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LOVE CHANGES EVERYTHING - Toogoolawa Schools
Stories from the real Education Revolution
-   Extract 3

plant1This abridged extract is from ' In the words of Gerry Maloney'. Gerry is Assistant Director of The Toogoolawa Schools Project and the Principal at the Ormeau Toogoolawa School. The attitudes and values of Toogoolawa teachers are a vital part of the philosophy of the school because for many of our students, these adults are the only positive role models they have ever had in their lives.


If you asked groups of teachers, gathered anywhere in staffrooms around Australia, what their school was best noted for, you would probably receive comments such as:

‘Sport. We’re a great sporting college.’
‘Academics. We turn out some of the best and brightest. Universities love us!’
‘Music. We have a great musical tradition…’

Not many would put their hand up and say: ‘Values. The thing we’re most proud of is the character of the students we turn out'

This is not to say that mainstream schools are not involved in teaching values: clearly, they are. It is to say, however, that positive life values don’t normally form the cornerstone or central focus of their ethos, so that every teaching, planning, curriculum and social justice decision is made with Love, Peace, Truth, Right Conduct and Non-violence lighting the way. As Ron has explained throughout this book, Toogoolawa Schools are an extraordinary exception. The philosophical rationale for Educare, as expressed by Dr Ron Farmer and his wife Suwanti, exposes us to a radically different way of dealing with students who simply don’t fit into mainstream schools.

The boys Toogoolawa attracts are seen by others as rude, aggressive, angry, truant, academically inept and socially immature. And the boys have learned to see themselves this way: disconnected from themselves and from others; full of ‘attitude’; unworthy of help; unable to make sense of curriculum requirements, due to long periods of suspension or expulsion; and incapable of forming lasting
friendships. Like a dog chasing its tail, their lives move in never-ending circles of confusion and despair.

As a society, we have turned this generation into the noisiest ever to grace the planet. Mobile phones, i-Pods, televisions, the Internet and PlayStation rule their lives. The daily Quiet Time we present to the boys at Toogoolawa can be extremely challenging! Imagine saying to an aggressive, hyperactive fifteen year
old: ‘For the next twenty minutes, I want you to sit perfectly still, and to quieten your mind by using a mantra or visual imagery.’ Most teachers would think we were mad to attempt it!

Strange as it may seem, however, Quiet Time is ‘the time of the work’: the time when real work is done; when students polish their inner diamonds, get in touch with their higher selves and experience a calm and peace most have never experienced. The ritual Acknowledgement of virtue in others, and in themselves, is very special to the boys. The Meditation, or Silent Sitting, is a catalyst that begins to change them from the inside out, and one of the key things they call upon in times of need, long after they leave Toogoolawa. It calls them to silence.

And silence is the language of the spirit. Those of us who work at Toogoolawa feel very privileged. The behaviour of these boys gives us the opportunity to reflect on our own limitations, our own fears. Any cracks in our ability to stay grounded are wedged open by boys long experienced in pushing buttons – and expecting only verbal or physical abuse in return............