Confusion and indecision lead to inaction. You want action.
I am glad I got that sentence out of the way. Now I can begin. If you find yourself going around in circles there is only one option: do something! If you are lost in the wilderness you will never get out of there until you take action. Studying the rocks and pebbles around you is not going to help because the scenery is going to change once you start moving.
Perhaps you do not know what to do. Here are some suggestions.
- Put out a call. Find out if there is interest in your local area for action. It may be there are more people around you who share your ideas. Anything from an ad in the paper to a poster at the library or health food store will do. We can help with this.
- Talk to your customers and listen to what they tell you. You are looking for customers not collaborators. You need to know what the people you will be serving want so that what you are offering responds to a real need. Refine your message in the light of what you learn. You can do this right now!
- Keep it local. You can waste a lot of time investigating what is happening elsewhere in the world but schools are for children. Unless you have the capital to invest in an international school you are going to have to attract parents of children who live in your locality. Arrange a meeting with parents.
- Organise an event to put your ideas into practice. Don’t save all your ideas for the one big gamble that is a school. You could arrange a short course for children in their holidays, for example, or start an out-of-school club.
- Look for a building. If you have the ideas and the building you are privileged and can go for it. If you don’t you need to find that space. Leonard started his school in a church hall. He made a presentation to the church committee and said, “We’ll maintain this building for you if you let us use it during the week. We’ll keep it clean and organised so you can keep using it when you need it.” A church hall, farm buildings, unused office space, a disused school: get out and investigate the possibilities. You can still plan to build a school, but it is much easier to start with something that already exists.
- Network. As you gain confidence and experience be prepared to seek ideas and advice from other people. Cut loose anyone who starts telling you how to run your project, but be prepared to listen. Learn how to state your ideas clearly and succinctly and then be quiet and listen.
Seek help with the law. Local laws and bye-laws put heavy burdens on education. You will need to find allies who can help you through this legislation. From building codes, to fire safety, to child protection, to mandated curriculum, governments exercise fierce control at all levels of education. A friend in the town hall is worth more to you than ten philosophers of education.
- Use volunteer help. The optimism, energy and free time of young people who are studying to be teachers can feed your project. Find out now if there are university courses where they offer units on democratic education. Get in touch with the professors there. Young people travel around the world doing volunteer projects- on organic farms, for example. How much better for a young educationalist would it be to help you with your project?
Movement is the Essence of the Thing: Action
These are all simple ways to start moving. Movement is the essence of the thing. I started this post by saying that confusion and indecision lead to inaction. The reverse is that clarity and decision lead to action. So, you need to clarify your ideas, decide on a direction and start moving.
I have always said to my own children, “Don’t just think about it; do it!” My daughter wanted to work in museums. She could have just signed up for a course, but I encouraged her to get in touch with curators and ask how to go about it. They said, “Study, yes, but experience also: in museums and on archaeological digs.” So she did voluntary work in museums whilst she was finishing her degree and went on four archaeological digs. She moved forward with her plan.
When you start doing something the territory changes. When I go hiking in the mountains I prepare myself by studying maps and possible routes, but I cannot imagine what the view or terrain will be like and have to use my experience, common sense and local help at times to find the right path. I go prepared to make small changes in my plan. But I will never get to this point unless I take the first step out of the door, or turn back at the first obstacle.
To finish I should say that my daughter decided, after gaining all that experience, that she did not want to work in museums after all. “I still love history, archaeology and museums,” she said, “but I realise now that it is not what I want to dedicate my working life to.” This is something to celebrate; it does not mean that experience was misdirected or pointless. You may find that your ideas change. You may find that your new experience will lead you in a different direction.
But you will never get to that point unless you start doing something, unless you take those first steps out the door.
As Ogden Nash says in his poem Portrait of the Artist as a Prematurely Old Man: “you never get any fun out of the things you haven’t done…the suitable things that you didn’t do give you a lot more trouble than the unsuitable things that you did.”