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Teaching at the Edge

Welcome to education(note), a monthly newsletter with insights into systems thinking, wellbeing, and culture in education and schools.
bower(schools) is a division of Bower Place, established by Malcolm Robinson and Catherine Sanders in 1986, with a global reputation for excellence in the field of child, adolescent, and systemic family practice.
bower(schools) trains educators to identify a problem, identify the behaviour, emotions, and cognition associated with that problem, locate its human context, identify lines of causation and the constraints to change. The goal is to transform the way educators think and practice, to equip school staff in the functional nature of systemic practice, to reframe student behaviour, in a way that will lead to a flourishing school culture.
Around 2000, Australia stopped incarcerating and exiling people as its primary strategy for managing inequality, diversity, and difference – institutions that held adults, adolescents, and children labelled with a mental illness, intellectual disability, autism, addiction, acquired brain injury, and child abuse; and adolescents and children who had committed a criminal offence. These were jails under another name, harsh punitive places of personal deprivation, and family and social isolation – still the case in Indigenous Australia.
When the walls of the institution came down, the complex challenges of this once incarcerated population of adults, adolescents, and children did not evaporate. As major mental health became inflexible, anyone not palpably psychotic became the responsibility of the Police, Child Protection, Corrections, and Education. Child and Adolescent Mental Health became a logjam. Adults were disgorged into rooming houses and the streets. Homelessness was outside all institutions and yet to be politicized.
This volte-face in social policy also had its hard landing in the education system – our most flexible socio-political institution. Schools, classrooms, and teachers absorbed this exodus of challenged children and adolescents out of the old institutions.
Schools and teachers now have primary responsibility for managing inequality, diversity, and difference in behavior, emotions, and cognition not previously central to the scope of the vocation – education has transformed to accommodate this. This takes education to a very complicated interface with the health, mental health, disability, justice, corrections, child protection, and family law systems.
System complexity has escalated exponentially with the exponential increase in symptom and problem complexity carried by schools. This is a micro-political dilemma about how these institutional human service delivery systems distribute responsibility and authority between themselves, and with the citizen child, adolescent, parent, or family.
The question facing schools is how to manage this situation generally as a system problem and specifically with children, adolescents, and families with high and complex needs? How can a school/teachers collaborate with these other systems? Can these other systems collaborate with school and teachers? How does collaboration really work between these institutions over the citizen child, adolescent, parent, or family? What voice does the child, adolescent, parent, or family have in their own fate?
Bower Place understands that inequality, justice, and fairness are at the heart of all human problems and symptoms and at the heart of all appropriate interventions and solutions. This applies at all levels of system from the individual and family to the socio-political institutions with whom they interact. Ignoring this most fundamental issue will see even the cleverest solutions fail.

©Copyright Bower Place Pty. Ltd. 2023

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