I don’t think I am alone in thinking Autumn is a special time of year, two of my favourite occurrences happen in this season; Halloween and the woodlands revealing their true colours. We work in an environment dominated by trees, from springs vibrant greens through the long, dry summer holding their hue. Until these few short weeks of dazzling reds, golds and oranges. Having quit with photosynthesis, discarding the dominating chlorophyll and showing us the hidden brilliance of their leaves for the briefest of moments before they too are allowed to fall away unveiling the bare bones of the unadorned branches.
We have an abundance of deciduous trees in our woods and some days it seems our young people are equally numerous. Working in a team, in the manner we do, allows us the opportunity to really get to know our students. Some we may work with regularly, some almost in passing at the morning and end of day gatherings by the fire. It is this personal connection that gives us our greatest strength and advantage. There are times of harmony, occasions of conflict, moments of hilarity and, if observed closely, flashes of vulnerable honesty.
The young people we work with often have waged great battles in their short lives, fighting hard to get to where they are on arriving at our gates. Like all warriors they wear battle scars, some with pride, some with shame. The behaviours they have adopted through self-preservation real or misunderstood, like old scar tissue becomes restricting and life-limiting. As we seek ways to help them adapt in more positive, realistic and fulfilling directions we need to be constantly alert for those flashes of honesty, those moments that reveal the true spirit hidden beneath.
A slight shift in perception
For many years I saw the Autumn colours as a small death, a sad prelude to Winter. A slight shift in perception and the knowledge that green is merely a function of survival, and it can be seen as a real revelation of the true beauty of trees. By genuinely engaging with our students, paying attention and above all, really listening to their thoughts and rationales we can learn which spark within them will ignite the greater fire of growth.
A little bit of knowledge and a slight shift in perception can show us magic and beauty all around us, it can also be a valuable lens through which we view the behaviours and issues affecting our young people.