My students have created and continue to modify a game called PEOOTLT. Pronounced “pee-olt”, it stands for Push Each Other Off The Leaf Things.
There are these green, leaf shaped platforms that circle an oak tree and are just far enough from one another to encourage leaping from one to the other. On some of them are small walls that jut up from the middle. Some are pointy, some oddly shaped.
I’m not too sure of all the rules of the game but it involves making it across all of the platforms without getting pushed off by another participant. It’s evolved to have specific entry points and teleportation.
Since before the game’s inception, kids have gotten hurt just leaping across and landing poorly. At least twice a day someone hurts their self. The inclusion of pushing one another has not lowered the injury rate but it also hasn’t raised it.
After a particularly harmful day, it was brought up during Change-Up that PEOOTLT is dangerous and that it shouldn’t be played anymore. There was huge disagreement amongst the kids who enjoyed playing and one stated how the risk you take in playing is that you might fall or bump your knee. The student continued, stating that those who don’t want to get hurt and don’t want to play shouldn’t play but shouldn’t block those who do from being able to.
The facilitators have not participated much in the conversation with the students outside of the facilitating. It’s interesting to see them have this conversation about consenting to a game that they risk injuring themselves. Though we want to, we haven’t banned the game nor the simple leaping across. That seems like the easy way out. We’re responsible for their health and safety, sure, but they’re kids and you simply can’t eliminate the potential and actuality for injury and harm.
Someone could argue that as adults we should do the best we can to decrease the risks and certainly not allow for increase. I would argue for the student’s ability to rationalize and consent to activities that may be dangerous. I would argue for students being responsible for their bodies and having the faculty to decide for themselves whether or not it’s wise to engage in certain activities. We could argue all day.
In the end, I know PEOOTLT is dangerous and the kids know it too. Because they’re aware they’re also held responsible. To me, the lesson of autonomy and self-responsibility is far more important & valuable than what lesson might be taught when you require kids to obey a safety mandate because fear of increased risks.
Working Hard & Hardly Working
Heartwood ALC has been open and running for three weeks now. I’m stoked to have accomplished this though I haven’t really been able to or maybe just haven’t allowed myself to deeply feel and celebrate this. I’ve been working pretty much nonstop since ALF Summer 2016. Fundraisers, board meetings, staff meetings, buying resources, planning. I’ve been on GO GO GO!
This has not been without its challenges. In fact, it’s been full of them. Though I, to some degree, thrive on conflicts to solve so I am hardly complaining about it.
Fair to myself to say that I’ve been productive. I enjoy being in the zone all the time right up until the unforeseen exhaustion hits me. Some of it was due to housing instability, some related to excessive behavior management issues at school, but it’s mostly due to not providing myself a moment to take a break and refuel. I’m having to learn to let go of this notion of and guilt for not being hyper productive every waking hour of the day. It’s incredibly unrealistic.
Temporary-Space-Making & Awareness
We are currently and temporarily utilizing a shared space in the Clarkston Community Center while our dedicated space undergoes renovation and cleaning. This means that we have limited storage and have to reset the room at the end of the day since the center rents out its rooms to other people and organizations in the community. Our temporary rooms are also spread out and near the community center’s front office. We have to take extra great care that the students are respecting the fact that we’re in a shared space where people are working. This has been a hard practice. While it’s hard and annoying to always be concerned with the kids making too much noise and being disruptive, I think this practice will get them to be more aware of their surroundings and more intentional about their behavior in different spaces. This has led to many talks about being aware of our surroundings and respecting the community. It’s also revealed a lot of old Sudbury habits that need to be undone in the kids and myself.
Me and Julia’s working relationship is getting significantly better with each passing week. This is possibly what I’m most excited about. I just love working on and with a great capable team. A team with a lot of trust, connection, and understanding helps the workflow seem effortless. We have Trellos the we hash things out on and have been meeting every week to review our own CMB and To-Do list. It’s been lovely.
This Is Hard Worth It Work
The days have been pretty intense and tiring. It’s been a serious chore trying to balance being the responsible adult supervision in the room with just being and playing with the kids. Running the school and connecting with the kids simultaneously will take some getting use to.
At the end of each day though, when I’m looking at pictures to post on the parent FB group, I tend to let out a breath of relief and swoon over the kids. Though my mind sometimes gets too worked up, when it’s relaxed I’m quite optimistic and sometimes very sure about how great this experiment is going to go.