OMATAS Blog

We Are An Effective Transformational Space

The notion of helping someone has always fascinated me. I myself seldom seek help, especially for things I know I can do on my own, even if it kills me. This way of thinking is not uncommon, especially amongst women and is probably a result of the childhoods we had.

More recently, I have learned that it is not a sign of weakness but a sign of strength. If I am being honest, I am not a complete convert and never will be, at least not for me. However, in this almost-there state of being willing to ask for help and receive it I rest very comfortably in giving help.

I seldom give beggars my coins and I don’t do tithing, nor do I donate to charities. Instead, I help the person I find myself next to that looks to be in need of the help I am able to provide.

I like the idea of paying it forward and never knowing how it might all unfold. I wonder if at the end of my life I might get a glimpse of the impact I have had on others, and hopefully also get to see the flowing trail of deeds that has me somewhere on the path between start and end.

It is because of this love of mystery and wonder at the unknown scope of impact that I kept my gate open during a hail storm after pulling my car in for a lady trying to dash up the road trying to spend less time being rained on. Her and I, total strangers, stood under my carport watching the downpour. When it eased I gave her my umbrella and she went on her way. An elder man had joined us after noticing the respite, I gave him a lift to his work up the road.

To bring this tale toward Omatas, you will see this way of thinking in a lot of what we do. Most especially in the way in which we create a safe transformation space for our clients, children and their parents. On re-reading Stephen Cope’s book, Yoga and The Quest For The True Self, I want to highlight here his ideas and how I have brought these into Omatas and the way we do things.

As a school we are not aiming for just remediation of academic content, we are reaching far beyond this into transformation. Michaelangelo said of his statues of David that he was not creating David from the stone but chipping away at the pieces that were not David. This is what we are doing. Your child is perfectly formed as they are, they have their true self already inside of them, our job is to chip away at the parts that are not serving them, that are stopping them from their potential.

An important component of this is to make sure our school space is transformational. Maria Montessori spoke about the environment being the third teacher and she was right.

We’re aiming for transformation beyond expectation, real change that blows you away. 

“Effective transformational spaces create the conditions for our growth and make growth all but inevitable.

“Many environments proclaim themselves to be transformational spaces. But many of these failed to provide the real conditions needed for maturation.” ~ Stephen Cope

I have taken the 8 qualities espoused in Stephen’s work and embedded them into Omatas.

  1. We create a temporary refuge from the onslaught of demands and expectations that cause us to lose ourselves.
  2. We create safety through constancy in relationships.
  3. We encourage creative thinking, experimentation and making mistakes.
  4. We use transformational tools, artefacts of safety and anchoring.
  5. We do not give power to the tools or programmes or the teacher, the power of change is in the child.
  6. We do not tell anyone who they are but support every child and family in finding out who they are for themselves.
  7. No one has to be perfect, good-enough will do.
  8. We support all paths of transformation, we are only a single voice in the child’s life.

1. We create a quality of refuge, a safe temporary haven for children and their families, from the demands being placed on them that they cannot yet meet. Actively allowing the state of “not knowing”, both in students parents and teachers, makes room for acceptance of what is, so that we have space to create what can be.

2. We create safety through constancy in relationships. Our trial period before enrollment gives us a chance to see if the teacher can be a constant, reliable, non-abandoning and non-reactive mentor for your child. If this relationship is safe it allows the child to accept what they know about themselves and start looking at what is hidden or unknown so that obstacles can be overcome and their true self and true characters can multiply.

3. We encourage creative thinking, experimentation and making mistakes. We reduce the attachment to the outcome of learning and place it squarely in the process of learning. In this way we make the focus about developing the skills that will carry the child for a lifetime.

4. We use transformational tools, artefacts of safety and anchoring. Our school toy-policy is simple, if a child needs something they can have it. Our entire aim is to transform a child toward themselves and the only way to do this is to support the finding of the structure within the child, not outside of them. Artefacts are powerful transition objects, they hold us safely and are an extension of us. They are at times part of the very being of the child, as necessary as breathing in times of turmoil and as the child heals we see them leaving their artefacts and running off to play, or getting distracted by interesting work and letting the blanket or toy go. These objects become part of the change process.

5. We do not give power to the tools or programmes or the teacher, the power of change is in the child. “It is the utmost importance that teacher not be deified. Nothing undermines the potential of an environment to be truly transformational more than a teacher who is seen to be perfect, all-knowing, or ‘the ultimate authority’.” – Stephen Cope. The best teachers are examples and guides, they make space for reflection and growth and mistakes. They live the values and character of transformation and are transitional, they must set you free.

6. We do not tell anyone who they are but support every child and family in finding out who they are for themselves. There is no perfect Omatas student, there is no singular aim to mold anyone into anything. As with The Statue of David, our aim is to provide a transformational space where your child can set themselves free. We provide techniques and practices and lessons that give every child full, direct and immediate experiences of themselves. Exploring their capacities and helping them to see the truths and then giving them the tools to continue to explore who they are.

7. No one has to be perfect, good-enough will do. Anyone who thinks they have the perfect or only answer should be avoided. There is never a singular way. “The most effective transitional environments make explicit the view that they are only supporting and facilitating an internal developmental …” – Stephen Cope. Your child only needs me to be good enough for this leg of their journey, they don’t need me to give them the answers as much as they need me to show them that they can find the answers they need. Empowered students who know how to learn and think and take care of things and take care of themselves and figure out a maths problem that has them stumped and find a way to ask the teacher for help and use the tools they have to overcome a challenging test – are children who will have the tools forever.

8. We support all paths of transformation, we are only a single voice in the child’s life. I have a saying – the thirteenth person – it means that a child has to hear something many times and from many people or in many ways before they are ready to really hear it. Sometimes, as a school we are only the first voice and we have to let them go so that they can get to all of the voices they need in order to reach where they are going. Other times, we can be quite number of those voices as we navigate what is needed. But no matter what we do, that last voice is the clincher, the one that the child (or parent) is ready to hear. And that last voice was made possible by the twelve that came before it. If we think we are the only way, or the only ones that can throw back the stranded starfish into the sea, then we will prevent a lot of starfish from being helped.

This is a lot to say. Our work as a school isn’t to put a bandaid on the wound, it is to provide the right conditions for the damage to be healed. Without these eight components we cannot truly provide the opportunity for transformation. And that is the point of Omatas, to transform lives.

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