I have recently moved to the city of Sao Paulo. This is not a place made up of straight lines or direct routes. It is confusing and chaotic. There is a complex set of one way streets, no left turns, wrong turns and diversions. Just when I think I know which way I am going, I end up somewhere else. This can be confusing and sometimes scary when the taxi takes you along an unfamiliar street.
So far I have always found my way to the right destination. Plus, along the way I have been introduced to the sights of the city. Within the random chaos of the roads there are worlds to discover. Turn a corner and see some graffiti, another turn and a huge pink and blue stripped building appears in front of you. A bar spilling out on to the street packed with people talking and drinking, a restaurant with crisp white table cloths and sparkling glassware. A tiny art galley down a side street, a musician playing in a shop doorway, someone lying in the street, a clown performing to stopped traffic, a very tall man with a very small dog, the body of a brightly coloured bird. Yesterday I passed an open garage door to see a man lovingly working on the chassis of two tiny helicopters. These are not the sights I used to see in Brighton.
When you take yourself somewhere new and place yourself in a different situation you see things that you may never have noticed if you had stuck to the same route, the same life, the same path. Taking a different route can lead you to new adventures and new sights, but you have to be ready to look for them.
Most education systems are not set up to allow us to get lost, to discover new things, to follow a different route. Curriculums and syllabus are arranged in linear plans. Teachers can see their job as dragging their pupils along a carefully planned highway. How can we find a way to let the students, and ourselves, spend some time getting lost? Is there space or time to explore the streets around the subject? The best teachers I know are naturally inquisitive, interested people. They have a thirst and desire for knowledge which is shared with their pupils. Does the system allow us to take a voyage of discovery together? Do we get a chance to stop and admire the view?
I believe our role should only partly be fuelled by the constraints of the syllabus, the demands of the system. The criteria used to judge success is so focused on the end product that we have no chance to take pleasure in the journey. How sad that the young people we work with have no time to stop and take pleasure in the processes of discovery. Watch a baby or toddler exploring the world, they don´t always take the most direct route, they touch, taste, feel and experience everything in their path.
I am advocating finding space in the classroom to let the pupils find their own routes. I had to change my own practice. I wasn’t just holding their hands I was leading them step by step. I wasn´t giving them a chance to trip, fall, lose their way, turn the corner and find the garage with the two helicopters.
I watched a music teacher step back from his class week after week. The pupils were working in groups, arguing, falling out, threatening to leave, falling in love, falling out of love, getting frustrated, leading, following and crying but in amongst all this, moments of true collaborative creativity were happening. By allowing the pupils time and space to find their own route they learnt so much more along the way. I had to learn to step back from my classes, to let them get lost, to be there to support, to share my map, my directions, but only if they needed them.
In Sao Paulo I am slowly getting to know the roads I travel, the routes I follow. It is starting to get more familiar. I am beginning to feel less lost. But as I find my way I am trying to make sure my eyes are open to what is around me. To continue to notice the details, to sometimes allow myself to still get lost.