The Sea Company

Sunday, December 10, 2006


Over the last week the children have been independently finding all sorts of evidence about John Davies - they are really hooked on his story. I keep being presented with little scraps of paper which 'might be a letter from JD' or small items that might have belonged to him - parents keep asking me ' who is John Davies?' !! The children have also been very interested in what his great grand-daughters reaction will be when she is presented all our information. One child thought she might find it all a bit sad and emotional and suddely came out with the phrase ' I think her happiness will unfold.' This knocked me back - what an incredible piece of language!! I had to seize on this, so asked Tai if he would be able to show her at this moment when her happiness 'unfolds'. He did this with great subtlety, gradually changing his face and his body position on the chair. We kept freezing him and the children were fascinated by the movement of his eyes, his bottom lip, his hands. It eventually transpired that her 'happiness unfolding' meant the opposite of what I first thought - it actually meant that her happiness fell apart as she found out about the death of her great grandfather. As the children began to ask her questions, I was again amazed by the way this child, in role, 'held back' on obvious answers and didn't give much away. I've been trying to create ambiguity and subtlety when I have been in role, and with my use of language in general, and wondered if, by csome miracle, this child has picked up on that - whatever it was, it worked brilliantly and kept a real tension going in this impromptu session.

Today I began the session by reading out an excerpt from the Captain's Log that we found, which has been restored so that we can now read it. The date is the day that the ship sank. John Davies is briefly mentioned as holding the wheel at one point and a cabin boy is mentiones as spotting the fog rolling in from the crows nest - the log finishes abruptly, which got the children very excited!!

I then asked the children if they would like to go into role as JD on his last day on the ship. We have been doing 'time' in maths (every teacher's nightmare!) so I used the teaching clock to signal each hour of the day, starting with 7 in the morning. For each hour the children positioned themselves as JD, showing what he would have been doing and each time I asked one of them what it was they were doing. It was interesting that these varies form very literal actions like steering the ship, to more enigmatic things like 'reading a special diary' or 'talking to someone who is lonely'. I feel that JD has really emerged as a 'real' person over the last week or so and that this is beginning to be reflected.

The next part of the session is the most thrilling I have experienced in theis mantle so far. We sat in a circle, still in role, and I asked each child to say one thought that they had had that day on board ship. The responses were quite similar at first - 'I'm worried about the fog', 'I'm tired with all my jobs'. Then one of the boys suddenly came out with 'I'm thinking about my family - I want to see them so much.' (I'll say at this point that this boy, although loving the drama, is often very OTT - very excitable and loud and likes to get a laugh from the rest of the class, which has threatened to 'spoil the moment' several times previously - in fact he had already had to sit out of this session for 5 monutes and had just chosen to return to the circle.) He was very serious in the way he said this, though, so I invited him to sit in the middle of the circle and to show how he looked as he was thinking this. With the utmost seriousness he sat with one knee propping up his elbow, his head bowed and his hand covering his face. The rest of the group were fascinated by this and wanted to talk about why you put your body in certain positions whan you are sad. One boy said about the hand covering the face 'it's like he's trying to hold his sadness in - but, you know, it's no good doing that becasue it will always find a way out again.'

After a while we activated Jak to answer our questions. Amazingly, like the boy earlier on today, his answers were brief and ambiguous - 'I can't tell you' or even just a shake of the head. Is it that, somehow, these children seem to have picked up on the air of ambiguity, or 'less is more' that can make this work so powerful?? I don't know - but it was brilliant!! The children were very concerned about JD's sadness so I asked them to go up to him one by one and say something to him to perhaps make him feel better. They crept up to him, some gently touching his shoulder and whispered kind words to him. Nearly all the children in the class wanted to do this and it was magical to watch their absorption and thoughtfulness - I really felt that this had reached a new depth of engagement and investment. After, we reflected on how we had felt doing this, and several of the children commented on the way we had approached JD so as not to be intimidating - on all fours, or low and creeping. They were keen to ask Jak how he had felt when they came up to him and thrilled at his positive responses. I'm so proud of the way he dealt with this - he had to hold the pose for a long time and never lost his poise or sincerity - this must be real proof of the way in which MoE can engage children deeply. He recieved a spontaneous round of applause for his role!!

The next 'gift' was from another boy who talked about how he was thinking about opening his garden gate at home and waling up the garden path, past the flowers, to his front door'. This blew me away - what a powerful and symbolic image! I glanced around to see if the children were fed up - they weren't so I asked if he minded us asking him some questions about the garden and the door. This child was completely absorbedand unself-conscious as he answered questions about the colour of the gate, the gravel path and what sound the lock made when it clicked. When asked who planted the flowers, he answered simply 'my wife the washerwoman'.

I have been thinking really hard about my own language, since our last residential weekend with Luke Abbot and my colleague's help with a brilliant booklet on the use of language / questioning in MoE. Today I felt that I was beginning to get there for the first time as I'm sure my own language (and silences!!) helped to encourage the depth and freedom of the children's thinking and responses. I also feel that I am more relaxed and intuitive about picking up on the 'gifts' that the children are offering and using them. As I become more familiar with the conventions, I am finding it easier to use them off the top of my head and finding an appropriate one to fit the moment. I feel I am also beoming more coherent in moving from the symbolic / iconic to the enactive - it's so obvious when it works isn't it??!!!I'm really thrilled with this session - it was a real shiver down the spine job and has made me even more committed to using this work as a powerful and meaningful way of learning in my classroom. I want to get here again!! Thank you so much to everyone who has helped me get to this moment!!


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