The Facilitators

Rowan Salim

As a geographer, I’m fascinated by the relationship we have with the world around us; how we understand it, interrelate with it and live sustainably within it. For me Dacres Wood is the result of years of searching for a more harmonious way in which our children can grow connected to the world around them.

As a gardener, I recognise the rhythms and cycles, the pace and the patience, the balance and the symbiosis, the uniqueness of every seed and the nurture of the soil. For me Dacres’ Wood is about letting every child grow, with care, love and attention, looking for the permaculture of learning.

As a humanitarian, I learnt the limitations of trying to help and the importance of recognising my own agency, to make room so that people can find their own solutions and paths, growing stronger through that process. The democratic and humanistic ethos of Dacres’ Wood is about creating that space for self-directed learning where children take responsibility for their own decisions and grow as part of a community, and where my role as a facilitator or mentor is not imposed but there when called upon.

As an educator I understand that children are born with the innate capacity to learn and the need to do so, that they will seek out knowledge and understanding in their own ways, following developmental phases.  I understand the value of pedagogy and that teachers come in many shapes, sizes and ages. That the most important thing to learn is learning how to learn and developing an understanding of self and self-esteem through that process. At Dacres’ Wood, our emergent curriculum, our connection to the local community and our mixed age range all facilitate children’s diverse learning paths.

As an aunt, a sister and a daughter, I love playing. I love the giggles, the tickles and the quizzical puzzles; I love the euphoric eurekas, the shrieks of laughter and the heartfelt tears that remind me every day that life is worth living. The best thing I can do for those around me is to be myself, and at Dacres Wood, we want to live life with integrity.

Sally Hall

I discovered the concept of Democratic Education during my PGCE teacher training, when I became inspired by the book ‘Freedom to Learn’ by Carl Rogers, a psychologist and advocate of student-centred learning. From there, I became passionate about the idea that children learn much more intensely and effectively when they can learn at their own rhythm and on their own terms. It also became clear to me that having a say in the decisions that affect them means that children can learn to take responsibility for their actions and their environment.

Upon qualifying as a teacher of Modern Foreign Languages at Secondary level, I worked as an English facilitator at La Croisée des Chemins, a democratic school for ages 4 to 19 in Dijon, France. During my year at the school, as well as sharing my native language and culture, and taking part in the day-to-day life of the school, I helped to set up a local youth club based on the principles of self-directed learning, freedom and responsibility. I also volunteered my time during the founding stages of Sudbury School Paris.

I have had the opportunity to visit many democratic schools and educational projects in the UK and abroad. In addition to my work as Facilitator at Free We Grow, I work part-time for the Phoenix Education Trust, a small charity that seeks to promote democratic education in the UK.

For me, the work of a Facilitator at Free We Grow means to listen deeply to and reflect on the individual needs of each child and to create a safe and enriching environment for them to learn and develop at their own pace. It means to identify when to step in if a child needs a helping hand, whilst maintaining a space in which children can navigate their own path. It means being an authentic human being and role-model; striving to be the best example of myself and sharing my skills, interests, ideas and experience with the community. Finally, it is to look for ways in which to reveal to the children all the incredible things that there are to discover about the world outside, and lighting the spark of inspiration!