When I started this reflective blog, my hope was that readers would question what I wrote, and through this questioning, we would create a new understanding of the original idea. The point of reflective practice, after all, is learning and growth, and in my experience this is enhanced when the reflective process becomes collaborative.
Fortunately, my hope has been validated on many occasions, but the effectiveness of reflective blogging really made an impression on me after I posted Stop Blaming: Develop Emotional Literacy. As usual, I linked my post to Facebook. The next day, this comment was waiting for me in my message box:
I thought I would share a bit about how my brain worked after reading your post today: Yesterday I watched a television segment from “Positive Living.” A doctor was explaining (can’t remember his name) that a suggestion “Don’t spill your milk” activates the brain to imagine spilling milk which actually INCREASES the possibility of accidents. Instead the doctor suggested the mother to say, “take a sip and place the glass carefully back on the table.” When I read your post today I thought about “Stop Blaming” in the same way. Might a similar result to a milk incident be that someone who blames becomes blamed for blaming? Might it be better to suggest “When emotions are activated, recognize them, own them, and … [detach from the trigger].”
When blame is seen as the only way to deal with feelings, as teachers what can we do? What is our role? How can we help our students understand that they are responsible for their feelings?
Interesting comments ensued via Facebook and email. Within these comments, questions were raised. To recognize my readers’ willingness and interest in keeping the discussion going, I am dedicating this post to them and to their questions.
Two readers wondered how I would answer my own questions:
– What can we do to help students/participants not blame others?” Are there strategies teachers can take? I know you opened it up to the readers but… what do you do? What might you do? Are there specific things you have tried? Would like to try?
– so what was your answer to your own question: what is the teacher’s role and responsibility?
The third reader questions another facet of this concept of taking responsibility:
Thanks for posting this. It seems healthy to build a kind of immunity to memes which can otherwise disturb a peaceful emotional state. I like the comparison to people able to create a zen-like tattoo experience. Still, it seems a focus on the one with the disturbed peace of mind lets the one who “threw the rock” off the hook. It seems to me that the bullied need emotional armor while the bullies need….what? Besides, sometimes people just don’t have a strong immunity system against what are harmful memes to them–maybe because they have an immature ego–and the triggering of emotions can cut like a knife. Do we really want to blame the person who correspondingly cries in pain for not controlling his emotions?
Have you ever blamed someone for making you feel the way you do? Maybe your student swore in class, so you blame her for the frustration you feel the rest of the day. Maybe your colleague vehemently disagrees with your teaching beliefs, and so you make a direct link between his response and your encroaching rage.
Some of you may have read the above paragraph and thought,
“Well, aren’t they responsible? If they hadn’t done that or reacted in such a manner, I never would have felt that way. “
In the past few weeks, I’ve had the delightful opportunity to explore a concept I hadn’t realized was so dear to me: clarity. Until recently I just thought I was excessively curious. When someone shares something with me, the question, “Why?” lingers on the tip of my tongue, until I have the chance to spit it out. Now I’m aware it is more than mere curiosity.
When I get a clear picture of what you are thinking or doing, I get a deeper understanding. It is in the understanding that I’m able to see you for who you are, and not for who I may judge you to be. Clarity is the pathway I use to see your humanity. Clarity helps me connect to you on a compassionate level. As an educator, I believe this is important.
All my life, I’ve been searching for pathways of clarity so that I could make myself understood, and so that I could understand others. I wanted to create meaningful connections. At first the pathways I chose weren’t life serving and didn’t meet my core values. Finally, I came upon the process of Nonviolent Communication (NVC).
After two weeks of spiraling through the experiential learning cycle (ELC), I’ve finally arrived at the last stage: Now What? otherwise known as, Active Experimentation or Intelligent Action (See Carol Rodgers).
Often those who write about reflection will stop before this final phase (…) Dewey’s notion of responsibility (…) implies that reflection that does not lead to action falls short of being responsible.
Before you start reading, I’d love to hear your thoughts on anything you read below. You may want to comment on some of these questions: Does the concept of reflective inquiry I offer resonate with you? What was your reaction to the interaction that happened? How would you have handled the situation? Have you had a similar experience?
So What? as part of the reflective cycle, asks us to hypothesize reasons why an event occurred. When I am at this stage, I like to take a closer look at the feelings I felt, and guess at the feelings others may have felt during that moment. Although this may seem like an observation to some — and as such, should be in the What? stage — feelings give us insight into what people need and value. I believe that the exploration of needs and values is a theoretical venture since needs are not always apparent. It may be easy to see that a person is upset, but the need behind that feeling can be quite elusive. When we search for a need, especially in others, we make guesses. A theory is a glorified guess.
Ok, enough with the conceptual mumbo jumbo; let’s get to the juicy stuff!
Last week, I lost my cool. Upon reflection, I reacted in a way that does not correspond with my values as a teacher. However, instead of hiding in shame, I have decided to use this as a learning and teaching moment.
In this three-part series, I will be exploring the connection between reflective inquiry and nonviolent communication. In my opinion, these are two forms of communication with the self, which give teachers valuable insight into how to move forward, especially when events are linked to strong emotions.
Using the experiential learning cycle as one of my bases, I will be moving through these three stages of reflection: What? So What? Now What? Today I’ll begin with, What? (see Burton, Kolb and Gibbs). In my view, the What? stage corresponds to the Observation stage of my second referential model, Nonviolent Communication (NVC). What? asks us to describe an event without judgment or evaluation, as does NVC observation.