Mantle of the Expert 2: Of Oceans and Bottles

First Attempt in Learning
My first proper go at Mantle, post-residential, was the epitome of F.A.I.L. I had decided early on that I wanted to feel my way into Mantle rather than think my way in.

Having experienced the 'Jagged Hole' Mantle on the residential, I decided to create something similar, a short 'test' fiction, to try the process in a short, low-risk session. Our topic this half ten is 'Blue Abyss' and I'm focussing on the human impact on the Ocean (pollution and litter).

The commisioner: a fisherman whose nets are filling up with litter
The commission: to help him to catch more fish to feed his family
The responsible team: I wasn't sure!

I used an Iconic starter (more on this another time), using blue material to invoke the sea. I invited the children to sit in a circle around the material and asked them if they were interested in solving a problem. I briefly explained what we were doing and told them they would need their imagination turned on. I asked them to watch and listen carefully for changes that wouldn't show them that I was no longer Me, but that I had become someone else, someone that needed their help. I used an idea stolen from Luke to roll my sleeves up (or down) as a visual indicator of stepping in and out of role and attempted a 'twilight' role, where the teacher slides in and out of character, the lines blurred.

Explaining that I was a fisherman who relied on fish to feed my family, I emptied a bag of rubbish onto the 'sea' and told the children that every day my nets were full of more and more litter. I asked them, cap in hand, whether they could help me solve this problem and feed my family.

The children proceeded to ask questions and make sensible suggestions. Most of the class engaged and I was surprised how quickly they referred time as a fisherman and I was aware that some children referenced 'your family' and 'your boat', suggesting they were in the fiction. Their suggestions were good ideas: writing to MPs, starting a campaign. They gave more than they would have in a simple hands-up traditional lesson.

However, at times I felt silly, it felt like quite a risk. I was out of my comfort zone, did the children feel that? I had to come firmly out of role to deal with some behaviour, although the class self-regulated quite well ('He said to use your imagination'). I felt that, probably because I hadn't planned thoroughly, the fiction wasn't going anywhere. It felt rushed, whereas with Luke and Tim there was obvious, intentional moments of silence and weighted pauses. The cognition time was lacking, partly because of my concerns with engaging them all.

The main problem, however, was that the fiction wasn't enough to induce concern in the children, we stopped at 'investment'. They wanted to help but weren't desperate to do so (which maybe explains the behaviour). There were glimmers of concern but I hadn't invested enough in the character to hammer this home.

All that said, though, I got 'the feeling' and I recognised it in a handful of the children. Actually I recognised it in children who I had assumed (wrongly) would find the process difficult. As a first attempt in learning, it wasn't roaring, but there were definitely some purrs.


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