We started this journey to Electric Castle 2022 on February 13th, 2017. Some of my Pilots were only 4 at that time. Aris M. was one year and a half, while Casi was not yet 6. I was 31. It started with me reading the news online and seeing on one of the Romanian news websites an article about the Grammy winners. The news about Twenty One Pilots was not about the music or the prize, but the fact that they received the prize in their underwear. I watched the video presenting the news and I was touched by their speech. I loved that simple, clear message, and I wanted to know who they are. I went on YouTube and it was love at first audition. In 2018 I was in a training in the US and waited with all the enthusiasm and anxiety to go to the hostel where I had a good Internet connection to hear the first songs of Trench... In February 2019 I traveled to Denmark to see the band live. It was THE experience. Travelling alone to do something just for myself and my mental health, like a first act of self love. In August I travelled with my best friend (that I opened this school with) to Sziget Festival in Hungary. I had a panic attack because of the overwhelming heat and crowd size, but my person knew what to do. I returned home and got a TOP & Linkin Park tattoo. My mental health was getting bad again and till February 2020 it was clear to me that I need to change things, inside me and around me. And then… then I’ve met THE Pilots. My pilots - my 12 kids that needed a new facilitator (educator). They tested Green School with me in April 2019. We spent a week together and during the first day of that week they decided that their team name will be the Dinosaurs because they have this passion in common. Right before their second semester we decided to make a change to the team and bring a different facilitation style to them. As the time was not generous, I decided to start working with the group and help them grow out of the misunderstandings, continuous conflicts, bullying, integration problems. We started a healing journey together and exactly one week after we started to work together the first quarantine started. That was scary and difficult. We went from nature and self-directedness to Zoom calls and anxiety and stress relief activities. We coped with stories and music. We had fun and we transformed Covid into a place where wonderful things happen. Then Covid was a little animal, then it was the best friend of a pill. Covid was the topic of our first project together: a book that we lunched online, with parents and grandparents. We wrote the stories and local artists did the illustrations. I coped by spending time with them and by listening to music. A lot of music, especially Twenty One Pilots.
One day, Astrid had a Billie Eilish t-shirt
Son: I love your Billie Eilish t-shirt, Astrid!
Astrid: You know her?
Astrid: but how? you are old!
Son: well, thank you! She was supposed to play a concert in Milan, Italy with Twenty One Pilots. As I was searching concerts with them I looked up her name.
Astrid: Twenty One Pilots?
Son: yes, wanna see a video with them?
Chlorine was the video that I showed them and that we analysed frame by frame. It started with Chlorine and the meaning of everything. Then it continued with every video the band released. This is how we started to study mental illnesses, mental health and emotional wellbeing. This was how I introduced to them my depression. We studied Car Radio with brainstorming the meaning of music to us and with the characteristics of my depression. We extracted our own meaning from the song. We discussed about therapists, psychologists, psychiatrists, doctors, nature, music, educators and other support systems resources to cope with emotional suffering.
In May we started to meet face to face, at the beginning just me and each child, later all of our group. The day in which we came together we started to use a speaker because all we wanted to do was listen to their music and learn the lyrics of some of the songs.
One day the kids were drawing outside, and I went to bring their snacks. When I returned they started to yell things at me. I was in between emotions. I noticed their faces (enthusiastic somehow), but they were loud like something bad happened. I asked them to repeat in a calmer voice: ”Can we change our name into Twenty One Pilots?”. Probably my face was trying to hide my enthusiasm while my mind was fighting between the ”YES!!! YES!!!” and ”This needs to be their decision, you cannot influence them, breathe, this is not about you or for you, breathe, just listen!”. I told them that a decision like this needs consent of all the team members and we are not all here, but I can support them in what is needed. One of them did not want such a specific name and she insisted to be called ”rock” as TOP are a rock band and that leaves more space for more passions. I stepped back as they negotiated and debated. 45 minutes later they asked me to Zoom call the 2 colleagues that were missing. One of them accepted immediately while the other one was threatened to accept. We then learned about threats and how to communicate our intentions, wishes and desires without them. After everyone accepted, they wrote a letter to the management team of the school to officially change their team name in the school app and all the other communication in the community.
At that time the news that TOP will join (the 2 times postponed festival) Electric Castle, SO close to our homes and school, the kids already made plans how they will show Tyler and Josh our school and our posters in the classroom (carefully removed every summer for protecting it - not a cult, I promise!).
The last days of our school year were spent listening to TOP, translating lyrics (and learning English without realising it) and trying all my TOP t-shirts and merch (while photographing all moments). Our end of the year gifts were TOP posters. In our last day of school, while putting all yellow tape on our clothing I decided that I will keep my facilitation job (along with the management one) and I will make it work somehow. I found my people and we all felt we belong to something special. We are Twenty One Pilots!
Our second year started face to face but really fast we went online. We were holding on to Level of Concern and all the clues. We spent many hours watching videos on YouTube with people explaining their theories about different songs/ albums, Dema and the Banditos. We had MANY days in which we did just this: TOP. For some is a wasted time, for me was development of critical thinking, development of musical intelligence, learning English, learning about emotional suffering, embracing diversity and neuro diversity. We started to be a better team because of all these. ”If the emotions are free, the intellect will look after itself.“ - A.S. Neill.
A few things on the pedagogy of our second year:
Critical thinking and Scaled and Icy release and teasing campaign (most heard line: ”did you noticed that clue?!”)
The 5 signs of emotional wellbeing and Choker - learning about the signs while identifying them into this one song (most heard line from my pilots: ”you feel like Tyler too?”)
Creative writing and English with Street Poetry With Twenty One Pilots' Tyler Joseph and Heavy Dirty Soul and Jumpsuit (the most heard line: ”One day I will know all these lyrics”)
Sense of belonging and rituals with the TOP handshake as a morning meeting opening ritual (the most heard line: ”can we handshake on this song…?)
Mindfulness with Chlorine Location: put your palm on your chest; play Chlorine location on one phone and sing without opening your mouth… oh, the feeling and the way we come back to ourselves and to the group!!
Outside of the school they did meet and watched the online concert (that for Romanians was late at night), Casi started to play drums using TOP drum sticks, Eric bought all the albums and dived into the TOP universe.
On our last day of the second year we bought juice to drink it like in the Stressed out video. We had our yellow tape, but we also added some pink and blue here and there.
The third year started with the news that I will move in the USA for a research project over the fall and winter. We also had 3 new colleagues. One of them, the youngest wrote in his learning plan (for the full year) that he wants to learn how to be a pilot and he wants to learn about Twenty One Pilots. We spent together 1 month before leaving. In my first week I was at Boston for a TOP concert. The kids were in my heart and in my videos. In the morning meeting, Diane, my ”Josh”, shared with all the kids the videos. We spent time online, talked about the concert and about the daily life of the school/ research.
Upon my return I offered them the FunkoPop Tyler and Josh and confettii from the Boston concert. They, from all people, would know what the little pieces of paper mean. We continued our mental health journey, the mindfulness one, the musical one. We went to cinema together and we sang every single lyric. We learn, unlearn, relearn. We are Twenty One Pilots and today we are going to meet Twenty One Pilots…in our home.
Son (Sonia), 36, Pilot in Twenty One Pilots of Green School