Diamonds Covered in Mud

John Fitzgerald, founder and director of Toogoolawa Schools Limited, wrote in his Foreword to the book, ‘Love Changes Everything’, that ‘somewhere between 8,000 and 15,000 kids under the age of 15 are not attending school. … Many students are referred to Toogoolawa having been excluded from mainstream education for years, due to the difficulties and costs of managing their learning and behavioural problems.’

It might seem that it is the easy way out for the education system to cast aside those students who are disruptive, aggressive, profane, and disrespectful of all authority. And yet we can understand why it happens – so that the rest of the school can move on with learning the set curriculum, and to encourage secondary school teachers nearing burnout to continue on in what seems like an impossible work situation.

Toogoolawa Schools offer a basic education and, more importantly, aim to build character in boys aged 10 to 14 years who just ‘don’t fit in’ at other schools, mostly because of their deep-seated fears and anger at a system which has failed and rejected them. Over the past 11 years Toogoolawa has demonstrated considerable success in helping such boys turn their lives around.
Toogoolawa teachers and directors believe that, if mainstream education gave an equal priority to the development of inner harmony and good character as it does to academic and sporting pursuits, there would not be the urgent need for hundreds of schools like Toogoolawa throughout the country.
Perhaps a first step in considering such a drastic shift in educational philosophy is to have more understanding and compassion for the inner turmoil and darkness confronting these young future citizens. The following poem, ‘The Diamond’, provides a window into their lonely and alienating struggle. It is extracted from ‘Love Changes Everything’ and was written by Gerry Maloney, deputy director of Toogoolawa’s national education project.

THE DIAMOND

A diamond lurks inside of me,
Hiding from the world, you see.
No one has ever seen it shine,
It is covered fully with dross and grime.

 The only way to polish it
Is to do the things that make me fit
Into a world that speaks of norms
But can’t make sense of boyish forms
That yell and scream and throw and cry,
That moan and groan and know not why.

 To polish is a simple thing
That starts the day behaviour rings.
It tells me softly in my ear:
‘You are my son, so do not fear.’
Every time you speak with love,
Inside it’s like releasing a dove, 

Epiphanies of peace, right conduct, truth and such.
A virtuous life isn’t asking for much.
I polish slowly and without deflection
Appears before me quite a collection
Of nice things to say and good acts to follow.
It dawns on me, perhaps I’m not so hollow.

 Those people who accuse me of being naughty
May act in haste, a little haughty.
Once I see my own reflection,
I understand a new direction.

 ‘Clear the other side, you fool!
Your diamond sits in a pool
Of infinite love and reality born,
That exists not in time, space or form.’

 It’s a portal, I must look with stealth –
For I’m searching for my translucent Self.
The part that knows me like no other,

The part that joins me to the Mother.
Gerry Moloney

 Gerry is also the principal of the Toogoolawa School at Ormeau in south-east Queensland, Australia. As with all Toogoolawa teachers, he regards the boys at his school as ‘diamonds covered in mud’. His aim is to love and inspire the students to recognize their innate goodness and wisdom and, in so doing, to ‘wash off the mud’ – to let go of those attitudes and behaviours which have been limiting them so much in life.Education of this nature does not impose an additional load on teachers because it involves more of a change in attitude than an attempt to change the students’ behavior directly. As we change, the ‘world’ changes, in the same way that when we change the colour of the lenses of our glasses from green to blue everything we see changes its colour without any effort on our part.An added benefit of such an attitudinal change is that the evolution in a teacher’s character required for ‘seeing the diamond and not the mud’ provides students with an enhanced role model for the art of living as a more noble and caring human being.Gerry Moloney

 

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2 Responses

  1. I recently read about the amazing school “Toogoolawa” founded by John Fitzgerald in the QWeekend (Courier Mail Jan 23-24, 2010). Whilst reading the article “Lost & Found” by Trent Dalton I experienced a myriad of emotions and, quite honestly, was moved to tears (unfortunately, I was at the drive in waiting for the movie to start, lol- embarassing!). I am a fourth year bachelor of primary education student, and during most of my pracs I have seen children who are literally (in their disguised way) crying out for love and positive attention. Unfortunately, their behaviour is rarely seen as a plea to be wanted, respected and LIKED. I have a soft spot for these kids, and was heartened to discover that there are people who not only care but are also doing something about it. Well done! Let’s see if we can bring the essence of Toogoolawa to the mainstream 🙂

  2. Dear Mich,
    Thank you for your heart-felt comment. Seeing into the future we’d like to predict that many hundreds of children in your classes will come to believe that they are indeed extraordinary beings, and that the challenges in life are the rough wheels for polishing their inner diamond. One lighted candle can light a thousand others without any diminishing of its own flame.

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