The Senses by Pietro Spadafora from the School for Communication Arts

This morning I was wondering if my first “Street Wisdom” experience can improve me as a street photographer. The two activities resemble in many ways. They both put me into a state of meditation but the day spent with David Pearl (doing Street Wisdom) has additionally been constructive and has helped me to shed light on some of the problems that I usually encounter when I take photographs, such as having a mechanical (or electronic) device standing between myself and the external world, sometimes a limit or an obstacle.

Taking the Side Streets in Shanghai

Marc Lewis (@SCA2Dean) is the Dean of School of Communication Arts 2.0 one of the most successful – and definitely most funky – advertising schools on the planet.  SCA2 has woven Street Wisdom into their curriculum and now Marc takes this ‘learning tool’ to Shanghai for our first ever event in China:

Even before I write this post, I can feel myself blush a little bit.  I don’t want to brag, boast or big myself up, but I must tell you that I have the very best job in ad land.

This is the time of year in which I feel most grateful for my job, because my students are all beginning to flower just in time for their Portfolio Day.

Every day is great though. For example, David Pearl leads a Street Wisdom with each new intake. It is usually a life-changing, unforgettable moment for some of the students.

During SCA’s school holidays, I teach and train students and faculty at WPP School Shanghai. I love learning how to teach to different cultures, and the school trusts me to help them shift from ‘Chinese Style’ teaching to the unorthodox ways that we do things.

So I don’t just have the best job in ad land, but I also take the best busman’s holidays.

I took Street Wisdom to Shanghai last month.  (Thank you David for letting me be the first person to run a Street Wisdom session in China)

This is a video of me and my team briefing the students in the school carpark.

What I love the most about my job is that I can learn from the hundreds of teachers that visit my school, and I can learn from my students.  I want to share something that I learnt from one of my Chinese students.  Let’s call her J.

J comes from a very wealthy family.  She is building a relationship with her parents, but her mother feels very guilty for things that happened in J’s childhood. Her parents have been compensating for this guilt by removing all financial pressures. J doesn’t need to work.  She is very talented.

J was at a critical juncture in her academic journey when we ran Street Wisdom; living in very basic student dormitories a long way from home, working hard, impatient not to be seeing immediate progress.  Questioning her circumstances.

J’s wisdom didn’t come from what she saw on the street, but from what she felt. She noticed that she had fallen into the habit of walking main roads to get around. Roads with traffic lights that make crossing streets a bit safer, wide pavements – it all felt so easy.  When she walked for Street Wisdom she took side streets, no traffic lights, dodging scooters, crowded.  Much harder. More exhilarating.

She told me that what she learned, from Street Wisdom, is that she is at a crossroads.  She could take the safe streets and rely on the financial generosity of her parents.  Or she can take the road that makes her feel alive.

And never look back.

Thanks J, and thank you David for innovating such a brilliant learning tool.