Following on from this introduction to the Mantle of the Expert, MoE trainer Tammy recounts the journey of pedagogical discovery and deeper understanding she took along with six other Haut-Lac colleagues.
Legend of an outstanding Mantle of the Expert school in Birmingham had reached Haut-Lac International Bilingual School, so a pilgrimage began. Seven courageous adventurers from E3 to P4, including their fearless leader Lucy, teamed up to brave the journey.
Having crossed land and sea, we were welcomed to England by blue skies and sunshine. We were weary from our travels, but the tea and cakes provided by the team at Woodrow First School in Redditch worked wonders and we were soon being whisked around their classrooms.
We were inspired by what we saw.
Setting the scene
Every class from Nursery (E1) to Year 4 (P3) are working within the frame of the same Mantle story. It is set in the fictional town of Merryfields and centred around a main character, Millicent Shaw (Millie).
The Year Groups operate as a different expert teams, who work together on tasks throughout story, covering many aspects of the curriculum as they go.
The teams outsource jobs to each other based on their expertise. For example, ‘The Renovators’ in year 4 (P3) call upon ‘The Removers’ in nursery (E1) to safely move a large, unstable piece of machinery from the needlework factory so they can start renovations. In the meantime, the ‘Helping Hands’ in reception (E2) discover the different ways they can help Millie and better adapt her new home to her needs. They then feed this back to ‘The Renovators’, and ask ‘The Removers’ to help move Millie and her belongings.
Taking the first steps
The usual “What do you want to get out of this training?” was turned on its head when we were asked “What do you want to find?”. In groups, we had to give our ‘answer’ iconically as living statues. What an ice breaker!
Fortunately, we had the very talented and wise Luke Abbott to guide and protect us in this strange world. Our ‘Mantle of the Expert’ expert steered us through many situations over the course of our weekend journey, pushing us far beyond the borders of our comfort zones.
Delving deeper into the craft
Light & Dark. Sound & Silence. Movement & Stillness.
The tools we experimented with to evoke the dramatic imagination. And the ones Luke would use when setting the scene for the story he would create later with a group of children from Woodrow.
Expecting simply to observe the master at work, we were surprised and apprehensive to learn we would be an integral part of the story session… The potential client!
Luke explained that he would frame the children as an expert removal team, who were responsible for moving and rehoming/repurposing different items. We each had to come up with an item that needed to be dealt with; something that would challenge the children and pique their curiosity.
Observing and assisting
An egg. An ENORMOUS egg, which Murielle’s uncle had given her. She didn’t know what to do with it. It was just taking up space. It had also started to make strange sounds and she was sure she had witnessed it tremble. This was the task deemed the highest priority by the young expert removal team.
Concerned by what the egg contained and the damage it could do if it hatched, the year 4 students enlisted our help. We had to protect the egg with large, heavy duty pillows, keeping it warm in the process. Through an expertly narrated portrayal, Luke and the students then co-constructed the momentous task of sensitively moving the egg to the warehouse for careful observation.
We went on to explore the tools of the pedagogy further using forgotten items in a lonely, abandoned house. Our stamina was pushed to the limit as we were challenged physically, emotionally and intellectually.
We even got the chance to investigate different perspectives as rats under the floorboards. Unwanted rats who were about to be exterminated, some of whom were too old to flee. What on earth were we to do…?
Written by Tamara Borge