Go with the FLO

Term: 3 Year: 2016

The Latrobe Valley Flexible Learning Option (LV FLO) located in Morwell, Victoria, was established in July 2014 as a partnership between three government secondary colleges in the Latrobe Valley: Traralgon College Kurnai College and Lowanna College.

The clear goal of LV FLO is to provide a case-managed approach to customised learning for all students. Each student enrolled at LV FLO brings with them a unique set of experiences that has impacted their educational engagement. The focus is on reconnecting young people with education, engaging them in learning and providing the individual support they need to overcome any obstacles to successfully participating in, and completing an education or training pathway.

Since opening, LV FLO has catered for over 100 disengaged youth from across the Latrobe Valley. We focus on Numeracy and Literacy and initially offered Art as a creative outlet for students. Feedback from enrolling students indicated nearly all ‘hated art’. At no point did we realise Art would become an integral component of the FLO program with 95% voluntary attendance.

Classes are small and accordingly, students can develop and work on individual projects rather than a class focus. Students tell us this eliminates comparison and the stressful perception of needing to be ‘good’ at art. Projects focus on student interests and less on art techniques and conventions; it is about learning to problem solve; make mistakes and not get angry; storm out or react violently. It is about relaxing; talking and making positive connections; giving and receiving compliments and feedback in an appropriate manner.

Most student projects are new to me so student and teacher learn and try together, often with other students joining in. We have collaborative projects and everything is by choice. Most students have two or three projects on the go at one time. I see students observing interactions and slowly realising that you don’t need to be perfect and that ‘failure’ can often lead to an unexpected wonderful creative outcome.

The key is being honest. I haven’t done it all and I don’t know it all; we will have to work it out together. The most powerful teaching strategy in helping build resilience in our students has been modelling ‘stuffing up’. A chuckle and ‘Wow, that didn’t work’, followed by ‘I’d better figure out a way to fix it’, lets kids observe an alternative to violent verbal and/or physical defensive responses. It’s okay to laugh at yourself and for others to have a chuckle. New students first comments are usually ‘I’m no good at art, I can’t draw, I hate it’. Every time, I smile and say, ‘Don’t worry, you don’t need to draw, we find lots of ways to cheat!’ Quite often another student will tell them and I don’t have to say a word!

Our Art program is not a traditional one, nor is it art therapy, but something else…we haven’t been able to find a name, yet. Often other staff will pop in, sit down, help and chat with a student…quietly building a connection, a relationship. All we know is it’s working, it engages the disengaged, develops social skills and resilience and, along the way, teaches kids that everyone can be creative.

Adele Zomer
Teacher
Latrobe Valley Flexible Learning Option (LV FLO)

Supporting teachers in creative education