I love the term "Challenging Behaviour". How do we respond to unruly, disruptive, rude, disrespectful or otherwise difficult behaviour? Is such behaviour a sign of inner badness or a sign, a call for help or signal that something is wrong? How often do we look to ourselves, to our systems, our expectations, our values or even our own way of being to see if the cause of such behaviour is not attributable to us? Are we prepared to be challenged, to look at our behaviour, to modify it and to see if the behaviour of those in our care changes?
I have daily failures and some small successes in my work with "challenging " children. I am constantly learning from them and I wrack my creative brain trying to find the way to "meet" each of those children in their safe territory, if such exists. Each time that I have such a "meeting" the picture becomes clearer. Children are not generally articulate in words or concepts but they are intensely articulate in action and emotion. The trouble is that adults, whilst they may be “wordly” wise have, more often than not forgotten how to speak and hear the tongue of body and of emotion. We are angry, sometimes, that students are not listening to us and they, quite rightly, are equally distressed about our lack of insight into their world.
I imagine that being the class teacher of Brock or Karl is a nightmare. The world of desks in rows and appropriate behaviour is not a suitable environment for a child who is contemplating the mystery of our existence and the appropriate way for us to behave in order to gain re-entry to this world of soul. (This was in fact the object of contemplation in Brock's stream of consciousness song shared with me recently). And Karl could genuinely not understand why it was more important to re-enter the classroom after lunch than to find suitable food for his collection of grasshoppers that he had spent lunchtime gathering. Upon reflection, nor can I.
And just how does Rowan cope with being more intelligent than almost all of the people in his life? He gave me a very wry smile when I joked, "The trouble with us is that we are way cleverer than everyone else,” bullseye. Rowan's psychologist says that he needs to engage emotionally before learning can occur. I knew that. Fun and laughter then tin whistle or drums. That is the correct order of things. It is the same for me. Rowan has so much cleverness that he missed out on some social and emotional brainpower and has some catching up to do. He is a great learner and goes to a school that understands about social and emotional learning. He will be OK.
Ahh beautiful Joel, who has climbed the mountain this year. Joel is a great learner, no one else will tell you this. He is an "osmotic" learner. He and I know this now because he has mastered the didgeridoo. Not with words but with an eye that watches an ear that listens and a fierce determination born of being different. Who does he remind me of? Dada Nii, Ghanan songman. Here in Australia to perform and to teach. He teaches like Joel learns. Watch me, copy me, watch me, copy me, as many times as it takes. Osmotic learning. You've got it, great now this, and away he goes with a wild second drum part and a joyous call. Our Joel should have been born in Ghana, or in Walbiri country in the territory.
My "yuppa" friends don't waste words in teaching either, or paper or pens or books. Great learning happens, none the less.
Young Luke definitely still lives in magic land. He notices which lights are flickering that weren't flickering last time. He draws your attention to the detail in the pattern on the wall as the glowing morning sun crashes in the window. He "steals" the materials from the bag in the dance class and, unasked, starts to decorate the stage with them. He draws another magic child, Anni, into his world as they drag chairs onto the stage to reach the desired spot for a particular colour. He sits like a pixie next to the curtain while the others make up their dances or do warm up. That spot, with a huge mass of curtain above, around and behind you is such a great spot. It is probably the most red and magic spot in the school. It is a spot of powerful imagining.
I am writing this after attending Lewis Parkins' farewell to life and friends. Thank you Lewis and your mother Nicci, your celebration has cleared my head. Lewis your short life of only 16 years has a great power, the power of one who was/is different. Your behaviour was not at all challenging, you were always a gracious and respectful person. You, by your appearance, certainly asked those around you to adjust their vision, to not presume, to see things a little differently. Thank you Lewis and thank you to all those who “challenge” our view.
With love and the deepest respect,