Susie Mallett

Parent blog

Thursday 23 June 2011

Assisting children conductively in school

" A small piece of England" by Susie Mallett, May 2011

A conductor colleague has given me this paper, a report of her experiences as a conductor and classroom assistant and as mediator and practitioner that she was asked to prepare for presentation at a meeting this afternoon.

She was at first reluctant to let me publish it but eventually agreed that, as she is one of very few people who have such personal experiences of so many aspects of “inclusion”, she has much to share especially with families who are embarking on this journey with their children.

If any of you have any questions please use the comment box or email me and I will forward your letters.

GRUNDTVIG: Education and culture. Lifelong learning programme

Training for classroom assistants

Éva Bugya, conductor

Presentation to meeting in Birmingham, England, 21-24 June 2011

I have worked as a classroom assistant. I hope it will be of interest to you all, and beneficial while planning training for assistants in the future, for you to hear how, as a conductor, I was able to make changes and influence life in the school environment in a way that had not been possible for assistants without my training.

I graduated from the Pető Institute as a conductor-teacher in 2008. In February of the following year I began work in Hungary in a mainstream middle school. The parents of a motor-disabled child employed me as a school assistant to be responsible only for the needs of their child.

This is how it was before I arrived

The child’s classroom was situated on the third floor, but there was no elevator in the building.

When I began this work I found that L, the then ten-year-old girl with cerebral palsy, sat at the back of the class despite her poor vision. She did not sit next to her classmates but next to the previous assistant. The given reason for this was that no one else would fit at the desk because of L’s big wheelchair. Her classmates did not really have any direct contact with her. L had just one friend, not just one in the class but in the whole school.

During breaks L remained in the classroom with her assistant while the other children played in the playground and also when they went to the dining room for lunch. The reason given this time was because the playground is downstairs and the dining room in the basement. It was not possible, they said, for her to walk up and down the stairs.

The bathroom was on the third floor opposite the classroom but was too small for wheelchair access. There was a hand rail in the toilet but inappropriately placed so that L was not able to sit safely on the toilet, and therefore could not be left alone.

During lessons she was not called upon to speak, because she was afraid of "performing", of answering questions and of the reaction of others. Because L did not respond to their questioning the teachers gradually asked her less often, perhaps just once a day in comparison to twenty times for the other children. Even on this one occasion L was afraid to answer. This made it difficult for the teachers to assess her real knowledge.

In the afternoons after lessons were over, when other children were given the opportunity to learn and play together, L was provided with a separate room. She was told that as she works in a slower tempo than the others it would cause distractions and that the noise of the others would disturb her. L’s parents were of the same opinion that afternoons spent with classmates or friends would have been a waste of time.

I do not understand why she was in an integrated school.

I set about changing L’s lifestyle at school which of course also influenced her life elsewhere.

I spent a lot of time talking to all the people involved in L’s life, her parents, teachers, and head teacher, and gradually we were able to bring about some positive changes.

The most important change that came about was that her whole class moved from the third to the ground floor they were given use of what was previously the staff-room.

One of the greatest personal changes for L was that the school built a new toilet that was accessible to her in her wheelchair and had sufficient hand rails to help her to feel secure.

She was given a different desk to sit at which was longer, this gave us more space but not for me to sit next to her. It was more important that a classmate was allowed to join her there and she never sat alone again. Later she was able to sit safely at the desk on a chair with a pummel, giving the two children even more space at the desk.

The change of classroom to the ground floor made it possible for L to have contact with her classmates during the breaks. There was a terrace outside the classroom where many pupils played that was on the same level as the classroom. With assistance she learnt to walk with a walker and then to walk down stairs which meant she could walk down from the terrace into the playground and inside the school down into the basement to the dining room.

After the change of classroom and learning to walk there was no reason for her to be carried by her father and no reason for her to remain isolated.

When she went out to the playground she went without my assistance which gave her the chance to make new friends and to become more out-going, which was also apparent during the lessons.

Her classmates and her teachers learnt how to work with her and how to help her. This happened mainly because of L’s increased confidence and ability to communicate.

The people involved in L’s life learnt how to live with her conductively. They learnt conductive observation, conductive upbringing, conductive assistance and conductive teaching.

When I started this work, L could not stretch both of her arms. This meant she could not use her manual wheelchair to get around independently. After a long time she understood that if she regularly wore splints to help stretch her left arm she would be much more independent in her wheelchair. Gradually she put on the splint because she wanted this independence for herself and not because I wanted it.

The first time that L moved her wheelchair alone happened after she had argued with me and she took herself off into another room shutting the door behind her. I waited outside until she came out again to join me.

She not only learnt how to use her wheelchair and the difference between being pushed or doing it herself, but also the joy of being able to be alone whenever she felt like it.

The changes in L’s life came about because of the good communication between all of the practitioners involved. We were able to ask for advice and to give it, and in this way our knowledge and experience grew together to provide a conductive lifestyle for L.

I think it is important to train assistants, to teach them the competencies that they need in order to understand that they do not have to achieve everything all at once and that small steps need to be taken to achieve success.

Very often the people assisting disabled children claim that they do not have enough time for carrying out activities with as little help from them as possible. They believe that because the other children in mainstream school are faster, then the disabled child must do things at the same speed, or not at all.

Due to lack of experience and knowledge often assistants do not know how to develop a plan for the week. A plan that could include such tasks as walking downstairs to the dining-room just once a week, moving in a wheelchair alone to the bathroom just once a day, or doing homework while standing twice a week, and through these activities allowing the children the same experiences as their classmates. Just not as often.

Of course there is not time for everything but this is no reason never to do anything!

About my work in Germany

I now work in Germany where we have many different groups. One of them is an afternoon group for school children who attend mainstream school. They can use this service on as many days as they wish depending on their other commitments and activities. Most come two or three times each week for three hours each day.

All of these children have a personal, classroom assistant.

Because of my previous work experience I find it very important to communicate with the parents, assistants and class teachers. We visit the children in their classes three times a year and to bring continuity to our work the assistants and family members join us in the group more often.

Some assistants attend once a week others once a month. One assistant uses this visit as an opportunity to practise using public transport with the child on her way to the group.

When the assistants join us in our conductive sessions we exchange information, share experiences, decide on future aims and now we can transfer what is learnt in the conductive setting into the classroom and vice versa.

One of the children has attended the integrative Kindergarten and other conductive groups since he was two-years old. In preparing him for school, and since attending school, we have worked on tasks that bring him more awareness of his own body and personal space. He would trip over, could never find his belongings and would spread his food, cutlery and crockery all over the table and sometimes even on the floor.

In conversation with his classroom assistant she has told me that the most useful tip that she has taken from our conductive group is the use of a table mat to give this child defined borders, so that he knows which space on the table is for his use, and to avoid confusion.

We have experienced that at meal times he has far less accidents with spilt drinks and messy clothes and in school the assistant reports that the desk is now kept in order. An orderly work place is essential for this child who has extreme difficulties with perception and orientation. The classroom assistant is sure that the child’s school work has improved because she has been able to implement in school what she has seen in the conductive group. She tells us that the whole life of this "crazy professor" is more orderly because she has learnt so much while attending the conductive group that she uses with the child all day. She also tells us that she is now able to teach the child’s mother too when she visits the family home.

All assistants need different kinds of help from us, some who work with children with severe physical disabilities want to learn how the child can move around in the classroom or how they can sit or stand to join in different activities. Other assistants, who work with children with social problems, observe how we encourage these children within our group to interact and relate with others. They are then able to implement this at school where it is so important for the children to learn how to make new friends, play social games, interact and communicate well.

Wednesday 22 June 2011

Dylan, painting, creativity, pedagogy, Vygotskii's Psychology of Art and lots more

"Being an artist on a Sunday"
by Susie Mallett " 2oth June 2010

I think that most of my readers know that I love to know who my dots are. I met a few dots in Hong Kong last year, sometimes dots send me emails and two weeks ago in Newcastle two more dots made themselves known to me.

I like to look at my map at the end of the day and try to put names to dots and sometimes I sit here and fiddle with the Sitemeter wondering what I could need all the information for that they give me. One thing I find really interesting it that it tells me where visitors arrive and where they leave. I have noticed that for several weeks someone is reading my blog from Mountain View, USA. This reader is not coming in at the new blog each visit but seems to be working through perhaps from the beginning, I did not notice when the visits started.

When I was up early a few days ago, and had time to switch on and read before work, I noticed that the Mountain View visitor had been reading the posting below.

I was almost late by the time I had read it myself right through to the last comment. It is because of the comments that I have reposted it here. Comments often get lost at the bottom of a posting and sometimes there is more in them about conductive upbringing than in the posting itself, as I think is the case here.

I thought it was worth another airing and thank you to Rony and Andrew for their contributions.

First published on Conductor blog on:

Sunday, 20 June 2010

Times they are a-changin'

He's got everything he needs he's an artist, he don't look back!

In the “Notes and Queries” section of my English weekly newspaper this week someone questioned what has happened to Bob Dylan’s voice.

This reminded me that I had something somewhere in my notebook, scribbled down in haste some time ago.

It was a quote I had read that comes from Bob Dylan’s Chronicles, Volume One. It had been on the wall beside a painting by Bob at an exhibition of his works that a friend of mine had taken me to see. This was the first time I had seen any of Bob Dylan's artworks.

It was actually the friend who turned to me and pointed out how conductive this sounded:

“Creativity has much to do with experience, observation and imagination and if any one of these elements is missing it doesn’t work”

Yes it does sound a bit conductive but then again as I often say most of life does.

The more experience I gather in my work and in my life I realise that however much I read about this or about that, it is by doing and experiencing that I learn the most. It is my experiences that teach me the lessons I need to develop and progress in all that I do.

It is my observations at work and of life that affirm this to me, give me ideas and also give me time to gather my thoughts.

It is my imagination that enables me to use my experiences and my observations creatively.

So thanks for this Bob and thanks too to my friend for pointing it out to me.

Don’t think twice its alright

As to what happened to Bob Dylan’s voice. I don’t know. In this piece of writing from his Chronicles and in the paintings that I was fortunate to see I would say that his “voice “ is doing as well as ever it was.

However I think the author of the question really meant his singing voice. I have not heard Bob sing live recently so I cannot comment on his voice now, but I heard him sing in Budapest in 1992 and I asked myself the same question then. Each time I hear him his voice sounds different, that’s what makes Bob Dylan Bob Dylan!

In my opinion as far as the words, the music and the paintings are concerned Bob Dylan’s voice is still making itself heard loud and strong and clear, all the elements he mentioned that he needs to be creative seem to be still there. Some of the elements I need as a condcutor to be creative too.


She's got everything she needs she's an artist she don't look back, (She belongs to me) -

Bob Dylan's Artwork -

Chronicles Volume One, published o October 5, 2004 by Simon & Schuster-

It is difficult in Germany to track down Bob Dylan songs as I cannot watch anything from Sony produtions but:

The voice seems fine here -

and here -

and of course here, many years ago with old friend Joan Baez -

Don’t think twice its alright: two elderly gents playing a mean guitar and one lovely voice-

And one more just for fun as the guitar playing is so good! -


Andrew said...

Experience, observation,immagination

I beg to disagree with what you write here...

I don't think that what you describe is specifically 'conductive' as such, as pedagogues with other ways of thinking and acting could reasonably claim that these three attributes are represented in their pedagogies too.

Rather, what you are saying is characteristic of much of that which is 'pedagogic'.

Pedagogy that is specifically conductive in its purpose and practice, 'conductive pedagogy', may have these atributes too. But these three will not in themselves 'bring together' the disordered components of development, rerail or reset ontogenesis.

These are the processes that need describing if Conductive Education is to produce a technical literature that can serve to establish its own identity. Your recent posting on group painting activity is the sort of thing that I mean...


Rony Schenker, OTR, PhD, Tsad Kadima, Israel said...

The 'tool box' of a conductor as of many other professions should contain both the 'art' and the 'practice' of the profession. If I understood Andrew correctly, than what he means is that these three elements are to do with the 'Art' of the conductive pedagogy, but not with the 'practice', the 'know how', the 'manual' of how it works. We might say that the art of a profession is what distinct it from staying at the 'craft' level, what differs a craftperson from an artisit. At any case, you need them both in order to get 'quality'.
What do you think?

Andrew said...


I think that I should explain my viewpoint on conductive/pedagogic a little more explicitly.

Imagine a simple, two-dimensional graph drawn on a sheet of paper. The vertical axis represents 'conductiveness', upwards from zero to very conductive indeed – and downwards from zero to very contrary to conductive indeed. Teaching and upbringing might be placed upon this axis according to how far they operate to bring together and unify the disassociated aspects of learning and development – of course how far they might act to force them apart.

The horizontal axis refers to 'pedagogicness'.-- from very pedagogic indeed down through zero to anti-pedagogic, according to how far human agency (teaching and upbringing, for example) act consciously to teach that which was not known, and thereby create (teach) new abilities where there were none before, to activities that act to confirm those who are potentially learners within the range of what they presently know and can do (provide your own examples!).
work to.

As I wrote above, your group-painting activities would rate highly of both axes and would therefore be plotted clearly within the conductive-pedagogic quadrant of this simplistic, two-dimensional graph.

You might reasonably object that conductivity of your practice and its pedagogic quality interact, an the more that it is one then the more it is the other. I think that I might go with this, and offer that the two axes on my graph need not be orthogonal (at right angles) to account for this – a perfectly legitimate mathematical ploy!

But I am also aware just how simplistic it is to break down the substance of Conductive Education into just these two dimensions. I am sure that you will be able to add others.


Andrew said...


This is another of those areas, I suspect, where CE suffers very badly from rarely discussing things and therefore failing to create common understandings and terminology. I can say what I mean, Susie can say what she mean, you can say what you mean, I can put in my view and others will have other takes on all this.

Here is my simple cosmology (like in my comment above I wish that I could draw a diagram!).

The trade of conductors may be construed (and prepared (trained) for under three heads, values, practice and theory.

Practice is what they actually intend and do – their professional activity.

This can be further subdivided and prepared for, this time under two heads : 'science' and 'art'.

I have explored what I mean by 'science' in this context pretty extensively on Conductive World – suffice it here to say that it refers to explicit, communicable, formal knowledge, transmitted from generation to generation by whatever means. By 'art' I mean he personal, creative, adaptation and elaboration of this formal knowledge by the individual conductor (or individual conductive group) to meet the requirements, exigencies etc of a given case, circumatsance, goal etc.

I note that this is not the meaning of the word that either you or Susie adopts. Fair enough.

And, I see, you have introduced another interesting distinction, between 'craft' and 'art'. I think that this discussion could, and should, go usefully on and on....


Susie Mallett said...

I had prepared a couple of answers to the first two comments on this blog from Andrew and Rony in my lunch hour yesterday. When I eventually got home at 21.30 I sort of collapsed in a heap of tiredness with a cup of tea, so there was no posting of blogs or comments from me last night!

Once again I have just got home from work. Late again but this time not because I was working but because I stayed on a bit longer so I could catch the second half of the England match on the TV. I went over to the café at the residential home next door to the conductive ed. department where they just about tolerated my England T shirt and even sold me a cup of coffee.

When I eventually got to a computer I discovered that Andrew Sutton has taken the discussion even further and it maybe my comments no longer really follow on from his latest contributions. I will post them anyway and readers can fit them in where ever they think they belong……

Yes Andrew, you are right.
These words from Dylan and my explanation are pedagogic but are not necessarily conductive. What I described in the group painting posting is certainly conductive.

Now I am asking myself after reading through the painting posting again what are the words that I could add to Dylan’s list to make it specifically about conductive pedagogy.

All I have come up with so far is my old favourite: the Seele (soul). I do not use this in a soppy way. I use the word Seele just as András Petö did in his writings. Just as he wrote and I also believe, the soul must not just be present, it must also be active and healthy and united with the body and physical well-being if steps are to be taken forwards and upwards and outwards, spiralling in fact. Body and soul become united in a person’s efforts to develop both physically and psychologically.

I find it easier to explain conduction by telling a story, as in my painting posting, than I do by writing a list of words.

Back to Dylan

Not only is there that something missing from his list of creative elements, in my opinion, that something is also missing from his paintings. I find his paintings delightful, not only because Bob Dylan painted them but because they are also pleasant to look at. I think I would really enjoy having one on my living room wall.

But when looking at them as a whole it is a different story, there is something missing. They do not make a whole somehow. You can look at them in the links that I gave above.

Each collection of his paintings do not tell a story in the way that his lyrics do. The paintings appear to be just a statement of a moment in time. They show us what he saw out of the window during a quiet moment while on tour. The paintings when looked at together do not suggest a unity or a development of ideas. There is nothing to indicate to me that he was trying to draw his ideas together through the images or the techniques he used. They told me no story, in comparison to his often thought-provoking lyrics that often give encouragement to look forwards, to question and to move on while finding answers.

After looking at my own postings, your comments and Dylan’s work I ask myself whether I am any nearer to finding out what puts the conducere into pedagogy and lifestyle.

For the moment I will stick to the story of life and the Seele.

Susie Mallett said...

Rony, I am not sure if I know exactly what you want to say here, but it appears that you are separating art and practice.

For me art and practice are not two separate entities to be kept in a tool box. One cannot exist without the other, there is no painting to be discussed or viewed before the artist puts paintbrush to canvas and no sculpture before a hammer hits the chisel on the stone. Just as there is no conductive pedagogy/lifestyle without living the life.

A work of art or craft can be abstract, modern, functional, impressionist, pop or op, or post-impressionist. Conductive living can also have as many different faces as the number of personalities involved in producing it and the number of trends being followed at the time.

And still I am a loss to find just a few words that defines what makes what I do a conductive pedagogy and not what is practised somewhere else, for example in a Waldorf-Steiner school or a Montessori kindergarten. We are bringing up children, we are dealing with life and learning, all uniting body and soul.

Conductive upbringing is about life. About all our lives. We all learn from all the activities we take part in and all that we learn influences the next activity and then the next and this will also influence the experiences we had the day before and the day before that.

For me all these things that Rony and Andrew mention, art, science, skills, craft and practice cannot be described as separate parts of conductive pedagogy or upbringing as they do not exist as separate elements, anymore than the individual life experiences that we have can be defined as being the single cause of a specific personal development. I cannot say that at this point this is science or at this point it is art, the spiralling journey needs a complex mixture of all of these all the time, one cannot exist without the others.

Andrew said...

I appreciate the time and effort that you have dedicated to trying to explain your understanding to someone like myself who has no 'art', whether this be creating with paints or practice with people. I deliberately write the words 'understanding, activity' together like this because I discern, a concept here that unifies them rather than places them – as they are often considered – in opposition to each other.

Your position may be hard to convey to someone like myself but I can see that you maintain it wholly consistently.

A long time ago now (actually it was only in January!) I responded on Conductive World to a critical note that you had written on an Internet-published article on Conductive Education on children's drawings. The article has not shared your dialectical understanding. I wrote then that what you had written put me in mind of Vygotskii's Psychology of Art. From what you have written this time does so again, even more so.

This is what I wrote in January:

More importantly, this is what you had written then:

Rony used the term 'art' in connection with what conductors do in their work. That would be, I guess, as you describe your work, a performance art, which binds the matter perhaps even more closely to Vygotskii's Psychology of Art, and to Lois Holzman whose own dialectical therapy-through-drama I alluded to in January. And, as I also alluded then, there is more of an echo of András Pető and his old chum Jakob Moreno in there!

By the way, forgive the use of my favoured spelling of 'Vygotskii' here, rather than the more common, American 'Vygotsky'. I suppose, though, that in communicating with you over there in Germany, I should more properly write 'Wigotskij', as he did himself.!

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