EduCaring & TeamPlay Ground
EduCaring is Lifelong Learning, willingly unlearning and relearning to grow with the flow from inside out.
It’s time to meet the complex challenges facing our global learning environments straight on. Insuring the health and well-being of the Future —the Children— means putting teachers first, EDUCARING is a special experience, a necessary and well deserved time out. It’s an opportunity to go inside and renew your body and heart, reconnecting the ‘dots’ and reviving your spirit.
If you’re a teacher, we honour you as one of the planet’s unsung heroes. Without your commitment civilisation fails.We know how hard you work, and appreciate that you do your best to call forth authenticity from your students every day. We also realise that the formal dimension of education —the academics— isn’t the hardest part of your day.
We know the toughest stuff is the softest stuff, dealing with the emotional and relational challenges come to school with your learners, administration, and colleagues everyday.
Connect to learn more about EduCaring; to inquire about participating in a course; training to become a facilitator; or to become an ambassador in your community or region.
Dr. Bruce Pittman, engineer at NASA, Mt. View, California writes:, “This is exactly the kind of 21st century educational approach that we should be implementing to prepare the next generation for the challenges that they will face. I had the chance to discuss this model with several of my NASA colleagues and they all immediately saw the potential that such a program could have in addressing the severe educational challenges that we face today. I look forward to learning more about the program and I stand ready to assist in any way that I can.”
If you’re looking for inspiration and the renewal of hope, continue reading about the history of the EduCaring project.
Loving to Learning, Learning to Lead
When a student knows they belong learning is something they love, land leading is something they learn.
TeamPlay Ground (TPG) provides teachers with a new kind of classroom management practice, one that operates solely in the social dimension, independent yet purposefully supportive all academic directives. This effective social application is radical in many ways. Most notably is that we can scientifically advocate for 33 learners and 1 teacher; and that it turns responsibility for the social dimension of their learning environment over to the learners themselves. TPG focuses on global imperatives and cultural traditions and all ‘roles’ and ‘tasks’ are culturally determined locally. Roles and responsibilities are designed for blended classrooms, challenged, average and gifted students, as well as learners with physical, emotional and mental challenges. They quickly discover why ‘leadership’ is an old paradigm, one that relegates the masses to a caste of ‘followers’ that has an almost infinite number of sub-castes.
During the school year, students are assigned one of eight roles, accepting this responsibility for a week with most having a different ‘task’ every day. The TPG calendar makes sure every learner fulls every roles and gets to do all 33 of the tasks. Students express feeling a sense of ‘inpowerment’, as it unites the diversity of personalities, temperaments and abilities. A rich sense of co-creation arises and classrooms become cooperative and healthy places kids want to be part of! Recognising that there are two types of learners —students are cognitively oriented and usually think about something and then do it whether they love doing it or not; and intuitive learners — kids who love doing what they love to do, and seldom waste time (in their mind) thinking about it. Cognitive students have few problems with testing but the same cannot be said of an intuitive learner, those who are more artistically or musically minded. How these two types of learners adapt and interact socially is often a universe apart. When one sees the other given the authority and the responsibility for a role they never imagines the other succeeding at, an increase in respect arises as all learned through the process.
Emotional progress was far and beyond what we dared to imagine as kids talked about loving learning, and said they were learning to appreciate, understand and love those they had judged as outsiders. Classrooms are transformed into effective, self-organising environments where learning was fun, and cooperative discovery replaced unhealthy, socially driven rivalry, and bullying and social mobbing soon became a thing of the past. Unity in diversity is something magical to behold, especially when the learning endures!
All templates and tools for TeamPlay Ground are free to teachers who complete the EduCaring experience. Note: time and again it has been our experience that while the ‘game’ sounds easy, it fails when the teachers do not personally understand the dynamic principles at play that make the ‘game' workable.
How Belonging Began
On the Strength of A Dream
Emeritus superintendent of schools in Mirano, Venice Italy, Dr. Alessio Morassut did not go into the field of education for money, fame or prestige. He was called. No matter how bad things got, abandoning his Purpose was never an option. As a superintendent, his motto was ‘Non scholae, sed vitae discimus!’ ‘Not for school, but for life we learn!’ and his personal mandate was to help teachers and kids transcend curriculum. A true social architect, his lifetime of labour was one of love, a role model who showed why it takes courage to pay attention to inner knowing, and why one who leads must acknowledge and respect that quality in another. New opportunities to develop the school and encourage both teachers and students took him outside of the box, knowing it was urgent to eradicate fear in every form. As director he did not suppress his hearts, nor did he ignore what his teachers, students and parents said. He struggled between the duelling mandates of parent and admin, knowing his task was to help his daughter and students build themselves into healthy adults. In July 2003 he decided to be the first to implement BeLonging and scheduled the course, 'EduCaring: Teachers First for his eight ELS teachers, an experience that focuses on the individual, recognising that ‘teacher’ is just one of many hats these true heroes wear.
The first of many courses in Mirano, Educaring is taking time to go inside to renew their body, heart, and build healthy attitudes that revive their spirit. The reason why this is critical is that because without healthy, happy and sane teachers, civilisation fails. Teachers discover the reason why the Belonging classroom management game, TeamPlay Ground works. Like every teacher, Alessio carried an enormous debt, learning that PhDs in courage, tenacity and compassion are hard earned. Alessio dared to call forth what was inside his teachers as Lifelong learners. They discovered a new way to manage the classroom, understanding that order is not about running a tight ship; it’s building healthy relationships. They learned the academic dimension isn’t the hardest stuff; it’s the soft stuff that yearns to emerge and only does so in the presence of harmony. Teachers discovered what makes them want to come to school and stay even as chaos makes other run away and stay away. Healthy relationships are built from inside out, and they discover why diversity is essential to harmony; they remember that authenticity is found in natural abilities; they learn to co-create to reduces stress; they discover why they are integral parts of a whole system, and how when they willingly cultivate perspective and understanding what they can accomplish together is imaginable. Alessio’s dream for BeLonging, ‘Da Mirano al Mondo’, 'from Mirano to the World’ is coming true today, and the program continues with teachers in his community.
“When I grasped the deep meaning and rigorous science underlying the courses and classroom game Lynnclaire designed, all built on the Mereon principles, I realised that this was the opportunity of a lifetime. Inevitably, I recall Guilford’s cognitive cube, Bloom’s taxonomy of educational aims, the scale of the fundamental needs of man according to Maslow and Vandevelde’s analysis of teaching/learning situations, the analysis of class dynamics according to DuPont. All were contributions to the sciences of education, but I believe BeLonging is a contribution that goes beyond all of them for originality, essential organicity and realisability. This an ‘inside-out’, inner-as primary driven social curriculum is the only one of its kind, aimed at presenting the role of the teacher as a facilitator of learning. This work is powerful in that it orients students and teachers alike toward a fundamental principle of self-organisation and from there to cooperation. Experiencing what it is to be natural is the clearest and most direct path to opening minds and hearts. We realised that through our willingness to be real with one another, vulnerable rather than shielded, that we most powerfully discovered our shared humanity. This willingness freed us to evolve the spirit of something greater. BeLonging is a new call to educational action. It starts with ‘authenticity’, and ends with ‘experiences that generate respect for others’, truth that rings with crystalline clarity. In the Mereon taxonomy of educational purposes, every word has been thought through with enlightening innovation, communicating the possibility for happiness. Belonging allows the deep and inalienable rights of everyone to rise to the surface. Belonging provides proof that education is the soul of planetary sustainability, quickly teaching us to recognise the difference between natural and normal. I have long remembered the quote, ‘Non scholae, sed vitae discimus!' Not for school, but for life we learn!
Today, educators and learners alike are facing very difficult times, physically, emotionally, and mentally. No one goes into the field of education to make money; it is a calling. As a teacher and a school superintendent, I am a little unusual, given that I search outside the system for new opportunities to develop the school, and encourage and motivate both my teachers and our students. In recent years I’ve come to realise the urgency of eradicating fear in all its overt and covert forms, this leading to my knowing that we as teachers cannot suppress what our own hearts say, nor can we afford to ignore what the children are saying.
The purpose that this project addresses is a new call to educational action. It starts with ‘authenticity’, and ends with ‘experiences that generate respect for others’ ringing with crystalline clarity. In the Mereon taxonomy of educational purposes, I feel every word has been thought through with enlightening innovation, communicating the possibility for happiness. With simplicity and wisdom, BeLonging provides a means for allowing the deep and inalienable rights of every student and educator rise to the surface. This programme provides new proof that education is the soul of planetary sustainability, quickly teaching us to recognise the difference between natural, and normal. Talk about a miracle!
Every opportunity to work with Lynnclaire and the Mereon team focuses us on deepening our learning, exploring new methods of communication based on what is natural in a truly whole system. They continue to impart a deep understanding by reminding us that HOW we say what we say, the tones we use, has the power to link our hearts and minds or break us apart. Every single participant, teachers, parents and community leaders, report that they have come to see new perspectives of themselves and others, experiencing the unity that is the foundation beneath their obvious diversity. The many weeks we have spent together have been occasions to celebrate as we came to feel and reflect a new harmony, honouring the essential beauty and unity within one another. We continue to discover new skills for self-organising, individually and as members of a group, while learning innovative ways to cooperate and accept both solo and joint responsibilities for planning.Lynnclaire has designed many different interactive exercises that allow us to experience how simple it is for the authenticity of every teacher and student to safely rise to the surface, and be voiced. In learning anew how to nurture and improve the informal dimension of school life, the emotions, affections and relationships with colleagues, we as course participants began to link our intuitive and cognitive intelligences, honouring our subjective feelings and the objectively shared reality, recognising aspects of ourselves that are simultaneously spiritual and human.
Every time she and team members are in Italy, the courses spill over into lunch and dinner, as she selflessly invests hours in nurturing our spirits and our one soul, helping us balance our personal energy as well as our analytical, organisational skills. Every moment flows together, the time evaporating as we experience a lasting harmonising of our relational dynamics that lead us to higher levels of self-respect and a deeper appreciation for others. The benefits are personal as well as for us as educators and human beings; this program has done far more than make us better educators; it has made us better parents, spouses and friends.
By reconnecting with our individual authenticity, we continue to expand our own creativity while reinvigorating the remarkable spirit of co-creation. The joy that comes in this work is based upon her insistence that elementary principles of organisation and education are FUN, ‘fun’ being the first syllable in the word fundamental. In requiring that FUN comes before ‘mental’, we have incredibly found the cure for ‘burn-out’!
It is an honour to work with the team and to have been privileged to inaugurate this fascinating adventure in education. We love hosting those who come to observe and participate with what is happening in our lives as well as our schools, and we have enjoyed visitors from America, Denmark, Germany, Spain, Switzerland, Canada, Croatia and England!
Can you imagine what it is for me as a director to have parents calling to tell me that their children are happy to come to school? Imagine what it is like to hear parents say that they want ALL of their children to be involved in this project! It is incredible to walk down the halls of my schools and feel and see the changes; there are smiles on everyone’s faces. Even the school auditor from Rome one day asked me, ‘Why are your schools so different? What is making everyone happy?’
We have learned that as educators we are social architects, and it is up to us to work together to design a new civilisation. It is time for us to relearn how to care for our children, and allow them to learn to be authentic so they can take care of themselves and care for the planet. It is time to stop coercing them, and in a new way, begin to respect them as human beings. Belonging’s positive impact in education and moving from Mirano into the world has long been our dream. Here in Mirano, with the BeLonging we inaugurated a new kind of literacy program. It is one that teaches us the languages of the heart and mind. It shows us how to read and speak our own emotional and mental languages and those of others. It is showing us how to write new truths into our physical worlds by mastering skills that allow us to with wisdom and discernment, support personal transformation that leads to holistic global sustainability.
Working and playing with Lynnclaire, the Mereon team and my incredible teachers has led us all to a new commitment; we are dedicated to understanding. This program continues to bring deep honour to us as individuals, to our families, our schools, our community, and to all Italy. By bringing our different experiences together, we have opened the rare gift of understanding, discovering the energy that continues to deeply unite our minds and hearts. The first assessment of the project, written by the Belonging Commission, says, ‘Through TeamPlay Ground learners learn and learn to lead; some learn best by thinking, by doing, and by loving; while others learn best by loving, doing and only later thinking. I want to express all my abiding gratitude for the logic and creative insights of this work, and to Lynnclaire for first sharing these ‘inlightening’ thoughts with the educators, children, community leaders and people of Mirano, Italy.
As Director of the Mirano Elementary Public Schools, I face very difficult times. However, I am proud of our community for recognising the vital importance of this work. Every opportunity has proven to be a chance to grow personally and thereby to become an effective catalyst for assisting our teachers who work so hard with the children, helping them to see how by working together, in our individual wholeness we each play a significant part in making a positive difference in our world, both inner and outer. What Belonging has brought out of our teachers, learners, schools and our community is almost unimaginable. My dream for BeLonging is ‘Da Mirano al Mondo’ , ‘From Mirano to the World.’
2007 Copenhagen Index Award
Belonging and TeamPlay Ground was a finalist for the 2007 Copenhagen Index Award, nominated as a project benefiting an entire community.
Dancing Like Stardust
When the first Educaring experience was finished in Mirano, teachers didn’t want to leave! Dinner and wine was brought in, and as the party continued they decided to write a love letter to the children of the world, using the eleven life lessons they learned that week. Within days ‘Dancing Like Stardust’ was translated into 17 languages and over the next months, Lynnclaire illustrated each lesson. You can help Belonging grow global, fulfilling Alessio’s dream, by purchasing this beautiful book on our website. Proceeds go to support projects in developing countries.
The 2017 Inspiring School Leader Award
Cambridge University, Cambridge, England
It was a great honour to have Dr. Alessio Morassut nominated and win the Inspiring School Leader Award, and a privilege to spend an amazing weekend at Cambridge University, St. John’s College, with remarkable individuals from around the world.
Wise teachers are true sages, and knows that once a child —of any age— dares to stretch, reach, and take hold of something new and noble, growth is exponential.
Alessio, the Belonging team, your teachers, students, parents and community will always celebrate you, the part you played in building the community of Mirano, and your role in this work.
Your friendship and wisdom reminds us that curiosity drives and satisfies the thirst for learning, and that love must flow for today’s learners to want to become tomorrow’s teachers.
“What’s Love got to do with education?”
By June Gorman, Santa Cruz, California, USA
First, to answer the question in the title; everything.
The following commentary is as promised to my colleagues, Jytte and Peter McNair, and Lynnclaire Dennis (visionary/designer and force of the BeLonging Projects), as well as for my own records of potential models of Transformative Education (TEF-Global.org) for a sustainable world wherever and in whatever form and multiple models I can find that kind of education.
My evaluation and assessment was done over the 4 days spent in Mirano, Italy with BeLonging administrators, teachers, classrooms, and most importantly, with the children of those classrooms. This evaluation/assessment is in two parts; both are dominantly qualitative and completely subjective, based on my 30+ years teaching in diverse settings in the USA, and with students from over 120 different natural language/cultural backgrounds. Part I is a commentary of my experience, an expression of gut/visceral understandings, observations, responses, and reactions. It encompasses some key elements I believe are essential to transformative education and how to measure/assess them in a meaningful way.
THE CLASSROOM CLIMATE: LEARNING JOY
As a credentialed teacher of primary and middle school in the US of over 30 years, and more importantly, a lover of learning in every form in my life for over 50 years, I have long thought about, analyzed and tried to put words to the critical context of joyful learning, born as essential into every human child.
My personal tragedy was seeded in the strong knowing that the love of learning is absolutely critical to a loving, vibrant, healthy life and inter-dependent world and yet watched it, even from my own earliest observations, crushed and fatally wounded in so many.
By far, the majority. Increasingly, I saw that joyful pleasure in the very fundamental role of teaching human loving and learning minds – designed to be happiest learning from others and their natural world together– wither and become corrosive and destructive.
Damage is often unintended, and it is this insidiousness that erodes of loving-learning.
This became increasingly true as I observed it, in the US after the people’s and educational movements towards more freedom, creativity and “whole child” learning instituted there and in many modern parts of the world, in the 1960’s and early 70’s. After an initial fertile “flowering” of these movements and the educational models sprung up to reject strait-lacing conformity, the marketization of all creativity, and the control of society’s systems by a wealthy industrial educated elite – who seemed to get more wealthy with increasing conflict and wars they promoted for their own profit – a counter reaction was definitely strategized and put in place by this very same elite group, some very sincerely focused explicitly on regaining control of society and education to save it from what they saw as a direct “Attack On American Free Enterprise System” (http://law.wlu.edu/powellarchives/page.asp?pageid=1251 )
Much of what I observe come to pass in the years since as I started my own analysis of what was being changed in education and by whom when I began at UC Berkeley in 1976, has saddened and horrified me in its resulting damage to the love, joy and safety in every human classroom. I have spent my life and now my entire career, in search of those who saw and could formulate a different, more natural, more necessary path of human learning – focused on and directed by, in many cases, the children themselves.
Having seen many models of education in my career, and developed many of my own, my focus has been on what is most necessary to create emotional and social intelligence. From my perspective, this is key to developing a connected human problem-solver, children who grow into adulthood with the interdisciplinary skills necessary to create a truly viable and sustainable world. The BeLonging Project that I observed in Mirano, Italy is rare, a natural program that is innately infused with these premises and embodies this very kind of learning. To say that I “saw” these principles in action is insufficient. Like all truly healthy models of human connection and empathetic learning with joy, it is more accurate to say that the whole truth is revealed through what one feels and experiences with all of our senses. In the Mirano classrooms where the teachers were trained by Lynnclaire Dennis in how the model, based on the science of the Mereon Matrix, is applied to one’s person life, I was able to literally see and feel a living, breathing, joyful system of learning. It was a thriving vibrant system as contrasted with my more painful experiences observing more controlled and managed classrooms. Here, order is self-organized and organic as compared with children who are often forced into silence and speak mostly hesitantly, usually looking for either approval or permission. In BeLonging, the learners are able to do their task and confidently voice their own thoughts and ideas, as necessary input into the whole process. Having the ability to see energy move and feel when it is blocked, especially in learning environments, it was amazing to witness the technicoloured rainbow I perceived, as learning energy vibrated in the classrooms we visited (5 in total). The contrast between classrooms not using the BeLonging Project system and those where the kids were building a TeamPlay Ground was dramatic. The latter were noticeably duller, and far less vibrant.
The Belonging Project is indeed a “systems” model of a classroom that focuses on the most essential and often misunderstood components of any true human learning environment; it is a place where security and safety allow one to identify self and from there participate to create a truly connected context with others. My entire career has been centered on giving voice to this natural learning system which flies in the face of most ‘commonly accepted wisdom’. The key to learning anything well in any context is 1) having the inner sense of security to trust your own mind; 2) to freely own original and creative ideas; and 3) to trust you will be allowed and encouraged by others who are learning in concert with you. In these “standardized” times this is the rarest of classroom climates to find, as most are filled with stress-driven and stress-inducing fragmented subject matter tests, labels and quantitative measuring that ignores the human soul. It also contradicts what we are increasingly learning from neuroscience about how the human brain learns best: by allowing each individual their own unique internal “framing”
model). Simply put, children learn best if they are safe and free, taught in a diverse, loving environment that encourages “differences” and accepts, even celebrates all.
That is the contrast I saw in the Mirano classrooms! Teachers took the 3-5 day training course to learn how to transform their own lives from the inside out and this is what makes TeamPlay Ground work! This “game” of responsibilities, roles and related tasks, is relatively simple. It is based on the profound understanding that children deeply want to take responsibility for their own thoughts and actions, and to assist others who need them. What happens when they are given that responsibility is amazing. Again, this is in sharp contrast to most classroom management protocols that are essentially “classroom control” mechanisms instituted by teachers who are increasingly police-like. Too many teachers who were “called” to be educators have become miserable due to spending so much of their time and energy as babysitters or resolving conflict. TeamPlay Ground is a natural system that replaces this destructive ‘normal’! Learners self-organise in groupings that are directly related to natural systems. This is based on the functional architecture of the Mereon Matrix, and relates to how modern science and ancient wisdom traditions agree on a universally defined matrix of principles defined by natural forms.
The Ambassador is the classroom representative to the school
The Guardian fills in for the teacher when they take a break
Time Shifters learn to multitask;
The Space Bender is the teachers assistant
Light Lifters reduce stress by lightening things up
Wave Tamers are in charge of well-being, communication and conflict resolution
Gate Keepers attend to the physical environment; and
Bringers are students who bring something to school to share
All roles and every task are attached to sensual, natural phenomena. What is crucial and naturally brilliant is how every child rotates through these responsibilities throughout the school year. Although these permutations in the Mereon Matrix are very complex, this translation into a classroom management system is so natural that once one breaks through and “sees it” --and I saw that children grasp it far more quickly than the adults-- it flows like a water dance of controlled joy. Furthermore, these classrooms radiate with: calm; walking into a class I experienced a sense of peace that is gained only through trust and assurance that one is allowed safely to discover themselves with others;
Pride; this accompanies being trusted with an important and necessary role and accepting self-responsibly and caring for one another and doing it well;
Belonging is more than just the name of this project; it is the rich and deep sense felt when invited into their space; it is deepened by the sense that the kids are absolutely able to take responsibility and do their role well;
Ownership; even when foreign and unknown visitors entered, the kids remained orderly. Clearly this the consequence of kids who know they are responsible, not managed by teachers who regiment and exert control. This calm, living and learning to easily adjust to eagerly welcome new input was remarkable. There was a sense of ‘breathing’ as kids who spoke a language different from me, took in the energy and formulated ideas around the new stimulus without confusion or chaos;
“Happy hands”; this is my term for the rare phenomena of all hands in the classroom going up to participate or to share in dialogue and activities. For the past 10-20 years, in my teaching experience (in the public school system of the United States) too many kids and their hands hid, running low or hiding in fear of being called upon in order not to be humiliated for “not getting it right”.
Gentle respect: this was for all the people in the room. I looked carefully for those shy and quiet children who are found in every class. These are the kids who are isolated, loners, marginalized or left out. They were present, but what was obvious was that they were comfortable and at ease in their quiet and still a part of the group! No one seemed to be quietly nursing pain, feeling alien, or unloved! In the BeLonging classrooms, as I searched for these kids, what met me was always a warm smile. Not once did I sense fear or see a child cringe or shy away from my attention or anyone else’s. These kids radiated self-assurance knowing that they could be themselves; that quiet or louder was simply part of authenticity of one’s innate desires. There was much more, but nothing trumped the feel of joy and pleasure. Simply put – all the children and teacher-adult(s) were happy to be there in that room! What they were doing together was learning infused with pleasure, a natural joy for all. The children were open, receptive, and mostly confident in speaking to and with us – foreigners, adults and intruders that we were. Almost equally amazing was the sense of time flowing easily! These classrooms had no sense of pressure, and neither the teachers or children seemed pressured. There was no sense of division as learning continued to flow around our visit, making it clear that they had transcended timed slots where learning ‘by the book’ is enforced. What was utterly absent was the stress that I often feel when a teacher is trying to control the class; there was no sense of needing to cram too much subject matter into too small of an opening. These kids overflowed with curiosity which for me was the most noticeable difference and in direct contrast to my experiences recently written in an article on the “feel” of the standardized public classroom, “Jackhammer Classroom: Torture and Rendition in Our Public Schools”.
Here, time in the classroom flowed naturally for everyone, children and adults. There was a mutual knowing that we were learning as we created pleasurable experiences in the time we shared. This is the way that learning most naturally happens. Coherent and filled with integrity, the Mereon TeamPlay Ground is in stark contrast to the increasingly fractured, fast-paced, machine-like learning that creates least, true learning and discovery. BeLonging classrooms support being truly human and operate at a meaningful pace! As a result learning happens without the emotional, mental or temporal stressors that damage children and burn out teachers.
The BeLonging Project is an integral system that fosters human learning by instilling coherency and creating a natural love of learning; it is a remedy for those ‘modern’ models that are in fact, learning disasters that fragment the human heart and mind; the Mereon TeamPlay Ground learning system for students is what education was always meant to be for the most learning-dependent animal ever born onto the planet— full of ease and joyful play.
It is time for us, adults, like the children, to remember this truth so we can naturally regain our joy and playful love of learning. This is what will allow us to innovate and become solution oriented as we face today’s myriad challenges. When we know that everyone belongs, to ourselves, to each other and our world, we and the students will begin to happily embrace ‘natural’ learning and thus joyful problem-solving together, once again.
Co-founder, Transformative Education Forum http://www.tef-global.org/
Education Advisor, UN SafePlanet Campaign http://www.safepla.net/
Board Project Director for Outreach, International Model United Nations Association http://imuna.org/
Steering Committee, (UNESCO/Global Compact) K-12 Sector for Sustainability Education http://www.uspartnership.org/main/view_archive/1
Member, UN Education Caucus for Sustainable Development
Member, UN Commons Cluster