This week we read and discussed some accounts that I had written, and then shared questions they brought to mind.
Account 1: A friend was telling me about refereeing a football game. He explained how he had given a player a yellow card ‘before he knew what he was doing’.
Account 2: A colleague was trying to recall a difficult lesson, but was finding it difficult to remember exactly what had happened, and in what order.
Account 3: I was speaking to a homeless person who was telling me he did not have enough money to go to scatter his mother’s ashes. I gave him £10, and felt my heart racing.
Account 4: I was enrolling a student who had failed all of his courses the previous year. I asked him what had happened, he replied: ‘It all fell apart.’
Account 5: In the book In a Different Voice, the author Carol Gilligan records the following account of a lecturer of morality who had experienced the suicide of a relative: ‘All these nice little things that we had been discussing are fine when you talk about it. I remember we had nice little stories… Well, that’s fine, but when it’s something like this that’s close to you, it just doesn’t work anymore.’
Account 6: I was talking to two students who had had an argument with a colleague. I asked them to consider: ‘How will you respond when you are required to take part in a difficult relation with someone?’
Account 7: I was talking to a teacher who had been in conflict with a student. He remarked, ‘It’s my classroom...’
Account 8: I was mediating a conversation between a teacher and student in an attempt to resolve a conflict. At one point, the teacher said: ‘It’s about respect. I’m not your friend...’
Account 9: A student was crying outside at the start of a lesson because I had been forced to rearrange her timetable. I thought I had discussed it with her, she didn’t think I had. I said: ‘I cannot deal with this right now.’
Account 10: I was really struggling to help a student understand something. I felt a little frustration, and chose to thank the student for asking a difficult question.
Account 11: 4 out of 8 students had not started trying to solve a problem I had set. I felt the urge to reprimand the students, but chose to sit down and say: ‘I can see that four students have not started trying to solve the problem’, then sat quietly.
Account 12: After attempting to meditate, I recorded: ‘Am I nothing? An automaton that reacts? If ‘I’ am nothing, what is the point of ‘the work’? Is this the point of the work?
Account 13: I was putting Sophie to bed and was very tired. She had woken up for each of the last 3 nights. My partner was not at home and she was crying/screaming and asking for Mummy. After 30 minutes of this, it was very difficult to retain composure. I wanted to pick her up but we had resolved to keep her in her cot, and have found that if we take her out it makes things more difficult in the long term. I sat with my hands over my ears. I asked her to please stop screaming. I asked her ‘what do you want?’ She carried on screaming for a while and then fell asleep.
Account 14: In The Waterfall by Margaret Drabble, the heroine is having difficulty ‘being virtuous’, saying: ‘If I could deny myself enough I would achieve some kind of innocence, despite those intermittent nightmare promptings of my true nature.’
Account 15: In The Mill on the Floss, George Eliot suggests the moral problem is a question of whether one has, ‘... fallen below the possibility of renunciation... [when] we must accept the sway of a passion against which we had struggled as a trespass.’
Account 16: Also from In a Different Voice: ‘... she relegates her suspicions to ‘that removed third person’, and, no longer fending off the accusation of selfishness, identifies herself with the first person voice.’
Account 17: Student R was late to lesson, had left his h/w at home. We had a conversation about this, he explained how he ‘was everywhere at the moment’, and mentioned that he had been going to the casino.
Account 18. Student E was late to lesson, had missed a few homeworks. In talking to him, he explained how he didn’t understand the current topic we were studying at all. I sat down with him for half an hour and helped him with his work. As I talked to him, I looked at him and saw the child sat in front of me, and welled up.
Here are a few things we discussed:
- Kate talked about 'getting her ego out of the way', to create 'a space where she can soften up'.
- Julie wondered if she had 'different reactions based on knowledge of student's vulnerability.'
- Katy thinks the non-evaluative nature of making accounts may provide 'a way into judging ourselves less harshly.' (She also provided a wonderful account of an exchange in her classroom in which students were mimicking her)
- Jalal described a change in his use of language when making demands of students from 'must' and 'have to', to 'try to', 'I'd like you to', and 'I'll keep reminding you if you forget', following some conflict with students.
- Pooja described the difficulties she is having with a particular class, but had found some success in 'trying to keep calm and optimistic'.
Here are some of the questions we raised:
- When do we respond and when do we react?
- Do we act from emotional or rational 'centres'? Kate questioned whether this was a helpful metaphor.
- When is it helpful to respond with emotion, and when is it less helpful? Can/should we remove emotion from our practice?
- What are the effects of trying to stop oneself from acting emotionally? Do we risk losing integrity? What will be the effect if one 'snaps' (i.e. a momentary loss of composure?
- Which of our actions invite students to learn how to respond, to become able to respond? Which of our actions close off opportunities for students to learn how to respond?
- Is not judging others a route into not judging ourselves?
- How can we become more self-aware? Is it possible? What effect will it have (in the classroom) if we do become more self-aware?
- How can we support each other, how can we be honest with each other and learn to trust each other?