After many people advising us that Bettakultcha would work well in schools we had the good fortune to have David Price OBE present at a couple of our events. David is a mover and shaker in the educational field and we chatted about the possibility of staging an event in a school. David gave us the contact details of Mark Moorhouse at the Matthew Moss school in Rochdale asserting that if any school was going to be bold enough to try the experiment, this would be it.
Such was Mark’s interest in Bettakultcha that he presented at the Leeds Town Hall event in January. The experience convinced him that the concept would work in schools.
After a couple of meetings, a date of May 8th 2013 was set to stage the event and we were recently invited into the school to finalise details.
At this meeting I was fully expecting Mark to give us a date when we could present the idea to the learners but to my surprise he said the briefing session was going to occur immediately after our meeting. This was ‘random slide challenge’ time for me as I’m old school when it comes to conveying a new idea to a group of people and I like to be prepared with slides, stories and props. We had absolutely nothing prepared in advance although I had my trusty cup and spoon with me.
We had sixteen learners who had expressed an interest in being involved after Mark had told them about the concept. They were of mixed everything – ability, backgrounds, cultures. Mark introduced Richard and myself and away we went. It quickly became apparent to me that just talking to them as a group – however sincere we might be - wasn’t making much of an impression; these were young learners presumably used to video games and instant messaging. I got the cup and spoon ready for a demonstration.
Using the same patter as I normally use at a regular Bettakultcha event (it was only afterwards that I realised I should have checked if everyone was familiar with what the word ‘metaphor’ meant) I demonstrated the physics of gravity. Immediately, I sensed that interest had picked up and we even had a volunteer come forward and try the ‘trick’ for herself. Fortunately, it worked perfectly.
Lesson one learnt: use as many props/visual aids as possible wherever possible.
More explanations and descriptions followed and Richard started to list on a whiteboard some of the subjects that the learners were ‘interested’ in presenting. As the list grew, a quote I had come across years ago came to mind – “Tell me how you’ll measure me, and I’ll tell you how I’m going to behave.” The list seemed to echo this sentiment exactly.
One boy had put ‘charity’ as his subject. In the one-to-one sessions that followed I observed Mark talk to the boy. “Does charity make you feel excited whenever you think about it? Do you get up in the morning and think ‘Great, another day where I can do charity’?” “No.” The boy replied. “Then why do you want to present about it..?” asked Mark.
The learners weren’t getting it. More work was needed to destroy the perception of ‘worthy subjects’ that the learners imagined is what we were after.
After another twenty minutes or so of informal discussions amongst themselves and with us individually, it appeared some of the learners were starting to suspect that they really weren’t involved in some new, clever educational initiative, and that maybe they could cover what they were genuinely interested in without being measured by any results.
At the end of the session, the three of us felt that progress had been made and that the seeds of creativity had been planted. We await the germination with keen interest.