My commitment to creating a peaceful world begins in the elementary school where I work.
Iles Elementary School is applying to become an International Baccalaureate School,
and we are an O Ambassador School. That means we are actively committed to creating
peace through understanding, education, and sustainable development. I am convinced
that it is here where the seeds of peace are sown with long lasting results.
I hope you enjoy our film: “Yoko’s Chair“.
If students feel agitated or upset, they come to sit in Yoko’s Chair until they feel more
peaceful and can think of peaceful solutions to their challenges. This has really caught
on, and has been quite effective. I told the students parts of your story, and they want to
join you in creating a more peaceful world by creating a peaceful school environment.
Earlier in the year, Ibiyinka Alao, a Nigerian artist came to talk to us about his school
which rescues boys from the warlords who tell them to kill people in exchange for food.
We created paintings and essays for books. We are working on original Garage Band
compositions as we read our essays. Our goal is to create a keepsake which can be
purchased (or corporately sponsored) to help Ibiyinka’s school and our O Ambassador
schools in East Asia.
We are only one elementary school in Springfield, Illinois, but we are doing our part to
make a positive difference. IMAGINE if this caught on, and elementary schools all over
the United States (and beyond) joined us!! In other words, what if schools actively
embraced the creation of a peaceful world and worked to make their school and
community better places…..
Our conference on March 13th, “What Kind of World Do You Want?” will focus on
creating our positive intentions and actions to help children all over the world (through
Free the Children). There are people from all over the world participating in this
conference. In our school population alone, there are 21 different nationalities represented.
Student Support Leader
1700 South 15th Street
Springfield, IL 62703
Working Together to Achieve Outstanding Results
Yoko Ono impressed by teacher at Iles Elementary School
by Dave Bakke, The State Journal Register, 27 Jan 09
One after the other, students at Iles Elementary School in Springfield
peer into a camera and offer a sometimes-shy, sometimes-boisterous
greeting to John Lennon’s widow.
I wouldn’t expect kids this young would know who John Lennon was, much
less Yoko, but they know.
The interesting thing is that Yoko knows who they are as well. She has
their video posted on her Imaginepeace.com Web site. She plans to write
a thank you letter to each of the Springfield students. The students sit
in Yoko’s Chair in an Iles classroom.
This unusual story begins, as it should, with a song.
Sherry Frachey, a teacher at Iles, wrote and sang “John’s Song,” which
is about Lennon, and put it on her MySpace page along with photos of
John and Yoko.
It is funny that she would do that, because when Sherry was a teenager,
she wasn’t into the Beatles that much. When she was in middle school,
the boys were breaking up. It was all animosity, sadness and anger in
Beatleworld by then. Sherry was more of a Monkees fan anyway.
Be that as it may, Yoko’s people found “John’s Song,” probably through
an Internet search tool, and brought it to Yoko’s attention. She liked
the song and sent an electronic message of appreciation to Sherry just
over a year ago. They have been corresponding ever since.
“I was skeptical if this was really her,” Sherry says. “But I wrote
back, and I heard from her again. She was very attentive, which made me
even more suspicious.”
Sherry eventually contacted Yoko’s Web site administrator, who assured
her that, yes, the messages she was receiving were really from Yoko.
Yoko was especially interested in learning about Sherry’s work at Iles
in the areas of conflict resolution, bullying prevention and teaching
her students how to live a more peaceful lifestyle, all of which are
meaningful issues to Yoko.
“I just fell in love with her gentleness and tenderness,” Sherry says.
“She’s so real.”
Last year, Sherry bought a $10 director’s chair at Big Lots and put it
in her classroom. When a Nigerian artist, Ibiyinka Alao, visited the
school in November to talk to students about life and art in Africa, he
sat in that chair to be interviewed by a student.
“After that, it just hit me,” says Sherry. “That’s going to be Yoko’s
Chair. It’s for students who need to chill. They sit in Yoko’s Chair and
hold Tucker (a stuffed dog).
“Sometimes if they are having trouble concentrating in class, they will
ask to sit in Yoko’s chair, and it really helps them focus.”
But most often the chair is used as a quiet space for students who feel
agitated and upset. They sit in the chair, often with Tucker, until they
feel peaceful and can think of solutions to their problems.
Sherry and the students made a video about Yoko’s Chair. Yoko’s Web site
administrator asked Sherry for a copy, and it ended up on Yoko’s Web
Just a few days ago, Yoko wrote to Sherry to tell the story of a bit of
performance art she used to do in the 1960s titled “Chair Piece.” In
fact, Yoko wrote, she just performed “Chair Piece” again on stage at
Stanford University on Jan. 15, only a couple of days before viewing the
Iles School video about Yoko’s Chair.
That $10 chair turned out to be priceless.
Yoko’s Chair is in the classroom every day. To the Iles students, Yoko
Ono and what she stands for have a quite different aura than they do for
us Baby Boomers.
Shorn of all of its Beatle baggage, the message remains simply this: