On Tuesday the 15th of February, four JUMP! facilitators travelled to Dulwich College High School to provide a “Post Grad Transition Program” to its Year 13 Students. Rupert Common observes.
The seats in the theatre are empty, save one or two, which are occupied by teachers who type quietly, seemingly oblivious to the swarm of students on the ground-stage in front of them, who shuffle along a continuum, form themselves in to circles, and then spontaneously jump onto each others knees. To the ill-warned spectator it may seem like interpretive theatre sports, or a youth-group of some sort. What it is, officially, is the post-grad transition Program, headed by JUMP!
Tailored to the immediate needs of the forty-plus I.B. students, the three hour whirlwind of open minds and thumbs pointed upwards is designed to raise questions about the leap from high school to post secondary education, and to set goals to make the leap a successful one. Luckily, I am not ill-informed, and hold in my hands a detailed outline of the course and a bullet list of the objectives. Whether or not these objectives are met is up to the facilitators, four young women with similar t-shirts on.
Were it not for the t-shirts, a single glance at the floor might not be enough to discern the leaders. They are spread out, never hold the spotlight for too long, and by nature of the circle, never really in front. They are also young, and in some cases only four years may separate them from those they lead. That is just the amount of time it would take a person to complete university, a common goal amongst these Dulwich students and a prominent theme of the day’s activities.
The afternoon rolls forward in a series of games, exercises and group discussions. Nothing is given a chance to fly by and lose meaning. If the energy drops and blank faces begin to appear, one of the facilitators calls upon an “energizer game” to rouse the ranks. A rock, paper, scissors tournament (“it’s scissors, rock, paper!” exclaims a British accented male) which eliminates half of its competitors after every bout is the most memorable. The victors cannot hide their enthusiasm and smiles abound. With the newfound energy the students are can give their full attention to the t-shirted ladies, who offer up some more food for thought.
The Continuum is a visual survey, and viewed from the top row of the theatre the effect is not lost. Students are placed on an invisible line and are asked to move to one end or the other depending on the strength of their opinion. Vegetarianism, career certainty, leadership abilities, cultural identity and other such themes are addressed. The participants may not talk and they are continually asked to think about where they stand in relation to their peers, and how it makes them feel. As with all activities they are also given the option to sit it out. In the questionnaires filled out at the end, this game is deemed most rewarding.
“It made me know more about myself,” says one girl, and,
“I never asked myself these questions,” says an anonymous student.
The pace of the program doesn’t allow discussions to fizzle, and often, they are still in full swing as the facilitators move on to the next installment. One of these installments is the PVL exercise. This stands for “prisoner, vacationer, leader,” and it has to do with the power of choice in a given scenario. The example is a traffic jam. A prisoner is helpless, a vacationer seeks to pass time smoothly, and a leader looks to change things for the better.
The overwhelming majority of the students found JUMP! to be beneficial, with many comments including words like, “useful”, “innovative”, “interactive”, and “inspiring”. One person mentioned that they now “knew more about [themselves].” I take a second peek at the program outline I was given earlier and double check the website. Variations of the same words are all there. The facilitators did not brainwash these kids, they simply ran the program to the best of their ability and the feedback affirmed their efforts.
I say farewell to the girls as they are in mid debrief. They are tightly knit and in a discussion about what went well and what could be improved. When they get back to the office – a former kindergarten classroom replete with carpets and tiny sinks – they are still carrying the conversation. Their lead coordinator then joins in and the five of them don’t stop until well past my dinner time.
Tomorrow it will be back to the desks for the team of facilitators, who have various other responsibilities aside from the on-site leadership programs. If they want to achieve the goals of their organization, they must be ever-conscious of the larger group and the greater picture. I think they can handle it.