Does anything last forever?
Goodbye. The end.
Someone told me once that all stories start in the middle. Not at the beginning or at the end but the middle.
I’m standing in my garage, the rainwater dripping through the roof, wondering how long I can leave it before it capitulates into mush. I’d been running from my garage roof for 6 years. Ever since we bought the house and spotted the signs of decay, since the winter storm of 2019 blew most of the felt off, since the mushrooms began to populate the inside, since rot had set in to 3 of the 4 corners. I ran and ran and ran.
What do you see in the sky?
I see clouds.
What do you think of when you see clouds?
I wonder if the dinosaurs looked up and saw the same clouds as we see now?
“I don’t get it – you’re ridiculously tall. How can you be a hidden giant?”
For the past few weeks, I’ve felt uneasy in my body and mind. I can’t blame the pandemic or the increasing threat from climate change. I blame myself. I am ending something that I gave birth to – my company – Hidden Giants. If you’ve never owned your own company, I would suggest you give it a go. It’s the most amazing feeling. You breathe life into something that possess the power to change the spaces it inhabits. For the past 7 years I have proudly created, led, and will soon end the myth of Hidden Giants. Like all stories it starts in the middle.
“And when the children ran in that afternoon, they found the Giant lying dead under the tree, all covered with white blossoms.”
Like much of what we created in St Thomas’ Primary I’m not sure how it started. It came from somewhere unknown, a comment, a look, an idea. The purpose was to run with our imaginations and follow where it took us. There is still a giant 3ft papier-mâché panda lost in Addiewell. One afternoon we decided to make giant sculptures. As I’ve already explained, I’m not sure why. We had a McDonalds ice-cream van, a robot’s foot, and the afore mentioned giant panda. The following week we decided to lose them in the village. The panda was left in a clearing in the forest beside the train track. The following week it had vanished. To this day we don’t know where it escaped to. To this day the children who made the panda still ask where it went. I wonder how many more years until the memory of the panda disappears. Maybe it will never die – maybe the memory will last forever. Maybe the mystery of the giant panda will become a folklore, a story passed down to the next generation of imagination hunters.
“I am really going to miss you. You have been my favourite part of school since P1.”
You can’t run forever – it’s impossible. You get tired, fear catches up with you, your gut instructs you to act. So, I stop running from my garage roof and climb the ladder. I start from nothing. I have no tools, no wood, no felt, limited skills, no teacher, little confidence but I know I need to stop running. The garage roof needs attention. I hope Hidden Giants has enabled people to stop running and pay attention to their garage roof (their classroom, staff team, curriculum, self).
This is a love letter to everyone that understands a hidden giant. A love letter to the teachers, the head teachers, the support workers, the partners, the families, the funders, the practitioners, the artists, the mischief makers, the agitators, and the sceptics. I love all of you. We made memories.
But how can he be happy and sad. That’s not possible. He wants to dance with the girl but can’t. He seems happy and also sad. It’s a contradiction – how can he have two competing emotions at one time. Maybe it’s like your best friend is leaving to go to a new school. I’m sad she is going but happy for her to have a new adventure. Maybe it’s o.k to feel both at one time. Have you ever felt happy and sad at the same time?
Did I ever tell you the story of the teacher who forgot she was an artist? It ends really well. In fact, it hasn’t ended. It’s a story of a brave teacher who remember who she really was and what happens when you ask children to participate in their learning, in their classroom, in their school experience. It’s a story that will keep adding chapters as the children are empowered to keep writing them – beyond the classroom, beyond the reach of the teacher, they are alive with curiosity.
“He did not hate the Winter now, for he knew that it was merely the Spring asleep, and that the flowers were resting”
Is he really asking us to ask a question to a teabag? What’s this got to do with teaching?
Taking a power saw and cutting chunks out of your roof goes against logic. Why put holes in something that’s meant to keep out the water? Why destroy the thing that your meant to be fixing? Like many things in life, you need to face the hard truths about the situation before you can re-build, repair, and reimagine what it will become. We should never be frightened of making the first cut – nothing will change if you don’t. Rot is a natural part of the cycle. The worst thing to do is ignore it. I have seen lots of rot within the systems I work – often left through good intentions but also through fear of what happens when you remove it. What is left behind and what do you fill it with?
“It feels different now. The school has changed. I’m not sure what or how but I sense it. People are happier. Thank you.”
There is a school in East Kilbride that struggle to know who I really am. I am known as the shapeshifter – the ability to become something other: the astronaut, the farmer, the shopping centre manager, the zookeeper. Children play. Why can’t adults? Play is about imagination. To imagine enables us to wander into unknown places and make discovers that offer a multitude of learning experiences. If children are brought up in a world full of adult knowns, they will learn our rules and our knowledge. This is finite, as adults are full of pre-conceived assumptions and beliefs. We tend to pass on our traits and misgivings without knowing. Play can last forever. Spaces that are unknown, full of uncertainty and risk will empower children to find new narratives, new storylines, and new solutions to the mistakes they will inherit.
“For the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house. They may allow us temporarily to beat him at his own game, but they will never enable us to bring about genuine change.”
Draw what learning looks like.
On the piece of paper show me what learning looks like.
The company called Hidden Giants will end on Friday 8th October 2021. I’m happy and sad. Happy that I will start a new adventure in a different land, with new characters, and some uncharted terrain. Sad because I say goodbye to my Hidden Giants, the schools I have worked with, and the people I have worked alongside. It’s o.k to hold both. The company will end but hidden giants will last forever. I cry happy tears.
Why is Hidden Giants called Hidden Giants?
What do you think it means?
Is it because you are tall?
Maybe, but I’m not hidden.
Maybe you have something that we can’t see but is really important.
What might that be?
Err, I don’t know, maybe an idea?
What if everyone has a hidden giant in them, just waiting to come out? What if you don’t know it’s there, until one day, completely unexpectedly, it reveals itself? What if you’re a hidden giant?
I don’t know where to start. I don’t know why I’ve invited you all here. I know that we need to do something, but I don’t know what or how. I’m comfortable with that. I wonder if we should start with what has happened this week and what warrants further conversation. What if we started with AOB?
He saw a most wonderful sight. Through a little hole in the wall the children had crept in, and they were sitting in the branches of the trees. In every tree that he could see there was a little child. And the trees were so glad to have the children back again that they had covered themselves with blossoms, and were waving their arms gently above the children’s heads. The birds were flying about and twittering with delight, and the flowers were looking up through the green grass and laughing.
It took a week, but it’s done. My roof is finished. It took a bit of help from my neighbour, some friendly encouragement from my community, and many mistakes as I tried to figure out what happens next. I don’t know what happens next but for now the roof is complete. My job is done.
Stories don’t start at the beginning or the end – only the middle.
Once upon a time . . .
P7 pupil Scotland
The Selfish Giant: https://www.eastoftheweb.com/short-stories/UBooks/SelGia.shtml
11-year-old Perth, Australia