Fw: Richness in Open Space- a story

Birgitt Bolton birgitt at worldchat.com
Tue Dec 2 07:51:15 PST 1997

A story that Virginia has asked me to put on the list. Next chapter next

> From: Virginia Burt <your-userid at interlynx.net>
> To: Birgitt Bolton <birgitt at worldchat.com>
> Subject: Richness in Open Space
> Date: December 2, 1997 10:37 AM
> Dear Birgitt
> Here is the story of my first Open Space with my third year landscape
> design students at Fanshawe College. As you are aware, it was an
> and a half! I am writing this to you so that you are able to share it
> others so some of the story you all ready know. Here goes...
> I teach a 1/2 course per year in the Design Studio course for Landscape
> design at Fanshawe College. The students range in age from 20 to 40
> Typically my kids are right from Grade 12, High School.
> Upon experiencing Open Space led by Barry Owen in Tennessee, then again
> OSonOS, I wondered aloud to Birgitt if I might try using OS on my
> kids.....she said why not? It was at this point that I began to feel
> uncomfortable...all that attended OSonOS were so obviously articulate and
> expereinced with the process and how could I , an untrained "ruthless
> transdisciplinary", possibly have the audacity to do this elegant and
> wonderous thing?
> Well, as driving to an appointment, I dreamed and visualized a theme of
> 'OS'ing' the kids. The first one was how to format their next series of
> projects within the course to allow them to graduate with the tools that
> they needed.....I passed this by Birgitt and she said "well hope you have
> read the book" and encouraged me that this will be wonderful.  As always
> the universe has unusual ways of working and i respond to those unusual
> ways with new hair brained ideas. I emailed Birgitt with a second theme
> night before the class. Knowing that her schedule was tight, I asked her
> email me back with any input as I would be facilitating the next day....
> As I poured over the book and figured out what I would do, I wrote the
> theme and began to realize that my kids would not have any warning, ie.
> invitation, nor had they ever seen me before. Thinking Oh well, I plowed
> on, other teachers have done it. My email to Bigitt was as follows:
> Re: Open space for students
> OK, so I am beginning to feel the chaos in myself and feel as though I am
> the
> lamb to the slaughter......yet I feel this sense of calm and
> that
> it will work out fine....whatever happens is the only thing that could
> have. (I
> think I am getting the hang of this!) BB, at the same time, I feel
> invasive and clumsy with this incredible thing that you and others are
> to
> do called Open Space. Ah well here it is anyway.....please feel free to
> call me
> up until 11pm if you are able....
> As for the theme. One thing these kids all have passion for is getting $
> and a
> job after they graduate....(am I making a grave mistake in this
> assumption?) So
> generally, my theme is as follows:
> How will I get an ideal job when I graduate from this program?
> Unfortunatley i do not have Bigitt's return email as i have recently
> upgraded my email program and deleted it.....It went something like this:
> "Virginia, as long as you are prepared for the outcome, this is a very
> topic...I wish you luck. Sorry it is too late to call..."
> The invitation was as follows:
> Third Year Design Studio
> Fanshawe College
> Focus and Intent
> You are invited to the first annual symposium on Finding Ideal Jobs.
> symposium is not for everyone especially those who expect a typical
> lecture.  We will enter into open space without prepared agenda or clear
> cut knowledge as to where we will end up.  We only know the theme, who is
> coming and what they are interested in..  Be prepared to be surprised.
> Our Theme
> The difficulty of finding a job relevant to our schooling reminds us that
> the world has yet to reach perfection.  There is a lesson here.  As we
> graduation, we will all struggle to find an ideal job.  The wonderful
> we have is the opportunity to think, dream, and wonder what our ideal job
> would be.
> Our theme then,
> What are the issues and opportunities present in our school and how do we
> make them available to ourselves to be able to find an ideal job?
> Each of us are on a journey into the future.  It is a journey that does
> have a map except as we make it.
> What is Going to Happen?
> The honest answer is that we don't know except that we create an open
> in which good thinking, creating and celebrating can occur.
> So What do We do?
> Basically we follow our noses and each other to explore our theme.  How
> well this all works depends on two factors:  the talents and resources of
> the folks who come....which are superb. And, our willingness to seek our
> new ideas and people and put them all together in useful ways.  This will
> involve some chaos and chaos more often than not is the seed bed of
> opportunity if we choose to make it so.
> Off I went the next day knowing that my class was divided in two parts.
> Class A (14 kids) and Class B (16 kids) of the same course. With Class A,
> began the circle, created chaos and the students did put up - you should
> have seen their faces rush up in redness when actually getting up out of
> their chairs to put up their topics. I in the meantime was sweating. I
> think I  completely  wore out the section in the book that talks about
> the facilitator does after opening.....I left the room to make some
> and wondered as I ran back up the stairs.....will they will all be gone
> from the room and will I be shredded. My palms are still sweaty recalling
> the experience.
> Well they hadn't and all was OK although I probabaly gave their topics
> much time. Very excellent ideas came out of the process with several
> students in closing saying how they felt that no one in the class ever
> tapped into their personal knowledge and experience in certain areas,
> they were most uncomfortable putting up a topic and always waited until
> someone else did it first. It was rich.
> Second class that afternoon was more difficult, less talkative, I was
> really in the "whoa who is doing the chaos of OS anyway.....is it me?"
> section on trust and let it go was again well read. In closing circle,
> kids again surprised me with their comments including I don't know if
> is an ideal job out there?
> I gave out homework from The Path by Laurie Beth Jones, on creating a
> vision for your ideal job. Upon reachiong home that evening, I called
> Birgitt, exhausted and unsure if anyone would show up the next day and
> wondering now what? I have these kids in this place and don't know what
> do with them! Should I go back to lecture style and  start on site
> planning? Birgitt in all her wisdom said, " do you know process
facilitation?" I didn't. She said, we don't have time to do anything in the
way of process with each other about this (groan from Birgitt) so just
write this down as a recipe for tomorrow. Follow it step by step. Do not go
back to lecture style, sit in a circle, and have them reflect on their
learnings in Open Space. So just write this down and don't ask any
> questions....do this group processing thing and see what happens. I do
> usually question Birgitt but by this time I was panicking.
> The most wonderful things happened the next day (in packages unknown at
> time..) First of all, Class B had 5 of 16 people show up. We started,
> two more showed up. The results of the drawings, and the comments
> Drawings of a fellow with a crown on the road of life, another of
> marks inside a tree of landscape design but with clouds of dreams this
> would be resolved and he would fly like an eagle, another of all the
> colloge's information going into a box within the head of a student, then
> the OS circle of yesterday and students running away calling me "crazy
> woman" then finally the box demolished with a heap of info and then a
> graduate emerging with gown shaped in the wings of an angel. The other
> the questions and exclamations of yesterday, with choices of straight
> thinking before and a realization that both wanted to follow the
> path.
> The second class, only a tribe of four young men showed up. We started
> again, this time the drawings inlcuded:
> A glazed window shut up tight, then after yesterday, an open window with
> curtains and clear glass. The second was a circle with colouring outside
> the lines, another cartoon picture of confidence between a man and woman.
> The writing of what we have learned is summarized as follows:
> use people as a resource
> Network
> Be yourself
> Look outside the industry
> Focus on your skills
> Don't be afraid to learn
> Don't be afraid to ask
> Don't be afraid of challenges and risks
> Dreams are close
> Frusteration that this hasn't been done before
> Dreams are within reach
> Painful process
> Time is short
> I feel so young (this by the most mature student), I feel old (this by
> of the youngest)
> Scary
> Too much boldness can be too much
> Frustration with others perceptions
> 2 personalties with life and school
> perceptions by others is unrealistic
> Target your advertising
> Hands on Look and learn
> Read and read
> Learn on someone else's $
> Learn well not bad.
> Birgitt here is the first installation of the story of my first OS......
> The next installment will inlcude how the others decided to do the group
> processing the next week.
> thanks so much for yesterday.
> Virginia

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