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Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Thoughts from ITSA 2012 team members on the “Institute of Writing & Thinking” workshop & "Training For Change"














May 18th – May 21st was a busy weekend for ITSA team members. Congregating in New York, the team took part in a “Training for Trainers” workshop, taught by veteran educators Betsy Raasch Gilman and Diana Gonzales from the Philadelphia-based organization Training for Change, a leading name in educating for democratic, nonviolent social change. Participants gained valuable skills in the areas of facilitation, teambuilding, teaching and communication. Julia Meyer was there for the ride:
“After months of anticipation, on Saturday, May 11th, training finally began. Indu Chugani, one of the co-founders of Educators for Teaching India, led a creative thinking workshop at Bard College. As a student at Bard, I was already familiarized with the atmosphere and teaching style – classes went for the entire day and were intellectually challenging. However, the format was different from the typical discussion-based classroom. Instead of having an open discourse, students responded in writing to what they had read.  Then, in no particular order, everyone shared what they had written. While there was an assortment of exercises, some more complicated than others, they mostly followed this format: reading, thinking, writing and speaking. While all my courses at Bard had required active participation, critical analysis, and creative thought, none of them had been structured quite like the experience of L&T. I remember a couple of L&T exercises, but one in particular that I’ve enjoyed both times: Poetry Explosion.  (…) Its conclusion resembled a cubist painting: rather than simply seeing the poem from our own perspective, the various viewpoints layered on top of one another.  The subject was no longer clearly identifiable. It became both an amalgamation of thought and a divergence of ideas, taking the poem into new, uncharted territory. (…)
By the end of the workshop I was completely rejuvenated. In school I can feel my mind stretching, bending, and twisting in every direction until there’s no where else to go. It’s satisfying, illuminating, and I love it, but it can also be an exhausting, even painful experience. The workshop reminded me that intellectual thought doesn’t have to be this taxing. By the end of Indu’s workshop I felt as though my entire mind had been reopened. Strain was replaced by freedom. I had the understanding that nothing I wrote could be wrong; I simply responded with my first thought, an idea that I would normally dismiss, and explored where it could take me. (…) Indu reminded me that thinking doesn’t have to be exhaustive, but can be quite energizing. We are always thinking something; it is just a matter of freely accessing these thoughts. Any idea that is seemingly simple or dry can open a window into an entirely new mental landscape.  And with that, there is always another place to go.”

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