I have experienced some moments of magic during my short time working for the Tim Parry Johnathan Ball Peace Foundation – when understanding ‘clicks’ into place so tangibly that you almost hear it happening.
I joined the team of facilitators at the Peace Foundation a few months ago. One of the most interesting and enjoyable parts of my induction has been going out to schools and youth clubs to support the delivery of educational sessions which the Peace Foundation has developed over the years.
Families for Peace
Working with more experienced colleagues is a great way to learn about the organisation, and has helped me to plan one of our new programmes, ‘Families for Peace’, which has just begun in Liverpool and Rochdale. It is also really inspiring to meet teachers, children and young people from schools across the north of England.
Another big part of my induction has been looking at the monitoring information which facilitators collect about our work. We do this to show the people from government departments, councils and schools who fund our work the evidence that it is effective.
This is part of being accountable, and it helps make the case for supporting our work going forward. We gather information in a variety of ways, depending on the type of activity we are doing, and always taking account of confidentiality issues.
Our recordings include questionnaires; evaluations by the school about the effect which students’ learning has had on their behaviour, and – in the case of our accredited courses – some written work to test knowledge and track the way that people have developed their understanding and views. Taking photographs of some of our interactive activities and to capture the ideas and visions which people write up and draw on flipcharts and boards adds a visual dimension.
How do you capture the magic moments?
Often, though, our sessions generate moments which it is quite a challenge to capture in a survey or session write-up.
One morning recently, I was with a class of ten-year olds in a primary school in West Yorkshire. The session was part of ‘Small Steps for Peace’ – an interactive educational programme that’s very popular with teachers and children wherever it’s delivered. The lessons are a mixture of lively games and time for reflection.
One game involves walking around the school hall and following instructions about how we move. After a bit, the instructions get mixed up so that you have got to think extra hard about what you are meant to do. There’s laughter and concentration as we make mistakes – and as we do the right thing.
Later on, pupils form groups to do role plays based on how they act with each other in the canteen, or at break time. It’s all about group dynamics, emotions, and misunderstandings.
One thing I notice is how honest and clear ten-year olds can be about what they are doing and feeling. One boy said that acting out the role of ‘stealing’ a class mate’s pens made him feel ‘giddy’. He knew that it was the wrong thing to do – but it was still exciting. If only we could all be as thoughtful and open about our motives and feelings, and why we sometimes get drawn into things against our better judgement!
One learning point in the role plays is that you can stop and think about what you are doing – you have a choice about what to do. In my little group, I suggested that the thing you do when you make a choice is a bit like the concentration you have to have in the game when the instructions change. You have to watch what you are doing and just stop and think for a split second about what you are going to do.
One of the girls looked at me, looked at her friends, and looked back at me. I could almost hear that something had clicked – I could see it in her face.
‘Ah’, she said. ‘I get it’. She nodded and smiled.
She slotted her new learning firmly into place. Having fun in the game was a way of practicing something that might help you sort out a real argument in the playground. The feeling you get when you have to ‘straighten out’ the mixed-up instruction is a bit like the will-power you need to say ‘no’ when someone is asking you to do something wrong.
Back in the office, I began writing up the session on our data capture form: how many participants; what we had done; what the feedback was from the pupils and the teachers. I thought about how I could find a way to share the sound I was sure I had ‘heard’ in the primary school hall.
Hearing the ‘click’ when a ten-year old feels that they’ve got a new and helpful way of relating to their friends and sorting out arguments and quarrels is something that stays with you. It’s a sound that gives you a real sense that when young learners are taking ‘Small Steps for Peace’, something really important is happening.