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The History of TSI Within the Education Environment

The first chapter of this story is set in the South Pacific. Use of TSI in the classroom began at Taipa Area School in Northland in the far north of New Zealand. At the time Ron was working as a school psychologist. His work at the area school was with several students the principal (Dr. Les Robertson) identified to be at risk of expulsion. During a break in the teachers’ room one day a teacher named Jude Ring asked to read Gem of the First Water. She took a copy and read it over the weekend. The following Monday Ron received a surprise call from her to ask if he had any other supporting information as she thought the programme would be magic in the classroom. Her words were, “Off the top of my head, Ron, I just know it will be great for reading, values education, creative writing, art, interactive role-play and maybe more.” Ron gave her a manual on his next visit to Taipa School and, subsequently, Jude did indeed make magic of the material.

After that, at each visit to her school, she invited Ron to her room to see how the material was translating beautifully into her curriculum. Her room was literally a plethora of creative expression. Jude’s room was an amazing display of Journey characters and themes developed in art and creative writing, from the story Gem of the First Water. Ron witnessed awesome whole-class role-play participation. Students gave talks for him and wrote letters expressing appreciation for the program within the curriculum.

For Ron this was both insightful and prophetic. The scope of his vision for TSI, and its multi-disciplinary utilization, expanded greatly. Until this experience at Taipa, he had had a narrow focus for his planned development. However after that first glimpse of how well the TSI material translated into excellent curriculum material he was increasingly motivated to implement it within the school environment. Suddenly there was a new vision and language. This material really could work for classroom teachers. Jude and her students at Taipa had indeed had a huge influence on Ron, particularly when they talked about the way the Gem journey was fun and personally meaningful for each of them. Jude told stories of non-readers picking up Gem and reading the book from cover to cover.

From that humble beginning in Northland, TSI has been used in classrooms all over New Zealand. Most of its use is anecdotal but it continues to filter back on a regular basis and we often hear of it being used effectively in new places.

Pakuranga College, a large Auckland based college, has used TSI in their health syllabus for almost ten years. The entire Year 10 (14 year olds) take the TSI journey with the health teachers at the College.

TSI has been adapted and used by the New Zealand Police in their program, Dare to Make Change, for children and young people with special needs. Initially they used it with small groups however they have expanded their usage to include whole classrooms. Visit their web site at:

A further development took place when YouthHealth created a new resource for lower secondary schools, called Journey To Wellbeing. This program uses Gem of the First Water and applied TSI as its core material. It was developed with the help of one of New Zealand’s Health Boards, together with the Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand. The motivation behind it was to make a significant contribution to the Government’s National Youth Suicide Prevention Strategy. With the help of the Safer Streets Trust (a New Zealand Charitable Trust) over one quarter of New Zealand secondary schools have been supplied with the resource. The program continues to be used in college and high school classrooms.

YouthHealth also produced another resource which focuses primarily on the needs of students 11 – 14 years of age, in intermediate or junior high school grades. This also incorporates the use of Gem of the First Water and the TSI process. One of the chief aims of this resource is to help teachers and specialists assist emerging adolescents who are beginning to exhibit problematic behavioral symptoms.

The new resource is a five-lesson cluster of selected vignettes from the full TSI package, ordered to give schools a first experience of the scope and power of the process, while at the same time offering them a very usable, short life-skills development format. Each lesson has a story from Gem of the First Water by the author Ron Phillips and a set of lesson plans and activities related to the learning concepts in each vignette.

Kedgley Intermediate School in South Auckland (for Years 7 and 8, ie. 11 and 12 year olds), started using TSI in 2000. Carol Taylor the Vice Principal came across Gem and loved it. She then took the one-day ‘Introduction to TSI’ training course and started using TSI within the school with children identified as having special needs. Her success with it has been well documented and is an integral part of the school pastoral care program. Other teachers at Kedgley also trained in TSI and began to support Carol with her groups. The principles of TSI and the language of the journey have been assimilated into the wider school population and the ethos of TSI is slowly becoming the language of the school particularly in the areas of relationship resolution and emotional development.

Here, a remarkable growth within a local school culture has evolved, and it started with an enthused educator who believed in the themes and language of TSI. She worked over the course of 3 to 4 years to establish the process within her school and it has paid remarkable dividends. The use of TSI with the concepts of ‘Restorative Justice’ at Kedgley has been an amazing innovation.

Carol Taylor would welcome inquires about her work with TSI. She has some amazing anecdotal stories to tell. Carol can be reached at:

Read About TSI In:Youth or Adult Justice, Education, Social Work, Mental Health, Religious Education


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