Joy in Geneva


Well I loved the Swiss Group of International Schools (SGIS) Conference 2023. Truly, the current SGIS pulled together an incredible array of international presenters, authors and filmmakers – all of whom are grappling with how education needs to respond to the current needs of young people both personally and politically who are facing an increasingly threatened planet.

I was hugely stirred by Valerie Hannon’s keynote speech. She is lauded as a ‘Global thought leader working independently to support change programmes across the world’. Her research and wide ranging experience makes it clear that the UK paradigm of education cannot meet the challenges of a planet suffering the ravages of climate change. We need to think differently and the ‘peripheral activities in schools need to become core’. I am not doing her hard hitting challenges any justice here – please engage directly with her ideas. She is a prolific author….maybe try ‘ Thrive – The Purpose of Schools in a Changing World 2021′ by Valerie Hannon and Amelia Peterson, Cambridge University Press.

How does my work help young people face the future?. I passionately believe that Circle-Time needs to be a core activity for all young people . Everyone needs to belong to a circle of others who they can feel respect for and respected by. It is a basic human need. If Circle Time is  facilitated properly it creates ‘family’ in its widest and best sense. Only when an individual feels firstly their own and others unique strengths in a warm positive relationship will they have the power and energy to want to contribute change to their school. Their deepening empathy will lead them on to then want to help their immediate community and then…..wider political change. I love the sub-title of Christina Baldwin’s book ‘The Circle Way – A Leader In Every Chair’.

I would like to write more here but I myself have fallen down Maslow/Glasser’s bottom level of being – into survival !! Keeping everything going in these current times,…..the constant travel, engaging positively with schools who are experiencing huge levels of distress is taking up all my time. Shouting from the rooftops my truth would be my preferred position – but it will need to wait!

So dear Reader, if you are out there please wave – it gives me energy to keep these blogs going.

I can’t sign off though without mentioning two other incredibly inspiring presenters. Amy Bray who, at 16, founded the charity  ‘Another Way’.  She is now 20, a marine biologist, whose aim is to bring people together to commit to changing their lives in order to make a difference. “I believe in the power of people to change the world, especially if we listen to the youth. People need to care”. This young person is lit with an intense light that draws you into her passion so it becomes yours, please go to her website. She is representative of how all young people could be if, in their early life, they experience love, safety and witness values being practised by inspiring adults.

A huge ‘Thank you’  too to the young poet and filmmaker Sean Leonadh whose workshop I attended. He is already hugely respected by BAFTA Scotland for his short file ‘Too Rough’ and visual poem ‘Time For Love’. He works closely with the LGBTQ community in schools. I was very moved by his work and his gently way of motivating his delegates to discover the poet that is within all of us. I found myself writing three lines, about a time in my life I never write about…..just 5 years old travelling on a train from Paddington with nuns to go to a boarding school in Harrogate!  A journey I was to repeat for several years.

Suddenly it seemed totally understandable why I have spent so much of my life pleading with people to join a safe circle where love is shown by genuine listening, shared fun and the sense of agency and power our unity provides.

Website Managers Note – Jenny contributed to 3 workshops repeated twice to the SGIS conference.

  • Connecting To Yourself: how to put your own wellbeing first so that you have energy to support others.
  • Connecting To Others: how to create a vibrant, positive circle time
  • Connecting A School Community: a range of initiatives which give children responsibly to run their own social times.

Authors Note – to have integrity I need to follow my own advice. I follow my Five Wells For Wellbeing. I recognised the conference would fill my Intellectual, Creative and Emotional Wells….but I needed my Spiritual and Physical Wells topped up so after the conference I spent a couple of days hiking in the Jura Mountains with a wonderful guide Francois. Here are the photos……