire & passion for the mahi (work) of transforming our world toward a better future - one that is peaceful, sustainable and uplifting for all.
Kia kaha, kia manawanui e hoa ma. Be strong, persevere my friends. Return to our shores again soon

Monday, November 10, 2008

2nd Invercargill Listening Session Tests Us to the Limits

This blog is a chronicle of our efforts to create an educational experience for young people that enables them to thrive in a world of possibility. On Friday, October 31st, we met in our second Listening Session with young people in an educational program sponsored by the Invercargill YMCA, called Alternative Education. For one reason or another all of these young people had been asked to leave school. Their days now consist of free time to do what they want, working and attending the Alternative Education program run by a former troubled student who figured things out named Jay.

The first few questions in the Listening Session are relatively easy we think. They are questions like "List three positive words that describe you", "I am passionate about," I am challenged by", etc. In every Listening Session we have had to date, these questions have proven simple for the participants. But not for this group. The very first question about three positive words had them stumped. They were so shut down and closed off that they were unable to answer the questions without Stella and I walking around the room and prompting them with statements like, "Are you nice?" As they went on through the questions, it became apparent that we had hit a wall we were not going to get over.

It was a moment of revelation. Our process did not include everyone. So for more than an hour we helped them with the first eight questions. When time came to share there were many who said pass as we got to a certain question they had no idea how to answer. It was an excruciating time for me as I led it. They did not feel invited in by the process and they did not feel good about what was occurring. I tried to be as upbeat as possible and help them through it, but it was rough. One of the students journal sheets had a few answers on it and then all the way across the bottom was written a very telling LaLaLaLaLaLaLaLaLaLaLaLa.

At the end of the first eight questions, we took a break and reconnoitered. It was clear they would not be able to paint for their conceptual abilities were not there. It was clear also that to put them through any more questions would be even more frustrating for them. So we decided to divide them into groups and ask them to share about their educational experience and what they would do differently to help themselves or a younger brother or sister if they were in school.

This produced a little bit better results as some of the responses were things like: make school more relaxed, pick your own time to go, work in smaller groups or give the option to work by yourself, younger teachers (aka cool), lots of hands-on activities, special camps off site that you go to on certain subjects for a few days at a time, an exchange program to other interesting programs.

I never even took a photo until the end because getting signed permission slips would be impossible to acquire. So after it was over and I hung out with the kids, I took photos as a reminder that the circle has to be able to hold everyone and that these are who the educational process and their communities have struggled with the most. I left even more resolved that we are on the right track, but need to be able to have a listening session that is flexible enough to get all young people involved.

This led to lots of discussion as we headed for Aoraki (Mount Cook) and Mount Sefton the next few days.

Invercargill Listening Session is Awesome!

On Thursday, October 30th, we led our first International Listening Session in Invercargill, NZ. It was also Stella's first LS as well. For those of you who have not yet met Stella (pictured on the right in the photo with Carrie [left] who helped us get art supplies in Christchurch), she is working to help create the curriculum for the new educational process. She lives in Australia and will be moving back to the US later this year. Stella brings tremendous heart and depth of experience to the project. She has an amazing background and she is passionate about Imagine Learning.

So we met with Jason, Stephanie, Nicole, Ben, Alyssa, Samantha and Karen. All were courageous, enthusiastic and insightful. We loved their answers and how willing they were to participate. At the end of the session, their responses about how much they had enjoyed the process were wonderful to hear. We filmed, photographed and recorded all of the information.

I will publish the photos of their effort soon. We are waiting on two Consent Forms. Suffice it to say, they made us feel welcome and very thankful we traveled to Invercargill for our first session.

A special thanks goes out to Saskia Nieuwlands (left) for all of her amazing help. She is wonderfully talented and brilliant with young people. She brought together a great group for us. Also thanks to Sasha For participating and helping as well!