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LOVE CHANGES EVERYTHING - Toogoolawa Schools
Stories from the real Education Revolution
-   Extract 1

plant1This extract is from a chapter of the book entitled 'Foundations' which discusses the various attitudes, philosophies, rituals and practices which are the foundation stones of the Toogoolawa Schools.

EMPOWERING LANGUAGE

At Toogoolawa, directors, teachers and mentors deliberately use language to affirm and empower students.

One aspect of this is descriptive imagery and metaphor. I used the examples of the inner King and the diamond in the mud, earlier, to show how the boys could be encouraged in a simple and powerful way to appreciate their vast innate potential; to separate it in their minds from the problems and self-defeating behaviours that may have obscured it; and therefore to believe in it and begin to act out of that belief.

Another evocative image we use is that of a mask covering the face. However grotesque, insipid or sad the mask might be, it need not in any way resemble the very fine face which is hidden from view. Our students’ self-defeating behaviours do not reflect their true selves, and can therefore simply be let go. The challenge at Toogoolawa is to help the boys believe in their true faces enough to begin removing the mask – or at least to replace it with one more closely representing the good and beautiful person underneath.

The use of language is important in many other ways. Words can be used to limit or label. Words reflect expectations – and expectations often become self-fulfilling prophecies, for good or ill. Toogoolawa teachers are constantly vigilant about this, and intentionally use affirming and empowering words wherever possible.

As one simple example, the word ‘acknowledge’ is used frequently, to shine a spotlight on some virtue which a student has demonstrated, however faintly. A teacher might say: ‘Peter, I acknowledge your courage in not joining in when the others were picking on Jamie. It takes great courage to stand alone and not join in at such times. Well done.’ Affirmation of this kind provides vital reinforcement: we have deliberately tried to create a school culture in which the aim is to ‘catch students doing something right’.

As another example, we use the word ‘gentlemen’ when addressing a group of students. This is not only a term of respect: from time to time, the boys are reminded that the term literally means ‘men who are gentle’, and that this noble quality is their true nature. Each time we are reminded of our higher or better Self, we are encouraged to identify with it, and live it out, a little more…

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