Back to school

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he Week That Was goes back to school. A primary school in Soweto to be specific and witnesses how versatile Shape of Emotion is in working with groups and those whose first language is not English.


The inspiration for Shape of Emotion

Shape of Emotion was inspired by our experiences in the under resourced school space. It was fitting that after nearly two years of work, research and testing we got to facilitate a workshop for a group of educators from a small primary school in Soweto last week.

Teacher stress and health

Teachers in general are stressed out by the demands of parents, management and school boards. Teachers in under-resourced environments have the added stresses of dealing with children from impoverished homes, unemployed communities and crime-ridden streets. They have to listen to stories of neglect, abuse, hunger and illness from their learners with little capacity to do anything about it. They work in an environment devoid of psychosocial support for both the teachers, their learners and the community. The high levels of stress lead to increased absenteeism and an increase in stress-related illnesses.

Looking after others

We took Shape of Emotion care to the teachers of Sekwati Primary School, in Molapo, Soweto, to provide them with a tool to manage their emotional health. Shape of Emotion care is our programme for those who support others.

On a warm morning on the first day of the new month of October, we took the familiar route down the N1 to Soweto. It was school holidays so traffic was less frenetic. We arrived to a quiet but not sleeping school. Someone was working in the grounds. In the hall, the principal was working side by side with others, packing chairs away, sweeping and mopping the floor - there had been an event the day before. A "no fee-paying school", every avenue is used to bring funds into the school, these include hiring out the hall.

Coming and going

Not unsurprisingly, being school holidays, some teachers did not arrive. They sent no apologies to their principal so we were never sure if they were going to arrive at some stage. There were the latecomers and the early leavers. We are perennially bemused by the porous time boundaries in spaces like these. Curious to the lack of concern at arriving halfway through a workshop or leaving before it is completed.

Staying the course

The participants that showed up and stayed the course, however, made up in their enthusiasm and gratitude, for their absent colleagues. One participant in particular became our number one advocate. She proposed that the principal set aside a quiet space in the school for the teachers to go to do Shape of Emotion when they are feeling overwhelmed. We were doing invisible cartwheels at her suggestion because it is our dream to not only develop a 5th Place in every person, but to have a 5th Place on every corner and in every company.

Something for the world

What we witnessed in an environment where English is not the first language and exposure to mindfulness practices is limited or non-existent, confirmed our belief that Shape of Emotion is something for the world. We experienced tears flowing at the reprieve from long held emotional ache, respite from rage, peace after years of anguish, openness where there was constriction.

But don't believe us, listen to what the participants had to say:

"I have realised the importance of concentrating on me to be able to gain the strength and ability to give to others."

"This is healing"

"That burden that was in my shoulder has gone. I just let it go."

"First you must take ownership of your feeling."

"It is a life skill."

"I came with anger but I went home with peace."

LEFT-RIGHT Dorcas Ramothokang; Chantal Dawtrey, 5th Place; Babalwa Matshaya; Matthew Green, 5th Place; Patience Maduna; Lerato Phaka; Andries Mokolo, SGB Chair; FRONT Snooky Msibi, Principal Sekwati Primary
LEFT-RIGHT Dorcas Ramothokang; Chantal Dawtrey, 5th Place; Babalwa Matshaya; Matthew Green, 5th Place; Patience Maduna; Lerato Phaka; Andries Mokolo, SGB Chair; FRONT Snooky Msibi, Principal Sekwati Primary

Principle: Take the step that's in front of me

When life feels overwhelming and there's too much on the go, if you are not sure what to do or where to start then take the step that is in front of you. Do what is right here, right now. Take The Step That's In Front Of Me.

Take the step that's in front of me

At 5th Place we have 12 Principles that underpin the work that we do. Each week we explore a different principle.

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