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Oak Lodge – Day 3

Alex Christie

10 June 2009

 

‘Frustration, content, calm, and surprise’ are emotions that shape our every day. But seeing and experiencing these through the eyes of extraordinary children aged 11 to 19 years, all of whom have one thing in common, deafness, and like me, I know that you would be truly humbled and delighted!
 
At Oak Lodge School in Balham, I have had the privilege of working with extremely talented groups of teachers, students (and colleagues) over the last 2 days, tracing, painting and prepping 5 extensive murals which will transform an ordinary boundary wall in the school car park, into an explosion of colour and feelings. These will welcome family and friends attending an important Student Art Exhibition at the school tomorrow afternoon and evening
 
Team work

Team work

The over-arching theme of the murals is an expression of ‘Emotion’, and a couple of these overtly depicted the emotions I mentioned at the start of this piece. However, there was one, ‘Focus’ that intrigued me. I could not immediately empathise with this in an emotional context? That is, until I spent time working with the students. My signing non-existent at this early stage, I remembered the briefing session by the dedicated teaching staff at the start of the week. They encouraged us all to speak normally, though at a measured, slower pace, looking directly at the students. ‘Bravely gesticulate at every opportunity’ was the leading message. To attract the attention of a hearing impaired person, a gentle tap on the shoulder should suffice. Thereafter, the art classes that gave birth to the beautiful murals that absorbed me these last few days, helped me see, and understand the power of ‘Focus’, and importantly, its emotional relevance in every day life, as I became integrated into the life of those that are more challenged by audible memories and associations

 
To the truly gifted and talented art teachers, the many inspirational students, thank-you for inviting me and my eager, and I have to say adept colleagues, into your world of colour, definition, control and emotions. For allowing us to transform your very personal designs and expressions into weather proofed, lasting visual expressions of your lives, a very humble and large, thank-you
 
The finished product

The finished product

Beyond this incredible experience, this week is about challenging ourselves; taking ourselves out of our daily comfort zones. If you had said to me just 2 days ago that I would be tutoring colleagues (confidently, too, I might add), in the use and ‘art’ of jigsawing, electric sanding, and varnishing boards with sticky ‘yacht’ varnish, I’d have thought that you were having a laugh! To the ‘Power Tool Team Tamar’ – Tanya, Chloe, Jess and Sarah B, ably assisted to this end by Neil A - ‘Job well done!’ And the team that painted black lines and borders, touched-up the power tool slips, and varnished late into the evening, excellent job, team! You should be feeling as proud and inspired as me. And there is still tomorrow…..

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