Mr Alexander arrived five minutes before the lesson started. Using furniture, he created a teaching zone. He was visible to the students as they entered the building – his eyes smiling as he waited for them to join him. He greeted them, and as a critical mass was reached, he began talking to those present. He went over what had been done and as the last students took their seats he detailed the work for the day. There was something about the way he managed the transition that was both welcoming and expectant.
On receiving their instructions, the students were free to choose, within limits, where to work. They were not shushed into silence, nor were their movements stilled. And, as Mr Alexander moved amongst them, I could see him looking for signs, and listening for sounds that prompted redirection and encouragement from him. He gave general instructions and kept track of time. With the final reminder that time was up, pairs dissolved and the group reformed.
Having actively co-opted the technical help of two students Mr Alexander was free to gather the group and watch with them, as their digital montage played before them on the whiteboard. In delegating, he had become one of the audience, yet he remained their ‘pied-piper’ as he complimented them on their work and sent them on their way.
The pull of the narration is strong, an end fitting? There is, however, a silent presence that has not been acknowledged. Mr Alexander is part of a larger whole, one in which he is encouraged to explore, experiment, fail and try again. He is part of a community which works on ameliorating the effects of constraints in the learning environment.
And in that, we seem to have come full circle, from the particular to the general. We have considered the art of ‘holding’ people in a prepared environment – such that a deep engagement with learning cannot help but precipitate through the mix.
Please note that this series of one, plus three first appeared in the extended research proposal of my PhD (2012). I am sharing it because it is a central part of the evolution of this project. Where posts include in text citations I will add the full citations to a post I shall call – Bibliography! As with all my writing please note that pseudonyms are used for people. However, the school in which I conducted my observations is very real – and I have their permission to refer to them by name.