A Fortnight in the Life Of #4
We’ve been back in our learning community for two weeks now and so we’re back with another round of facilitator reflections on the previous fortnight.
Every two weeks a group of facilitators working at Agile Learning Centres (ALC) across the UK meet online for an hour or two. A month ago, whilst checking in, I shared the emotional intensity of working as a facilitator and trying to hold the space whilst your child is engaging in intense and protracted conflicts with other young people. Two weeks ago a dear friend of mine who has just opened a new ALC setting joined the call and opened up what was on their mind, and it also centred on conflict.
Since then, instigated by some of their insights, various aspects of conflict have been bouncing around my mind. Unfortunately my thoughts have been finding it hard to crystalise, this venn diagram of the systems level of thinking about the processes of taking conflict to resolution has felt like it’s been constantly spinning, hard to focus on. A contributing factor may be that last week I had a pretty hefty cold and two weeks ago whilst playing football an opposition defender pushed me, and hoping I could get him a yellow card I exaggerated my fall backwards, however, in doing so I unfortunately and rather ironically knocked myself out. So my head has been pretty fuzzy.
We have had conversations around conflict between the facilitators at work this week as it is something that is cropping up in our setting in particular ways, but as of yet I can’t quite put my finger on the pulse of the centre of that spinning venn diagram and so I have nothing to write about it.
But this is not writer’s block; this is thinker’s block.
So why try write about conflict today?
Why not just skip over this installment?
Or write about something else.
I walked the dog last night and thought about what I would write this morning and asked myself these questions. But then I asked myself where these questions come from. How schooled are they?
These are questions about deadlines, productivity, the evaluative gaze rather than the internal desire to produce, and listening to your heart’s desires.
I have set myself this deadline of writing about facilitation every fortnight and it feels important to me to keep to it. One of the things we tell our self-directed young people is that you should set the measures of your success. In a world of plentiful external deadlines we want them to understand their relationship to a deadline before they have a reaction to it.
Another measure of success for me is writing what my heart wants to. Or more to the point not writing what my heart isn’t singing about. Other things have obviously happened in the last two weeks but none of them spark joy. To write about them would be to force something, to force them would be to aim to be productive, to be productive is the antithesis of my measure of success of writing from the heart, yet I still have a desire to be consistent.
It is school that first teaches us to couple deadlines and productivity so tightly together. I think as a culture we find it hard to decouple them, but it is possible to find productivity without deadlines; I think that this is what we call the flow state.
But I think deadlines without productivity is harder still, and I think that that is because it requires vulnerability.
It requires us to say this is all I have right now, I hope that that is enough. No one can give their whole self to being productive, but to turn up to a deadline with everything of your self is to be radically honest. And to be radically honest is to eschew productivity, or the cultural expectation that goes along with it, that of hiding your whole being.
Really this essay should have finished there. I knew roughly where this was going after that dog walk but the thought on vulnerability came out as I wrote. I think it's true, I think there is something there, but unlike my other essays I don’t edit these facilitator reflections. I write them Friday morning and send them straight out. So I haven’t had time to ponder it. I feel like deleting everything and turning that ending into a beginning and writing something else. Yet that feels like a productivity trap, like a way of saying what I have written here is only a B+ and there’s potential for at least an A- in that idea.
So I resist and invite you to the comments where I myself might leave further thoughts on: deadlines without productivity is rare because it requires vulnerability.
Thanks for reading and please feel free to subscribe
The one story that springs to mind to support this thought of mine comes from Nancy Kline's Time To Think. The story is of Dan the toxicologist who was key to a new drug being developed. They kept holding meetings but for two years the drug had stalled. The focus of the meeting was always productivity, why isn’t it ready? When will it be ready? And Dan was always being blamed.
Nancy Kline attended a meeting and introduced a thinking environment, a space for everyone to speak uninterrupted. And Dan, freed from concerns of productivity, thought his way to a solution that might only take three months.
The vulnerability came in as Dan required a good thirty seconds of silence to think his way there, which for every one was extremely uncomfortable. And to sit with discomfort for so long is in a sense to be vulnerable.