This is a memorable photo for me because of how much action is captured in it. The photo was planned and taken for Rose, a student at Usa River Academy. We were working with Usa River students for the day with The Foundation For Tomorrow, and our main project was a Dreams Project. We wanted the students to think back and remember a dream that they had dreamt before, while sleeping. The final product would be a poster with a picture representing the dream, and a written narration of what the dream was about and what the dream meant to its respective dreamer.
Right off the bat, there seemed to be some confusion because a large number of the Usa River students started writing about their future dreams—what they want to be when they grow up. Students started writing about becoming a football player at Manchester United, becoming a teacher, flying planes as a pilot.
I was working with three young ladies that afternoon. They were also confused because they could not remember any specific dreams they had dreamt. I felt like I was at a dead end. I thought pessimistically to myself, “The kids don’t remember any dreams, and this is a project about real dreams from the past, so…how can this possibly work? What more can I do? I can’t just keep telling them to try and remember…”
Now that I look back, there’s a lot I could have done. But at the time, I wasn’t quite sure what direction I should take next.
But then came Rose’s idea. She suggested that if they absolutely could not remember any dreams, they could make up their own dreams, from their imagination. I had been so caught up on the aspect of real dreams that I made myself get completely stuck at a dead end. Even though the dreams hadn’t really been dreamt, the students would still get practice planning for and taking photographs, and they would be using their imagination to make creative stories. That sounded like LTP to me.
Rose’s dream story was about running into a live and hungry lion. She kept running away and running away, but she kept meeting more and more lions that continued to follow her! This was a dream that had been created on the spot, but to me, this didn’t make it any less real. I was most surprised by the way her photograph turned out. Rose planned for her friend to act as the lion and pounce on her, and she herself would act shocked. But when it came time to take the photograph, even though Rose knew her friend was going to jump, I don’t think she realized how startled she would be. We can see the surprise not only in her facial expression, but also in the angle of her body and the position of her arms—we can see that she tried to back off, alarmed by the abrupt jump of her friend, the lion.
Sometimes, even when we Duke students plan for lessons, we have to do away with some parts of it, or even the whole entire thing. This isn’t because we didn’t plan carefully enough or thoroughly enough—it’s because nothing and no one (especially young, energy-blasting children!) turns out exactly the way we expect them to. The mood of the students, the mood of the local teachers, the extent of the language barrier, and other factors all affect how the day’s lessons will go. My students on this day were having a hard time remembering a dream from their sleep—maybe they were tired, maybe they were distracted by an event that would follow that evening, maybe they felt pressured by time—but the day had to go on! Thanks to Rose, and the flexibility of all of the teachers and students in the room, my group was still able to go through the LTP process together.
So the secret is out. Some of the Dreams Project posters from that day aren’t based on real dreams. But I’ll bet that some of the conjured-up dreams were dreamt that very night after our day at Usa River Academy.