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Ministry of Change
#23 Transforming the Way We Live and Learn with Nadežda & Justus
September 22, 2018 Marcus Pibworth

How could exploring alternative ways of living and learning help us to transform society into something that could help more people thrive? 

In the last episode of this podcast Charles Eisenstein said “Mental illness is built into society as we know it, and therefore to heal mental illness or to foster mental health is fundamentally a social, political, economic problem. It’s not just how do we treat people better”

On my explorations into ‘mental health’ I often find myself back exploring both community and alternative education, as two key areas that I believe can create a fundamental shift in the way we have structured society, so it was great to be invited by Nadežda Jevdokimova and Justinas Volungevicius to the DNS Necessary Teacher Training College where the focus is on both alternative ways of teaching and learning, and also community. 

For more information about the DNS Necessary Teacher Training

If you could take a moment to rate and review this podcast on iTunes that would help these stories reach more people, and I’d appreciate that so much!

If you feel that you would like to contribute to a future episode please get in contact - - and check out my website for more details about my mental health journey around the UK.

Episode Transcript

Speaker 1:0:02Mental health can be a difficult topic to talk about. I'd like to change that. I'm Marcus pip with and welcome to the Ministry of change podcasts.

Speaker 2:0:13Yes. Welcome to the podcast. This is an exciting conversation and I'm happy to bring it to you. Uh, I didn't know if you listened to the last podcast about with Charles Eisenstein, but one of the things he said in that podcast that mental illness is built into society as we know it and therefore to heal mental illness or to foster mental health is fundamentally a social political, economic problem. It's not just how do we treat each other better and that's something that I'd been following for awhile. Now. It's the, uh, the idea that mental health isn't a problem with the individual that we need to fix, or at least that's how I see it. I think a lot of the things, especially associated with depression and anxiety come from society. They come from the way that we've structured society that come from the culture that we live in, the thing that we're submerged in.

Speaker 2:1:04And so one of the things I'm always very keen to explore more around his alternative education systems and so it was really nice to bump into Nadia and Eustis at a forum in Sweden last month, now two lovely Lithuanians and they work at a place called Dns, which is a Danish acronym, which I won't try and pronounce the words, but essentially it stands for the necessary teacher training college and it's a basically a, an alternative education program within a community in Denmark. And they invited me along there. So I headed over and spent a couple of days there and it was really fascinating to see, uh, how they structured that I'm the education program within the community and how, yeah, it's not just the education, that's the focus is that whole process of um, being in the community and asking questions and looking at how can we do things differently.

Speaker 2:2:05And so I think that's a really a lot of lessons that we can learn from places like this. I think for a long time our society has really focused on individualism and I don't know if that's really being conducive to really help us live to our full potential is. I think it's really important to know who you are as an individual to really know what your strengths are. But I think what's more important is to be able to take that knowing and understanding of yourself and to work out how that fits into a community and how that fits into the world of Audi. So I think programs like this and community is really fascinating to, uh, examine and explore and to learn lessons from, to see just what are the alternative ways that we could be living. Um, and so anyway, I'm going to just lead you now into the conversation with Najlaa eustace and myself and I hope you enjoy it.

Speaker 1:2:58Yes. For de Novo

Speaker 3:3:00Henley's emmy now, which basically means the necessary education and we expanded the load and English thing but necessarily teacher training college. And um, I think your whole philosophy behind the necessity of it is that it always should respond to the modernity or to the present. And also quite a lot to a future because whenever you train as a teacher, you actually kind of trained for the future because you will work in a school with youngsters who will leave the school and like 10, 15 years and then they will enter a future world. And yeah, it's, it's quite interesting to see how it can all develop and work together in the sense. And um, our education is based a lot on a community. I think it's like one of the first principles if we collaborate and we studied collectively in teams and groups and would leave in a community and travel with the uh, our community living in a community mean.

Speaker 3:4:10So we'll even a school center. We've all kind of different institutions inside and different people inside. And uh, for example, we have mental care institution and we have a youth boarding school with also youngsters from difficult backgrounds and youngsters from international background. And then of course we have a future teachers which are holding the central stage in a way of this whole institution. And our way to look at it is that teachers, future teachers, or actually we had teachers from a moment, they started education. They are the people with social and mental emotional circles, which we can share with the community. And uh, it benefits both because when teachers learn and community benefits living in the community,

Speaker 4:5:09do you use this?

Speaker 5:5:13Yes. In society today, like a living in the community for many, seems like you give up your freedom or what are your individuality. But I think it's, it's, uh, maybe a new sense that came with the times or capitalism or this or the big increase in the amount of things we do in society and production and all of this. Because if you look in the old old days and the hunter gatherer society, people were living in community have groups of 5,100 people. Uh, because that was the only way to survive a, you have to depend on people. And when you depend dependent, you rely upon each other. And then the same time it provides you like a safety, a safety net community. And, and the, this gives another form of freedom. It gives you a freedom that you have, people you rely upon, you have people that help you in need in our community.

Speaker 5:6:24We also share economies, so all this kind of thing. It gives you a freedom that you don't have to worry about surviving constantly because you know, we have people around you that, that will help you out. We'll take care of you and likewise you will contribute to them by doing the same and the and regarding mental health in our society. Many people strive for happiness, but I don't think you can reach this term of being happiness because it's, um, it's a moment that some, something comes and goes, but you can work towards a, a setting that makes you happy and being around people and it gives a certain value or value of belonging somewhere. Value of being cared for, valued to be heard, value to be noticed. And the, I think, I think that's very undermined in our society today. Yeah,

Speaker 3:7:25I'm talking about values. I think we really underestimate the value of serving the. Somebody serving the community, serving the society. Because the pleasure we get from it is actually quite big. Like I, I feel it and I see two people and uh, this individualism which is instilled on us somehow by our parents and grandparents and so on and previous generations developed through industrial era, you know, when you need it to survive for and think for yourself or your family some hole. Um, and yeah, but we're a product of that environment of that era. Bought now experimenting in our community. I can see how much pleasure people get from serving each other and can be something big and small. It can be just, you know, helping out and cooking and cleaning up after or it can be something big like providing the social support to each other and listening to each other and uh, you know, like digging up all the childhood to experiences and realizing them together because often you kind of just due to loan on your own and a sim, how therapist is a little bit stigmatized idea. I think often a society are difficult to the therapist that I'm enrolled. Something is wrong with you, but if you have a community whom you can talk to, which is essentially around with, it feels normal, but it feels so normal. Just like talk to the people around you, to your neighbors. Basically. I'm the. Yeah.

Speaker 6:8:56How many people live in this community?

Speaker 5:9:01Like from a 40 to 60, 70 people depending on how many of them are in the teacher training. Forty two students. Students at the moment and around eight, eight teachers.

Speaker 6:9:23So how'd you think? Like the um, how'd you think that living in the community has an effect on people when they leave after they complete the training?

Speaker 4:9:33[inaudible]

Speaker 6:9:34did I, do they often go and live in communities stay here or I, what does that look like?

Speaker 5:9:43Not many actually go on to live in the community. I think many they come, it's very diverse, but people do and some get to interest it then go for a higher education, uh, others, they may go back to their home country. And so I try to either create, establish something or look forward like towards a more traditional way of learning where they could contribute with that or take part in it. Uh, other others, they go back to their own life actually, that they say, okay, this was an experience for me and the is I want to go back and get these founders with me, but not continue. But it's quite diverse. But one thing I think in common that you do have that when people leave, they're much more globally aware about society as we focus a lot on that in our college, about the global state of the world that I want the big issues of our time of climate change, the, the big difference between the rich and the poor.

Speaker 5:10:46A possible nuclear war, warfare. I mean all these issues are relevant today. And then the, and then it can lead to a possible as in, in the future will meet them in one way or another. So it's learning about them. It's kind of preparing ourselves for the future, but also trying to change that. So. And then we put the great importance in that and then also I think that's what the students leave after leaving the continue in one way, having this in mind and working on it. So it's not just a teacher can say it's also like a activist in society.

Speaker 6:11:26So yeah, I think over the last few days I've had lights about so for, he did it and I just think it's amazing. Like I really, I think it'd be like, could you share a little bit more about the actual projects that your students and the teachers do while they're at the site for years? Right? What? Today's four years. But I think the very beginning starts with this intense building of community

Speaker 3:11:54sense and building off your team of your class or your group, whatever you call it. Um, the first two months of a program basically were dedicated to understanding what kind of ownership we have all our education, a Wacom, what ownership. However of the mental health of our old team. Because we really need to be balance with each other and we need to keep everybody in check and see how we feel and how the, the grill and then definitely build, build the relations and

Speaker 5:12:31at the same time with some pressure on because in two months or you're going from bus travel. So there's a lot to prepare, like take bus, driving, license, getting visa. And was there anything about the countries?

Speaker 3:12:42What is the bus travel, where's the bus terminal project

Speaker 5:12:46let's travel. So one of the main aspect of the first year, year of the program is that you get uh, students get the global perspective about society and one way of doing that is by traveling the world. And so the students and the teacher, they go for a four months best traveled from Denmark crossing Europe, reaching to Morocco, Mauritania, Mauritania. Uh, then Senegal Gambia in the south where we never saw is one of the poorest countries in the world. So as the students are traveling to go through this travel, they're kind of learning about a different kind of reality of people as they traveled to different countries and do investigations where they go out in smaller groups and take on a certain topic and try to find out as much as possible by it, not by going to wikipedia and reading about it, but by meeting life people, people affected by certain topics. For example, a mining in Morocco and going to the miners, meeting them and getting to know their struggle, getting the struggle of the unions and and in this way being engaged with the topic. Often you sink in schools with this, a bunch of fury that you don't don't find meaning in it, but by meeting people, then that gives you the next step for being curious because then it affects you. It affects the people you meet. Developing

Speaker 3:14:24certain emotional connection to knowledge. Because when you. When you see that, for example, I don't know, biological effect of working in a mine on a person. I don't know, maybe his children. You really have this mental picture. You know, this emotion developed for it and even a few years later when you pick it up big this topic up again just on the Internet, just reading the book or I don't know, watching a documentary of emotion is there so it's not just dry and senseless for you anymore. It's actually

Speaker 7:14:56quite deep and interesting and curious thing about this program is to like I think well my experience of university and I think probably like a huge majority of people whose parents did university universities. You go through, you sort of doing something because you're young and you think I have to go through university, pick something random and then like he do it and completely theoretical. Like I mean I did have part of my internship but like a family like mine apart of it but then and then you drop off the end and you're expected to sort of get jobs but you have no experience of doing them. You just spent three years reading books and talking and I failed unless it's a really loud. Seems like really hands on sort of thing where students sort. Because you were saying earlier that this, this the students that the students and the student teachers that drive the buses and stuff, not like he sort of have like people come in to do that. So you go like this really led by the students for the students and I think that's amazing. I think I'm so jealous. It's

Speaker 3:16:05definitely hard because we basically the education which we do, it's 24 slash seven with two times holidays in a year in a way because that's what it takes. If you really want to engage fully into learning, it's not the know like a two for reading a book and then going out in the world and kind of switching off the learning process. It's actually, you know, like this continuous a lifestyle actually where you study, when you feel like sometimes you need to pressure yourself, but well when you, when you collaborate with your people around you and you cannot just switch off learning and switch it on again, it happens in the daily based like in your reality. So that's somehow what we try to go with. And then also this I think, cool perspective too. What do you get out of it basically is it's not so much about the diploma or the paper or about the knowledge you put about the skills you get, because for example, learning is also a skill.

Speaker 3:17:14Definitely what you need to develop, how do you learn best and what? What are you interested in learning? And there are many other skills like both social and practical, which you get on the way by organizing events, by working with society, and many times we concluded with our students that I'm basically pretty much any job you're going to do in your life. It doesn't matter if it's connected to education sector or not. It will be connected to people. You got to work with people and that's what we learn here. We learned to work with people and that's the essence of education on pedagogical work. That's what we try to give to our students in a way.

Speaker 5:17:53Yeah, and the like being the student and the driver's seat in the bus. That's one aspect of putting it and the other. That's your. You're carrying your program. You're carrying, you're learning with you and you also carry the responsibility of teaching your team. So that's one. Also a big aspect when we say teacher, it doesn't mean a classroom teacher. It doesn't mean like a specific kind of teacher would teach math, English or what if a teacher is a choice. It's an active choice. People think and everyday we are influencing people around you. So you're teaching people around you and then when you're in a team that also means that, uh, you're, you're responsible for each other's development, for each other's well being and for, for making sure that everybody gets out of it as much as automated as possible in this for years.

Speaker 3:18:47But it's so damn hard to develop ownership towards your education or off your education because I mean our students are from 18, like up to 30. And imagine that you come here with minimal 12 years of schooling after like 20 years of schooling. If you have done like university or masters or whatsoever or some courses and then you come here and you get told that nobody will teach you. You're going to learn yourself because only you and your head are responsible for learning. I can never put anything inside of your head, uh, forcefully homestay and you basically need to figure out, you need to take out of your brain, need to unlearn everything that you have learned in a previous year's vacation and you need to learn, I knew how to take charge and how to feel like you own your own studies and it's such a struggle and it's fraud. All the, like four years of studies, even in the last last periods of exams, we still sometimes bump into this feeling of like, why can't you just like, why can't we take an easy way? I just put my ass in the chair and just, you know, listen to the lecture and get all the knowledge on a golden plate. But it doesn't happen so often in the last year was, yeah,

Speaker 7:20:09ever since I left university, that's when my real learning style and a large part of that learning, if not all of that learning is really unlearning. And it's just a big process of unlearning. Um, really interesting. So what do you think you both personally have got out of your time here was like. The biggest thing is

Speaker 5:20:34I think I'll say when like with most graduates say what is the most you get out of it is to learn how to be together with people like really together people and basically after this education I feel like you can go to any organization or I need to find a way to collaborate, but when you are outside of the students, was the most challenging. That also going to answer the same. What does it mean to really be with people it means is that your well being in the community in a way but also striving for the same goal is that this you mentioned before have a respect, support and solidarity with each other but but also sticking in the same. Going on the same road. Because for us our program is a mutual agreement that they say this is this journey we take together and regardless whatever it is regarding to this one happens to be.

Speaker 5:21:36We have to find ways because that's kind of our framework for being together and the that brings that when you graduated and you go into the project, it also gives you like this knowledge of creating such a framework. Then in the last in the youth, the youth conference we just attended there, you mentioned this aspect of having a sacred space that's. That's an important part for having a healthy lifestyle is having be able to freely share with people about your emotions, about your feelings and also sometimes also being referencing with is on your mind and the in the daily life. If I think before I started here, you will not talk with this with strangers outside the family are not close friends but. But this kind kinda opens those doors that, okay, if we want to help you with society, this is one of the aspects we need to have.

Speaker 3:22:35What about you? So much? It's, it's sometimes it's really hard to name them because it's some kind of gradual process, but one, one thing which very concretely comes to my mind is that I don't need to compete to, to, you know, to feel good about myself and to feel like to live, I don't know, exist in the society because um, I remember like from, you know, Childhood Tina who you really feel good only when you win over others an albers kind of loose and just feeling sticks to you and any pleasure you get when you win an hour's loose. But I'm here working together and actually trying to, to feel the sense of victory in victory of others, you know, on this like non competitive atmosphere. It's still quite competitive quite often, but still like this process of eliminating competition from your life. It's so meaningful.

Speaker 3:23:32And I don't say it's not there anymore, but I know that I can kind of live without it. I can get pleasure without it. I can feel victorious or successful without it. And it was, it was a big thing, like very big thing. Me and um, I think I also learned who I am in a sense I came the young 18, that's like teenager who is, most of all teenagers don't know who they are and then going through this process of self discovery with other people around me and other people helping you understand who I am and like my strengths and my weaknesses and you know, actually what my weaknesses are. Not like a sentence, a death sentence in a way that you can work with them and you can grow and become better and love your both sides. Weakened, strong. And that was very empowering

Speaker 4:24:25and people working with people. Definitely. That.

Speaker 5:24:31If I add to that, another aspect I think is that throughout the program you do many different things here. You're traveling, you're in the first year, you're seeing all single places in the second year you're trying out the European reality fields. We're moving into a city as a team and getting simple like jobs to kind of, with the purpose to meet working class and in such elements you, you get to experience many, many roles like for like different jobs in your roles. In the team you try out many.

Speaker 4:25:08Yeah, no

Speaker 5:25:10skills, capacities or things and that. This also makes sense. Okay. What do you want the one in the life like? What kind of teacher you will be at the end? What the field. Maybe it will combine the clowning with teaching. Maybe you'll add. I know maybe it'll be a bus mechanic teacher or or you'll, you'll discover that the actually in the classroom setting is best for you or like friends that also just visited the class from my life. Maybe you'll be a teacher that goes on journeys with students, so to this experience, this many settings, and to see yourself as a teacher in them and see how we can make that work. I think that's another aspect that you get an indication.

Speaker 4:26:01Cool.

Speaker 3:26:02Cool. Yeah. Well I've really enjoyed my time here. It's really inspiring and I love that. I'm very thankful I got invited and took him up on the offer. Thank you for coming. Thanks. Right. Is there any. Is there anything else that you would like to add more? If you have another two hours, maybe two hours. Just. Okay. Everyone sit comfortably.

Speaker 4:26:33Anything else you want to ask? Um, let me thing.

Speaker 6:26:46I guess I share. I've got one with this. It's not really, it's not. Maybe it's one you can't answer that.

Speaker 5:26:52Oh, that's a challenge.

Speaker 6:26:55Maybe you probably spend a lot of time thinking about this. I mean, why, why did the program you have a dns sound? It seems amazing. It seems like he, I'm like everyone I've spoken to seems to have got a lot out of it and really see the value in it. I can see the value in that. It seems like a really great way of engaging with an education system and, and the world at the same time. Like why do more places like this exist? That's a killer

Speaker 4:27:33and

Speaker 5:27:34I have a clue. I don't know if that answer, but there wasn't a, in the 19 sixties and seventies there was a big in community living at this Hippie Hippie era gave her lot of, yeah, communities in the world and especially in Denmark and many of those communities don't exist anymore. And then that question, okay, what, what makes us as different? And I think one of the aspects of it is that it didn't just share our time and space in a community, but we also shared our economy and uh, and we're also made many communities maybe distance themselves from the society becoming like an islands, but w we chose that we want to be engaged, we want to be an island, but also possible role model for others to get inspired in your ideas. So sorry, I acknowledge capitalism exists, money exists and we need to throw my robot. So it's also to make sure you have some kind of like a income and at the same time sharing this income with the community and that's a very tough boundary for community to surpass. Got Monies my own why, why, why should they be able, like why should I share it? But did it gives a very big value to the community and for it to continue. I think that's one of the aspects

Speaker 6:29:11ask for me. Um, I, I will rephrase the question the way that,

Speaker 3:29:18why vrp maybe slow because there are many alternative places out there. And I, I don't know all of them, but I already met a bunch and uh, there are many people popping up with a little projects and we see our graduates popping up with their projects small and big and maybe we, you know, the participants of those 10 people or so, but makes a big difference and somehow what keeps us going often reminding ourselves that if you educate one teacher that one teacher can advocate over 10 teachers and so on and so forth and it's a growing movement and I'm, yeah, most of the countries on earth have at least one or more some kind of alternative education school or, and safe something. And like my, my naive perspective to that is that if we manage to connect in between each other and actually work together instead of competing like who does it better or whose ideology or philosophy is better instead of being an alternative education, we will be their education and we will just, you know, be the thing which people want to do. Not just alternative to the mainstream part of it. Yes. Because one thing is being this, what'd you trying and experimenting, but the main idea of course, that you bring this education to everybody to give a possibility to have such an indication. That's the main goal, to compliment what you're saying. Thank you for content marketing.

Speaker 8:30:55It's a lovely compliment. Thank you very much. That's good. We got half an hour Chabad Chabad. Can we end it with that word

Speaker 3:31:10together? Yes, please.

Speaker 8:31:13Well,

Speaker 2:31:20I'd forgotten about that dramatic end to that recording and it's was really lovely to listen to that conversation again. I forgot how much I enjoyed hanging out with natura new stis and how lovely it was for them to invite me back to their community in Denmark and to really see a little bit more about the way they live, to shop with them more. Um, so to have a power in the kitchens, to speak to other people on the program and really see this different way that they're trying to do things. Um, I, I think I've been thinking quite a lot recently around to education and I'm hoping I can bring a few more podcasts from the subjects in the future with other people I know doing really interesting things in that area. I think having a discussion around mental health without looking at this holistic picture of the way that the world is structured really doesn't work.

Speaker 2:32:09I think we need to be exploring the alternatives and collecting as many stories as we can. So I'm happy to be able to bring you some more of these to start exploring. We'll continue exploring and all these different areas which may not initially seem like connected to the concepts in discussion around mental health, but I really believe are fundamentally linked. So anyway, I hope you see that as well. I'm going to put a link down to the dns necessarily teach training carnage in the notes and you can also follow more about my journey that so www dot the ministry of change Dot Org. And also please do check out my patrion page. That's the way I'm trying to fund this project so I could create more spaces around mental health. I'll put the link down below, but just for your reference, that is, forward slash, ministry of change. I know now you get access to extra lengths, extra footage, texture or audio, a few lots of different things, so just go in there and that really, really does help me to spread my stories I collect further and also then do go onto itunes and rate and review my podcast and that can help me reach more people as well. But anyway, thank you very much and I hope to see you back here again soon. Goodbye.

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