This year I am thinking about how I can form better relations with others, especially those with whom I might find it more difficult to relate. This post contains a collection of accounts I have recorded this term.
Account 27: Doing an Anne
At IMP this year, I was struck by Anne's attentiveness (to me) in the sessions she was leading. As I worked the problems she had set, she would appear on a chair next to me around every 15 minutes or so, and start a conversation that would make me think more deeply about the problems I was working on. I noticed that she was somehow able to do this with everyone in the session.
I have since worked at 'doing an Anne' in my teaching, but it is not always easy to be as present.
Account 59: Disengaging
Having finished setting students on a task, I often sense my attention drifting towards something else.
'Doing an Anne' helps me re-direct my attention towards the students, to enter into conversations with them.
When having conversations, I am aware of my posture. I have found being still (in body and mind), sitting on the same level, and making eye contact useful.
Account 19: Misuse of seeing
JG Bennett talks about how we 'look at people and don't see them', how we 'don't use the power of sight to connect ourselves with other people'. He calls this the 'misuse of seeing', how difficult it is to look at people and 'really feel that I am you and you are I'.
This may have been on my mind as I had this conversation:
Account 4: Looking for the first time
I had a conversation with a colleague, and turned to look at him for what felt like the first time. I studied the shape of his face as we talked.
Closely tied in with seeing, is listening.
Account 1: Expounding and listening at length
I had lunch with two colleagues. We were talking about our holidays. They both spoke for around 5 minutes without interruption, then I spoke about my holiday for around 10 minutes.
It was pleasurable both to listen and talk at length without fear of interruption.
Account 14: Choose to interrupt
When having a conversation, I think of something I would like to say. I am aware that I am about to interrupt as I do so, but sometimes the urge is too great, and I go ahead and do it anyway.
Thankfully this is becoming less common since writing and reflecting on this account.
I have noticed that people interrupt each other all the time. It makes for a poorer quality of conversation. I have noticed that some people do not complete trains of thought in the expectation that they will be interrupted.
I have a suspicion the quality of conversations might also depend on the size of group.
Account 32: Small groups for conversations
I wanted to talk to the 11 new students in one of my classes. I asked them all to wait behind so that I could speak to them. As I started to speak, I found it difficult to find the right tone, and they were very unresponsive.
I have since had many more constructive conversations with students in ones or twos. I call this having a 'stop and chat', and have them after lessons whenever possible.
Account 22: Too late conversation
At the start of this year, I had a long conversation with a student I had taught for the whole of last year. He had failed the course, and was enrolling to do something else. We talked candidly about what went wrong and what we could have done differently.
This year, I am aiming to have these conversations before it is too late.
It is sometimes difficult to have a conversation with people, but a few words may be enough.
Account 21: Simple encounter
On the first day of term, I saw lots of new students sitting on their own looking a bit sad. I approached around 20 of them and asked 'Can I help?' Some of them required help and some did not. One of them was not sure why I was talking to her.
I have found the question 'How can I help?' very useful this year, especially when talking to those students who are finding work difficult. The temptation might be to start describing deficiencies, but an offer of help feels more useful.
I am questioning why I find some people more difficult to meet than others.
Account 41: Not facing the other
I often feel a tendency to avoid eye contact with homeless people, and then feel ashamed.
I am working to overcome my ignorance of others. I wonder what other groups of people I find it difficult to talk to?
My aim this year is to enter into conversations where I might not have done before, to listen, to not 'skim over' the students I teach, to face the other, to meet what Knud Logstrup calls the 'Ethical Demand', with love.