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Teaching and Learning

Moving into Wisdom

October 19, 2017, Author: Chris Breen

Most of my teaching programmes end in the same way.

We finish all business during the last day. This includes personal reflections, goodbye messages to each other in our journals and a public utterance of our intentions for the road ahead.

And then we have one last break and come back for a final movement session.

Movement has become an integral part of my teaching curriculum.

There is an agenda that has its echoes in my earlier incarnation as a university mathematics education lecturer when I asked prospective mathematics teachers to do some circle dancing in my teaching methods.

A familiar powerful lesson occurred when some of these gifted-in-maths students found it really challenging to pick up even the basic steps. For many of them it was the first time that they understood what it felt like to struggle to learn while the majority of the class looked on at them with a degree of impatience at their ‘slowness’. This experience gave them the chance to experience the compassion a teacher needed to show struggling learners.

Back to my personal leadership programmes with corporate giants.

So we end with a movement session. We’ve done this before on day 2 of the 6 day course and one immediate challenge is to stay presence and surrender to the discomfort of being taken out of their comfort zones.

But this is not the main point of the session.

My teaching continually invokes an expanded sense and use of a variety of intelligence centres. In addition to the mind, I introduce them to the importance of heart and body wisdom. But such is the dominant mode of learning and participant safety that the mind and rationality still ends up as the dominant centre.

So I design this movement session of around 90 minutes that is held in silence to still the mind. I use the time to design activities in movement which try to summarise the main teachings of the module through heart and body wisdom. The session is structured through my training as a Biodanza facilitator.

For some it is a delight and they revel in being offered the chance to learn in a way that embraces the full range of their humanity. There is a ‘dance’ that asks them to surrender to the experience of being led around the room by a variety of different people. They realise that each leader has her own personal style – some of which they enjoy and others they struggle with. We work with themes of presence, groundedness, compassion for self and the other, complexity, vulnerability and the strength of standing together.

At the start and end of the session we hold hands in a circle and already several of the group already face their greatest challenge – to allow others in to their space when perceived intellectual superiority and privilege are taken away and they are left feeling vulnerable and not in control.

And here is the challenge for me.

I have to somehow hold the space so that it is not only safe to be vulnerable and not in control, but that it also not possible to ignore. When the inevitable but occasional resistance comes and the adult turns into a sulky or rebellious child, I need to provide a firm and compassionate lead. I need to hold that mirror up to the behaviour that I am witnessing so that it can be recognised and better handled when it inevitably resurfaces at home or in the work place.