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Making Art With Other People.

By: Rob Turner

'Community', undoubtedly the singularly most important aspect of my work!

 

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# 28 [6 April 2010]

Unfortunately, on this occasion.

Dear Rob,

Thank you for your interest in our commission but:

I am sorry to write with disappointing news,

but we received a large volume of very high standard submissions,

Whilst we were impressed with your application, the response was overwhelming,

It was a difficult decision to make,

and the jury very much enjoyed considering your ideas

After reviewing a large number of impressive applications,

We considered your application with great interest

and although we felt that your work would be a good choice,

we had enormous interest from artists from England and abroad, so the selection process has been complex,

The panel very much enjoyed seeing your work and we have had the opportunity to consider all the candidates against the criteria we have specified for the project,

But after careful consideration,

We were looking for cohesiveness,

And there was something unique in all the selected submissions, and we would like to thank you again for your detailed and comprehensive submission as well as your patience during what has been an exhausting process of decision making and approval seeking, but unfortunately on this occasion your proposals have not been successful.

We would like to wish you well in all your future endeavours, and hope that you will apply for future commissions....blah blah.

I have accumulated a considerable collection of rejection letters over the years. I now have a world class selection of the highest quality letters. Once, I thought I would save them and display them in an exhibition called Unfortunately on this Occasion. I have gone off that idea now as the frames would cost me £1000's of pounds, I would be unable to fit them in my car. Van hire would be required.

I did receive one which stood out from all the rest, an astonishing achievement considering the volume of competition. The standards were extremely high and there were many interesting candidates both from England and abroad. The letter I have chosen stood out by its closing line, as follows:

Please also accept my apologies for the delay in letting everyone know - I have been busy getting civilly partnered!
Best wishes
Abcdefg

Well congratulations Abcdefg, I will award you my now annual prize for the best and happiest rejection letter received.

 

 

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Hmm yes! It is all so personal isn't it, I put my heart into an application - I have to really visualise the possibility of getting it, and then it is so disappointing because it changes the look of the future! But recently I applied for something I really wanted, didn't hear in the time they said they would contact people, no letter but assumed I had been rejected, got booked for something else at EXACTLY the same time, and then months later got an Unfortunately on this Occasion... I was so relieved! That was a nice change!!

posted on 2010-04-08 by Annie Harrison

'Discovering Malawi'. Put it on the Village Green for maximum impact.

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'Discovering Malawi'. Put it on the Village Green for maximum impact.

'Discovering Malawi'. We made stepping stones in the mud from the off cuts.

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'Discovering Malawi'. We made stepping stones in the mud from the off cuts.

'Discovering Malawi'. There were actually two teachers from Malawi at the opening day. One of them said that the patterns they put on their buildings told stories. I figured this before and wished our pattern had information in it. But it looked good.

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'Discovering Malawi'. There were actually two teachers from Malawi at the opening day. One of them said that the patterns they put on their buildings told stories. I figured this before and wished our pattern had information in it. But it looked good.

'Discovering Malawi'. Thinking about the power tool thing, and I believe this was a major factor in the success of this project. It placed the pupils on an equal status as me. Somewhere where they probably never get with the class teachers. This level playing field I think made them change their perception of the pupil / teacher thing. They became makers just as much as I am a maker and I think this is the reason for their ownership and enthusiasm.

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'Discovering Malawi'. Thinking about the power tool thing, and I believe this was a major factor in the success of this project. It placed the pupils on an equal status as me. Somewhere where they probably never get with the class teachers. This level playing field I think made them change their perception of the pupil / teacher thing. They became makers just as much as I am a maker and I think this is the reason for their ownership and enthusiasm.

'Discovering Malawi.'. Project logo.

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'Discovering Malawi.'. Project logo.

# 27 [31 March 2010]

Discovering Malawi.

Parents Open Day!

We errected the replica school on the village green for maximum impact!

I presented a photograhic diary of the project (not unlike whats in this blog) to the parents showing every stage of the project, power point you know. And I kept thinking of Jack Black in 'School of Rock' where he makes a garbled speach to the horified parents of the children he has been teaching.

'I have touched your kids' and 'they have touched me'. But I managed not to say that which was a releif.

Then we went outside in the pissing rain to view the building. It was as if the rain was not there everyone was out there in the mud, talking and queing up to get in. One mother came up to me and said, 'my son has bought home a piece of wood from this project everyweek and has been in the shed with hammer and nails'. Another said, 'my daughter comes home and talks about this project'. Thats all you  need to hear and my tail was wagging.

A truly great day, but where was the caretaker whose door I fixed when I needed a hand to take it all down by myself in the pouring rain?

AWOL.

Lots of photos for this project on my photobucket site http://s213.photobucket.com/albums

/cc3/robturner/Discovering%20Malawi/

'Discovering Malawi'. Painting the outside

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'Discovering Malawi'. Painting the outside

'Discovering Malawi'. I dont want any more drips you understand.

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'Discovering Malawi'. I dont want any more drips you understand.

'Discovering Malawi'. 'Ive finished, can I paint the diamonds now'.No, please wash your brushes and make sure the pots of paint are not going to get kicked over, put them on that wall over there. I was trying to save that task for the next group after lun.c..h. .........Er OK you're doing them green thats fine.

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'Discovering Malawi'. 'Ive finished, can I paint the diamonds now'.No, please wash your brushes and make sure the pots of paint are not going to get kicked over, put them on that wall over there. I was trying to save that task for the next group after lun.c..h. .........Er OK you're doing them green thats fine.

'Discovering Malawi'. Rob can I have a larger brush, Rob is there a yellow that's darker than this one? Rob can I screw this hippopotumus to the door? Rob I've got too much paint on this brush. Rob I've finished, what shall I paint now, Rob can you cut out my giraffe, Rob I cant get the lid off this paint pot. Rob can I take this piece of wood home? Rob can you roll my sleeves up. Rob can I paint orange spots on my shoes. Rob I cant find a piece of wood to draw on. Rob have you got a rubber?. Rob can I saw this table. Rob can I draw two dinosaurs driving space ship. Rob have you got a pencil sharpener. Rob can we work through our lunch break.Guess what I said to that one?

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'Discovering Malawi'. Rob can I have a larger brush, Rob is there a yellow that's darker than this one? Rob can I screw this hippopotumus to the door? Rob I've got too much paint on this brush. Rob I've finished, what shall I paint now, Rob can you cut out my giraffe, Rob I cant get the lid off this paint pot. Rob can I take this piece of wood home? Rob can you roll my sleeves up. Rob can I paint orange spots on my shoes. Rob I cant find a piece of wood to draw on. Rob have you got a rubber?. Rob can I saw this table. Rob can I draw two dinosaurs driving space ship. Rob have you got a pencil sharpener. Rob can we work through our lunch break.Guess what I said to that one?

# 26 [23 March 2010]

Discovering Malawi.

I discoverd that I will be presenting this replica school and everything else that has been produced and connected to this project to the parents on open day! I am actually looking forward to it.

I will have to work fast as there is very little time left. I have been chatting instead. I was just chatting to a pupil about an incident when my friend knocked a pot of blue paint off the scaffolding once. She replied that she really liked the lessons on this project. She went on to say that she was able to predict an outcome for her work and was able to continue working all the way up to play time. In other class room lessons she was unable to predict outcomes for her work and could not think of ways to reach her targets. This made her stuck and unable to work at all.

I thought this was very erudite for a primary school pupil. 

I also found myself involved with the caretakers door hinge problems. 'Did I have a screw driver' .......yes........'any screws as well'. 'I know sorry mate, but the other guy's been in for a fortnight and everythings been moved and I cant find anything'. I ended up fixing the door. I did have a motive for this generosity! I might just need a hand on the open day to construct the school building as the kids wont be around to help me build it.

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Hi Rob, just to buck the system (which is a bit wonky), I've answered your comment on my blog which makes sense but am letting you know here. By the way, it was the older child who was the nit culprit - the only teenager, so beware!

posted on 2010-03-24 by Susan Francis

Fantastic project, I've just finished a chinese dragon, trying to get the group to paint it sympathetically, I turned my back and it's now covered in hearts and pink hippy flowers down one side and black splodges down the other - I didn't even put those colours out to use - hey ho, hope you have better luck curtailing the dinosaurs in spaceships.

posted on 2010-03-23 by Susan Francis

lovely photo captions! I hope you are feeling more optimistic. Your work is great and it will always be valued.

posted on 2010-03-23 by Annie Harrison

Painting portraits of each pupil inside the replica school building.

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Painting portraits of each pupil inside the replica school building.

We drew round everybody and then coloured them in.

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We drew round everybody and then coloured them in.

The whole class inside the building.

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The whole class inside the building.

We've got animal puppets as well but no photos yet,

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We've got animal puppets as well but no photos yet,

We have got to paint the outside next week.

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We have got to paint the outside next week.

# 25 [16 March 2010]

 Discovering Malawi.

I don't really feel like making art. I really don't feel like making art with other people either. But as a professional with obligations and agreements in place you can't just have 'an off day' or two, you have to carry on and complete what you said you would.

Actually I am feeling shite, I have been for three interviews for various jobs recently and have come away with none of them! It made me parallel my work with Beckham's achilles injury which beckons the end of a career! An over reaction I'm sure, but not a good a good place to be.

I want to rant off because I'm CROSS with bureaucrats unwilling to make a move until all the goals, procedures and desired results for a policy have been mapped out in advance. As a craftsman and artist I think I can problem solve as I go, confident in my abilities to create things as yet unknown, which allows for other people's ideas and influences to take me places I can't see yet. You know just be inspired by interesting new stuff.

But this is a risk averse culture we live in and there is less and less space for reckless folk like me to spend public money on whims and unthought through daydreams. My frustration and bitterness makes me see only Public Art that reminds me of  dolphins? Smooth, curvey and easy on the eye, made from stainless steel, sometimes with a bit of colour or lights in. A bit cataloguey, but stylishly so.

I shall put my handbag away now and be quiet. I find myself looking at Jean-Michel Basquiat paintings, they are kind of angry and I love them. Here  some very young people painting portraits of them selves in the replica school.

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It seems to be other people pulling me out of the pits at the moment ... Over the years I've worked really hard at breaking down that feeling of isolation, with only sporadic success. Suddenly I've met a whole new group of folks who are really inspiring. Can't bring myself to believe in fate and destiny any more, it's just plain old luck - good, bad or indifferent. That reminds me of Carmina Burana, where a bunch of medi-aeval Christian monks started writing poetry in honour of "Fortuna" rather than Jehova. I love to sing it in the bath ...

posted on 2010-03-19 by Jon Bowen

Thanks for your support Jon, it does help at low points. It's these low points that come along from time to time that do actually form the next chapter, or unlock a new door in our lives. At the moment though I am at the spit the dummy out and blame everyone else stage. It is odd feeling when you have tried your best and you fail. Its parralell must be a knockdown, and count of ten in a boxing match. Your right in suggesting artists should look harder in the places others skim over. I've been looking, but I've not been 'seeing' much. A punch in the face makes you see stars, see double, or even red, but when that calms down I will be able to see clearer the threasholds and pathways ahead.

posted on 2010-03-18 by Rob Turner

What a great opportunity for the kids to reflect on themselves. "allows for other people's ideas and influences to take me places I can't see yet." This is what you're doing for the kids, you could be changing the course of their whole lives, and almost certainly for the better. Give that man another job! I'm surprised, and actually somewhat reassured, that you're phased by the job crises ... I never thought of you as reckless - adventurous, maybe! Enough dolphins, lets have some spiders, flies, cockroaches, sea urchins, and the odd pile of s**t! It's a problem, artists want to touch the unfathomable, nobody else wants to go anywhere near it. I guess it's our job to persuade them otherwise, but not easy in the middle of recession when everybody wants the comfort of safe ideas and safe emotional environments. There's a mosaic dolphin in the hydrotherapy pool where my daughter goes for her exercises each week ... I thought of you! Wishing you better luck, and less shite feelingness.

posted on 2010-03-17 by Jon Bowen

Jigsaw, yellow transformer and a primary school pupil cutting a door out of a sheet of 8x4.

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Jigsaw, yellow transformer and a primary school pupil cutting a door out of a sheet of 8x4.

# 24 [5 March 2010]

I'm Joining the Resistance?

I am returning to my Discovering Malawi project again now and I walked into the class room after the holiday, and the moment I walked in, one boy walked straight up to me and asked me if I was going to join the resistance?

Who against I asked, 'the Chinese capitalists, KGB, American troops in Afghanistan or the FBI? Yeh I hate the feds what if'..........................

'No No No, the sausage factory! 'They are going to build one in the 3 meadows in our village.

Now I am party to the secret plans, it appears my role is crucial if the resistance is to have any impact. I have been shown pictures from a book about sea going ships and the one of particular relevance was a large battleship. As a designer I have to draw up our own plans to build something similar, but on a smaller scale. I also have to design explosive bombs to destroy any construction work should things start happening on the site. I am unsure how long I've got to do this a few months at least, we also need a skilled welder on the team! I've have to attend a meeting next Monday to report the progress and get updated with any further developments.

Another episode from the same day was probably the most powerful on this project so far:

When we were assembling this replica school building we are creating, I was thinking this was a little too heavy for four children because they could not lift this section off the floor, (it was awkward shape rather than a dead weight). I begun thinking I would have to man-handle it into position myself, which was a daunting and formidable task. Then I saw four little finger tips creep under the board and grip, then I saw a pair of shoes...and the boards went as high as a pair of knees, and this kid was lifting and carrying it. Together we aligned it and pushed into place. This is a task I would have really struggled with on my own. The relief I felt was immense, for a sickening moment I thought I had created something that was beyond their abilities.

My doubts unfounded. It was so great when a previous ‘school refuser’ turns out to be a total hero and does one of those Rocky Film moments of true grit.

 

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No need to worry Susan my jigsaw was fine, and none of my other tools were damaged either!.........!!!!!!!!

posted on 2010-03-05 by Rob Turner

the resistance began 21:09:06

posted on 2010-03-05 by Andrew Martyn Sugars

Great reading Rob, you get so much more out of working with children when you are there over a period of time and build up relationships rather than a one off - and as for the jigsaw - you've got nerves of steel!

posted on 2010-03-05 by Susan Francis

'The Garden of Dreams.'.

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'The Garden of Dreams.'.

'The Garden of Dreams.'.

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'The Garden of Dreams.'.

'The Garden of Dreams.'.

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'The Garden of Dreams.'.

'The Garden of Dreams.'.

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'The Garden of Dreams.'.

'The Garden of Dreams.'. The garden represents the soul and the qualities cultivated in it!

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'The Garden of Dreams.'. The garden represents the soul and the qualities cultivated in it!

# 23 [3 March 2010]

The Garden of Dreams.

Pupils suspended, staff commitment questioned, my fellow artist partner on this project has urgent family issues to resolve and a change of co-ordinator.

I am going to let the dust settle as everyone is doing their own thing, emails flying around in almost random directions.

I am going to make sure the group has top soil and wheel barrows, rakes and forks and spades, they will be happy all day just gardening. Thats all they want to do right now. We grown ups can have crisis meetings and stuff.  

My role is to up the positive, because we have done great work and no one is seeing that yet.

http://s213.photobucket.com/albums/cc3/robturner/School%20Garden%20Project/

I love this model with the elements placed inside. I am walking around in there, it is a calmer magical place.

Grow and cultivate, thats what you do in gardens and I'm enjoying this model and I hope it will help me while I'm in there. The others hav'nt found it yet and I have it all to myself.

'Garden Project Logo'.

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'Garden Project Logo'.

# 22 [27 February 2010]

Sometimes its not about art at all!

After 8-9 weeks into the school garden project and the goal posts are still moving. The location for the garden has been moved 4 times and now there is a 5th unexpected movement of the target.

There is another garden project running within the school and we (the school) would like you to join the two together.......................................

How has this not been joined together before, cos I cant suggest it, if I dont know there is another garden project going on. (sounds like Emily Speeds latest blog entry)

.....................................................

How long can you keep a construction project open ended like this and not actually construct anything.

Answer: not much fkuicng longer.

We have agreed the project logo which feels like a major achievement at the moment.

Timetabling of specialist and fully qualified staff on this delicate project has been proving difficult. And I have saved the best bit till last. One of the members of staff especially allocated to this project went off crying because one of the pupils (MR. Unmediated ADHD) swore at her! She did not return plus another specialist teacher was off sick.

I am an artist but this has not got much to do with art. It feels more like a reality tv show. I had Wife Swap in mind when I wrote that. 

 

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Hello Emily. All I can say is one can never tell whats around the corner, and one has to be prepared to adjust ones plans on the spot, at the drop of a hat if circumstances suddenly shift. I hope your school sprints go well. I was going to talk about Health and Saftey, but actually I'm not going to go there.....Cocktail sticks, space suits and the wonkey bits as you describe them are where we can all have a well earned laugh and pass on experience. I am pleased this blog is relevant and thanks for your encouraging remarks. Sometimes I am not sure how prospective employers view these 'warts and all' accounts, but: 'It went really well, everyone enjoyed it and it was very stimulating and the work produced was of a very high quality'. Is not much use to anyone. And Emily Quick Snap like your doing has its merrits but to use a controversial phrase, 'It really is about the journey'.

posted on 2010-02-28 by Rob Turner

Hi Rob, Indeed.. shit you don't know you don't know eh? Having finally managing some communication with the two schools I am going to next week, I have discovered they want to stretch me as thinly and widely as possible. Very disappointing as it ends up being a bit of a non-event for all involved; they have fun and make things, hopefully even gain a bit of confidence or some new ideas on how to approach problem solving and making, but half a day really only amounts to 2 hours. Anyway, I have really enjoyed reading this blog as it shows the great things that can be achieved with a longer relationship and it's given me ideas of how to put the case forward for that in the future. I also appreciate the honesty about the wonky bits and the difficulties of the school environment. The teacher leaving the class and leaving me with a classroom assistant or student teacher (and 30 kids) has usually meant the behaviour gets pretty wild toward the end of the day. I also want the teacher involved as the project I am doing is about helping teachers develop open-ended art projects, rather than everyone making the same clay sarcophagus. I don't know how to tell them they should stay without sounding pissed off, patronising or unreasonable. I shall carry on reading your blog anyway, looking for clues to it all!!!!

posted on 2010-02-28 by Emily Speed

'little Johny's Spud Head'.

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'little Johny's Spud Head'.

'little Johny's Spud Head'.

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'little Johny's Spud Head'.

'little Johny's Spud Head'.

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'little Johny's Spud Head'.

'little Johny's Spud Head'.

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'little Johny's Spud Head'.

'little Johny's Spud Head'. This one is my favourite one.

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'little Johny's Spud Head'. This one is my favourite one.

# 21 [22 February 2010]

Little Johny's Spud Head.

I had forgotton all about little Johny's Spud Head untill it came up the other day.

This is a little storey from the mid 90's explaning exactly what Johny's Spud Head represents. It happened to my then business partner, and has happenened, or probably will happen to anyone working to a commission brief involving the community.

'encourage a sense of ownership in the local community,

 the commission will involve close participation with users of the centre and the children,

that involves and engages students, staff and local communities, produces work of outstanding quality and provides an ongoing educational resource'.

All well worn phrases and hoops that artists have jumped through many many times. This included my former partner who had jumped with great agility and grace and had made a design which he was really pleased with and proudly presented it to the steering committe. Who were actually very impressed, and thought it would look very nice in their town square.  Apart from the Head Teacher, the Centre Manager,  or the Community Liason officer (I forget who it was now) who didn't like it at all because little Johny who had worked extremely hard during that workshop has not had his efforts included and could we re-design it to be more inclusive of the community it represented please.

We drove home from somewhere in the midlands after that presentation and my partner was unable to speak  for much of drive home.  Little Johny had not really tried very hard and had drawn the first and only thing that had come into his head!

I have included some examples from his portfolio here.

models and drawings for a garden project logo

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models and drawings for a garden project logo

ideas/visuals for garden project logo

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ideas/visuals for garden project logo

flowers

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flowers

one of my logo ideas using the leaves someone had drawn to make a sort of sprout vegatable thing as veg is what we will be growing.

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one of my logo ideas using the leaves someone had drawn to make a sort of sprout vegatable thing as veg is what we will be growing.

My layout drawing of the site.

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My layout drawing of the site.

# 20 [17 February 2010]

Totaly Gutted.

I wont be making art together with my friend Charlie. We had an interview last week that went very well we thought, but rejection today! I've been walking around this afternoon in a numbed state saying 'how did we not get that?'

As a reaction to it, I have signed up for two days training which claims to focus on the basic phychology of communication, aimed at a healthy practioner-pupil relationship. I have also got an interview for further training exploring neuro-chemistry, trauma and challenging behaviour, I think this translates to mental health problems. I need to fill the gap with something positive, which is an investment for later, as I can't afford to miss out on another opportunity like that again, someone had some kind of edge which got them the job.

Anyway I did'nt really come on here to moan about it, I wanted to say that the 'Transition group' were keen to start work on their project again and visuals went very well in the first session. This time when their attention started to wane in that run in to lunch we (my fellow practitioner Pete is back now) took them off for a game of table football and pool in the hall. Got my own back and found myself really playing table football as competitively as I could against boys in their early teens and beating them (you sad old man). I just spent £256 on spades, forks, rakes gloves and stuff, as the actuall physical work starts after half term. The planning stages last too long for them and digging is what they are itching to do.

I wonder how long that will last?

We will putting up a display of our models and design work in the school for the wider school to see. Hopefully a gardening club will be formed as we know there are teachers willing to commit to it. The plan is to show the school this is real and use the display as a platform to recruit potential gardeners.

Incidentally the transition group are very keen to show the school what they have done, but their behaviour still descends into chaos even though they are commited to it? Fliers, logos and sheets for garden club members to write their names on are being produced by these pupils. 

My model of the site for our garden. This acts like a dolls house for garden features to be put in.

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My model of the site for our garden. This acts like a dolls house for garden features to be put in.

junior hacksaw and all is well.

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junior hacksaw and all is well.

'Rob Turner'. This is a right result.

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'Rob Turner'. This is a right result.

Actually engaging with a school activity, rare.

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Actually engaging with a school activity, rare.

vegatables.

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vegatables.

# 19 [6 February 2010]

Meltdown.

I am switching to my garden project now. We (The Transition Group) spent half a morning making models of our garden which we will display to the wider school community.

While we worked I heard comments like 'this is the best lesson I have ever had'.

'I cant believe I am using a KNIFE in school'. 

'Can we do this tommorrow as well'.

Half an hour after this the teachers are timetabled for other classes and I am left with only teaching assistants till lunch time.

Have you ever seen the riot scene in Porridge with Ronnie Barker? Well this was the same on a smaller scale. Total anarchy and clay, plastercine and balsa wood flying around. The head teacher was called to stop the riot. This arrested the riot, but disgruntalled and abusive behaviour continued for some while. Detentions at lunch and after school resulted.

One boy (unmedicated ADHD) has never reached the afternoon sessions.  He is withdrawn from the project every week at lunch time. Every time after school he comes up to me and appologises for disrupting my lessons and holds his head down in shame. Its like listening to an alchoholic saying 'I'm off the sauce'. 

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Hi Jon, its good to see you on my blog: Whats interesting about these two school projects is that both school classes have ADD and ADHD kids in there, but the privilaged kids in Anne Widicomes posh part of kent are pleasant and mean well, they are just as difficult to manage but do not have the ATTITUDE and EF'OFF YOU CANT TOUCH ME, ITS NOT ALLOWED mantra that the urban kids have. I dont know if it because they are a little younger, or their home life is of better quality? One thought (from the writings of R. Persig) did cross my mind was that if you didnt have 'outsiders' or 'non conformists' people who cant fit in mainstream, cant play by the rules, these characters do actually help society. How stale would our culture be with a further 150 years of victorian values unchallanged all this time? What I can say is the Transition Team for all their failures are wanting to share their experiences on this project with the wider school. It is very painful but i feel it necessary to gain insights.

posted on 2010-02-14 by Rob Turner

Many boys, especially the more active kids, have a terrible time at school. My Nephew worked out by 11 that the worst they could do to him was send him home, which he loved as he could get on with his football practice, which is how he spent most of his teenage years. A friend of my son's recently declared "I don't get up until mid day at weekends as there's nothing to get up for - there's only the telly and the playstation, and I'm not allowed out" ... he hates school as well, so what's he got to live for? The only fun in life is winding up the teachers.

posted on 2010-02-11 by Jon Bowen

Page 3 of 5 :

This project blog »

Rob Turner

This blog will highlight a mixture of episodes, involving working with other people on public/community artworks.

 

rob-turner.blogspot.co.uk/