Last week, at the Pacific Northwest Conference Holistic Education Conference, we were embraced most enthusiastically for the work that our Listening Sessions are accomplishing. I had the wonderful pleasure of sharing our journey and the messages that young people are creating in their paintings. Their wisdom, energy and boldness spoke to people in a deep way. Comments ranged from "Thank you for listening to young people" to "Inspiring! I remembered why I was in education."
Perhaps the most telling moment for me was when I was stopped in the middle of the presentation by one of the attendees. At that point in the presentation I had explained the process we use in depth during the Listening Sessions and was beginning to share the vision of the young people in the paintings. I had just finished describing the vision in the second painting when I was asked, "So are you telling us that you have ABSOLUTELY no influence in how these paintings are created?" This was met with nodding heads from others who were also finding it hard to believe that the paintings were not influenced by adult minds. I believe people found a true wisdom in them that belies the years of the young people creating them (in their minds).
This tells me that there is a true opportunity for us to share with people the true wisdom that exists within young people today that may be largely unrecognized or at the very least passed over due to the way the school system is structured to work with them every day. At the conclusion of the presentation, we were met with much applause and a true energy in the room of gratitude and excitement to help us. Many people came up and offered to help in the ways they felt best able to be of service. It was quite meaningful to have our work so embraced.
It was our first presentation at an education conference and I feel we crossed a threshold while we were there. Ours is a message of hope fueled by the energy of our young people. It does not focus on what is wrong. It is not mired or entrenched in the current conversations in education. It has a freshness that offers people possibilities based in their love of young people and their reasons for working with them in the first place.
I want to thank Paul Freedman for inviting us to share our story. He is a tireless champion of children and of creating an educational journey for them that is nourishing. I will write more on the other presenters at the conference as I have time.