I was impressed to discover the Full-On Learning blog today, delightfully subtitled “Learning Geeks Welcome”. I like to aspire to be a learning geek, so that felt special. There are a number of posts about learning and emotion. I was taken with this post, in which the writer explores her own feelings as she is about to make a presentation to peers who may perhaps be critical.
I quote at length, because I think what the author has written is so important in developing a relationship with the children we teach in which they can take the risks involved in deep and reflective learning:
It makes me think about what we really ask students to do when we say, “…and at the end of today’s lesson, you’ll be presenting your work to the whole class.” because it’s so much more than just sharing your work. It’s putting yourself on the line, inviting others to question, critique and risking outright dismissal of what you have invested which is, if you really care about it, of part of yourself.
Opportunities to share work with peers are important, and can be exciting and positive experiences even for some students who are nervous beforehand. However, there are students who respond less than kindly to the work of others, and we need to prepare for this eventuality.
I read recently about a group of teachers who gather as “critical friends” to scrutinise one another’s professional portfolios and give feedback and guidance. Great care is taken with the emotions of the teacher “on show”.
Partly because these portfolios did reflect such personal priorities, the manner of their presentation and critique took on particular importance. How could their authors prompt an audience to examine this evidence carefully and give useful and sensitive feedback?
… the presentation would follow a carefully structured process of response, facilitated by someone trained in such discussions. First, members established norms for the coming conversations, which they knew could turn sour in a split second if they did not guard against inadvertent disrespect. …
While the article states that the protocols used to protect teachers’ emotions were based on classroom techniques, I don’t think we take this level of care in the classroom (or in the staffroom) often enough. However, I do believe that the more our learners (be they staff or students) feel respected and supported, the more they will be willing and able to learn.
Resilience matters, but we can all be more resilient when things go wrong in a safe place.