For the past eight years I’d been preparing myself to work in a non-interventionist school, and I’d just landed what I thought was the perfect job. But almost as soon as I walked into the classroom, I had an uneasy feeling.
This online lecture is the story of what happened after I walked into that classroom, and of the ideas that helped me to make sense of, and to survive, the revolt.
The student revolt: Part One
In this first part, you’ll see references to a unit you’re not doing (PPLE) and hear about a lecture you haven’t heard yet (‘The Sticky Tape Poem’). Ignore these. I made these videos last year.
As you’re listening to the story of the student revolt, notice the way my assumptions were being challenged. I had assumed that all my preparation for those eight years was going to mean that this job would be easy. I’d worked with a world-famous non-interventionist (R.F.Mackenzie) and I’d read widely some of the current non-interventionist literature, particularly that of R.F.Mackenzie’s good friend A.S. Neill. But my expectations were disappointed; my assumptions turned out to be inadequate.
Some thinking/writing prompts
- I make a distinction between ‘freedom to’ and ‘freedom from’, and suggest that being clear about this distinction makes a difference in our teaching. What do you think about this? Can you imagine a situation in your own classroom where this might become a crucial distinction to be making, for yourself and/or for your students? Have you had any experiences yourself where this has been an important distinction?
- I finish Part 1 by describing how things slowly changed, and imply that it was because I stuck to my guns and didn’t compromise. Did my explanation sound convincing? In Part Two I suggest that maybe there was more involved. What other explanations for the turnaround can you see, even before viewing Part Two?
The Student Revolt: Part Two
So, I’d assumed that this school would be the perfect place for me, and then ran into unexpected difficulties. In Part Two I explore other ideas that have helped me to make sense of what happened then, ideas that have continued to be useful to me as a secondary teacher.
In particular, I talk about three ideas:
- a natural resistance to the unfamiliar
- the flight-fight instinct
- the mother-teacher’s need to survive
Some reading/thinking/writing prompts
- In Part 2 I suggest that there are three further ideas that help teachers understand some of the dynamics of classroom management: a natural resistance to change, the flight-fight instinct, and the mother-teacher’s need to survive. Do any of these ideas illuminate experiences that you have had? Have you seen any of these processes evident in our own unit, during our first month?
- What articles are you finding in e-Reserve that are helping you to understand more about classroom dynamics and how to work with these? [For those of you with access to the Ning, here’s an excellent example by Claire of how you might like to write about one of these articles.]
- Towards the end of Part 2, the image of a shoot sprouting from a burnt tree appears on the screen. [This was taken after the Victorian bushfires a few years ago.] Did the image seem appropriate to the subject matter? Did it speak to you?
Here are some of Donald Winnicott’s own words, when describing how crucial it is for the baby (student) that the mother (teacher) to be able to survive attacks:
The subject says to the object: ‘I destroyed you’, and the object is there to receive the communication. From now on the subject says: ‘Hello object!’ ‘I destroyed you.’ ‘I love you.’ ‘You have value for me because of your survival of my destruction of you.’ ‘While I am loving you I am all the time destroying you in (unconscious) fantasy.’… The subject can now use the object that has survived. It is important to note that it is not only that the subject destroys the object because the object is placed outside the area of omnipotent control. It is equally significant to state this the other way round and to say that it is the destruction of the object that places the object outside the area of the subject’s omnipotent control. In these ways the object develops its own autonomy and life, and (if it survives) contributes-in to the subject according to its own properties. [Winnicott (1971). Playing and reality. London, Tavistock. p91]
I’ll be saying some more about this strange but very useful idea in a subsequent lecture. What thoughts, memories or responses do Winnicott’s words evoke in you?