Thoughts emerging from the Emerson Weekend

Before I go off for a weeks holiday I wanted to review the comments that were made following the Contemplative Pedagogy Weekend at Emerson College back in June and consider the implications of those reflections for the network and for us as individuals. I have tried to bring together everyone’s comments into a few main themes but in doing so will inevitably have lost certain subtleties  so do feel free to comment below if you want to add something. They are not listed in any particular order.

1) Importance of location –  several comments were made both during and after the weekend about how the environment helped people to relax into the weekend. Spending time in nature and bird song were two aspects mentioned specifically. Several of the people who led sessions made good use of having such easy access to beautiful natural surroundings.

2) The value placed on group discussion and interaction – I feel the weekend had a very open atmosphere and that there was a healthy mix of support and collaboration but there as also disagreement and challenge. I think the openness of group participants really helped to support this group dynamic. When asked what had surprised them about the weekend one attendee said ‘the richness of people’s sharing’ whilst another remarked on how welcomed they felt into the group when they came along half way through. The quote that stands out in connection to this topic was ‘There was a genuine and authentic openness, non-judgemental, shared desire to learn and develop’. Whilst dynamics such as this cannot be orchestrated, thinking of ways to facilitate such relationships in future events is very important.

3) Mixing the internal and the external, the creative and the analytical – another strength of the day seems to be the mix of different activities that combined space for reflection and inward exploration with engagement and observation of the external world. I think this helped people to engage and the variety also meant even if people were finding certain exercises challenging they knew they weren’t going to be stuck with it for too long! Related to this was the gratitude that people expressed for having some space to think in different ways about themselves and what they do everyday.

4) The challenge of ‘spirituality’ – one particular issue that was raised with me was the use of the word ‘spirituality’. I am confident that the person who raised it is not alone in having difficulty with this term. I think there is a very useful and interesting discussion to have around it and what we are trying to depict through its use. Perhaps this is question to pose on the email list.

5) Making it applied – some participants reported finding it difficult at times to see the relevance of some of the sessions and their own teaching. They often enjoyed the sessions and were able to put their doubts aside, but I think particularly for those new to some of the concepts, there is a need for explicit discussion of relevance in the classroom. I have thought for a while that the blog needs to serve as a repository for practical ideas of classroom integration. I think this would make contemplative pedagogy more accessible and assist people in finding their own way in.

6) Moving forward – I think an important element is developing and sharing ideas for introducing contemplative practice in the classroom. I suspect that this has as much to do with collation as developing new things and I hope that this website could have a repository function. Building relationships is fundamental. It is important for our learning of technique but also learning about ourselves. More events, more picking up the phone, more email dialogue, more skype calls. I have found that the relationships that have developed since starting this network are quickly becoming some of the most influential I have ever had in my work life. There is something unexpectedly powerful about connecting with people with shared values.  Another interesting question on moving forward is around the types of events we hold and the importance that they embed contemplative pedagogy within them – rather than becoming events about contemplative pedagogy.

As I said this doesn’t adequately address everything  that has been said about the weekend but I hope it provides a little more depth to the issues the weekend raised and thoughts that have arisen about moving things forward.

One last point – we have upgraded our wordpress site so that we can host different media types. I hope to take advantage of this when I get back from leave.

Warm wishes Caroline

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