Wellbeing at Glenaeon
Our Wellbeing Program is a focus at Glenaeon throughout 2021 and is undergoing a full review. Head of School Andrew Hill wrote recently to parents in Years 9 and 10 outlining our plans for respectful relationships education. In response to recently highlighted concerns coming both from our own community and articulated in society generally, Glenaeon High school students will be participating in the ‘LOVE BiTES’ program, teaching students explicitly about respectful relationships and consent, and in workshops presented by facilitators from the Drug and Alcohol Youth Services (DAYSS). A webinar for parents and carers of high school students, hosted by DAYSS, will be held on Monday, 22 March at 7:30pm. Further details and links will be emailed to you.
Reflections on consent... In the Alphabet Book for Teens and Adults, “M” is not for 'mouse'.
In eurythmy, the sound “B” is the first sound in what is known as the ‘Evolutionary Sequence of Sounds’. It is performed with the enclosing of the arms, a protective gesture that draws the surrounding space around the human gestalt like an enveloping mantle. Rudolf Steiner likens the quality of the “B” to that of a house, a solid, architectural structure that holds form about its inhabitants and protects those inside from unwanted intrusion. In English, the word house clearly doesn’t contain the sound “B” and we can only extrapolate that the development of the word in the English language points to a somewhat nuanced inner experience, but we can see that a rounded, holding gesture can be found in many words that do start with the sound, such as burrow, bower, boat, bowl or basin, all nouns which ‘contain’ and which bring me to the word ‘body’.
The use of the word ‘house’ as a metaphor for the human body is well known and reveals a long held experience that our individuality, our sense of self or ‘I’, resides within the body but is not synonymous with the body. For those who hold the belief that the human spirit is independent from the physical form, this experience makes considerable sense and affirms their understanding. For those who do not, this awareness is a puzzlement that inspires neuroscientific investigation. Irrespective as to our belief, the experience is universal and the body as a home or house for our inner being is a perceivable reality.
When it comes to consent, a crucial right that has been highlighted this year both within schools and at the government level, we find ourselves considering how essential the protective quality of the “B” experience is and how intrinsically the physical barrier which the body affords is linked to the invisible boundary and “B” experience that houses and protects our individuality, our ‘I’. We are aware of how deeply insecure the individual self or ‘I’ may become if the film that protects our sense of self is penetrated even by the most trivial of matters, and we are conscious of just how shattering that experience may be if the walls of the body, our house and our ultimate boundary, have been breached without our invitation. With “B”, both the invisible “B” that shelters the ‘self’ and the “B” of the physical body, we experience a necessary relationship to the world where the ‘I’ is securely held within and where external influences are firmly shut out.
With the sound “M”, the next sound in the eurythmy sound series, we encounter quite a different gesture. The movement for “M” is performed by gently yet firmly moving the arms in a fluid, horizontal, two-directional manner, with one hand and arm moving outward from the body while the other moves inward. At this point in the sound sequence, the eurythmist is taught that from the secure confines of the “B” ‘house’, the possibility for the merging of the inner with the outer exists through a controlled and conscious ‘conversation’, a gentle movement that comes about in the ‘space between’. Whether or not we choose to accept someone or something into our inner world, and into our body, can only be decided through conversation and exchange. Many words beginning with “M” point to the sound’s embodiment of this ‘conversational’ aspect … movement, mindful, merge, mutual. “M” is the experience that mediates the permeability of our boundaries.
And the fact that “M” is the second sound in the ‘Evolutionary Sequence of Sounds’ is the essential point! We do not jump from the experience of “B” to that of, for example, “F” … and in fact the sound “F” comes at a much later stage in the sequence when, actioned appropriately and able to be received, the value of its characteristics can be acknowledged. Qualities such as forceful or fierce have their place, but when used directly to shatter the “B” they have devastating effects.
We all know this. But what we find ourselves struggling with is why, nevertheless, the natural order of things isn’t always respected … from “B” to “M” or, said more pragmatically, from boundary to mutual conversation and respect. One thing is certain, while the “B” of the physical body is a given and exists without our thought, an “F” can be an unruly quality that must be tamed and, in order to do so, we need mastery of the “M”, which requires conscious awareness. It is this element, conscious awareness, that we must strengthen.
Consent is both implicitly and explicitly taught throughout the students’ schooling at Glenaeon, as we know it has also been at other schools where recent concerns have been highlighted, but many are stressing that the degree to which (or the timing when which) these teachings have been brought is clearly not enough. While some may wish to hold a naïve optimism that progression through the ‘Evolutionary Sequence of Sounds’ would naturally unfold in its rightful order and with the appropriate level of awareness, we keenly understand our duty of care to ensure that each stage is brought to consciousness. Understanding the “B” and emphasising the role of the “M” becomes of utmost importance.
As a starting point and in the context of the Alphabet Book for Teens and Adults, “B” must therefore be understood as being for boundary and “M” is not for mouse. “M” is for mindful and mutual. Mindful mutual conversation, mindful mutual understanding and mindful mutual respect … and “F” is not for force, “F” is for friend.
The premise of eurythmy is that our development of language is not arbitrary but has come about through our inherent understanding that qualities of sounds speak to objective, inner experiences and/or perceptions of the outer world. This suggestion can be followed by paying attention to a general tendency in some instances for the sounds in words to match, from a qualitative and movement perspective (for example, how the sound is formed in the mouth and larynx), aspects that pertain to the meaning of the word. The ‘Evolutionary Sequence of Sounds’ is a series of 12 sounds of speech that Rudolf Steiner suggested embodies a basic progression through inner experience. The series is: B M D N R L G CH F S H T
Deputy Head of School, Years 7-12