The Potential of a Pause

I randomly created this footprint a year ago, when trying to think about a more meaningful logo. I love the spiral imagery, but also the layering of topography lines and the finger-print-ness of it. It’s meant to signify that each episode really is just a landmark in time and entirely dependent on the context, time, thinking, experience of when I did the recording. Like Carlina Rinaldi says, “observation, documentation and interpretation are woven together in what I would define as a “spiral movement,” in which none of these actions can be separated from the others.” “…what comes out are… the steps and the traces of the learning processes of the teacher… and can be shared with other teachers”. Each episode is like a footprint, an imprint along my journey, showing traces of where I have been at one point in time along the winding paths of where ever I may go.


Welcome to the Playful podcast, where we discuss lifelong learning and leisure by lingering at the intersection of recreation, education, and occupation. I’m your host, Kim Barton. Welcome to the journey. I’m excited to play and learn along with you.

Welcome to another episode of The Playful Podcast. It’s likely been a while since I’ve put out a new episode, and you might have been wondering what I’ve been up to and I’ve been really living in the pause and what I’m calling the pause is something I’ll unpack throughout this episode, and I think it’s something that is so worthy of our time, our attention. And it also might not be something that we have to explain ourselves over. And yet, somehow I feel like I should disclose that within my pause I was completing my masters thesis. I started a new job in a new community, and that job offered me so much learning and honestly disrupted a lot of my thinking patterns, a lot of my doing patterns. And unsettled me in a way that has really moved me into. More helpful ways of being in this world. More more ways of being in this world that align for me with my strengths, align with how I might navigate, struggle, and just have been really refuelling. So I really haven’t questioned the fact that I’ve haven’t been able to find time to create more episodes. However, I’ve had a few things happen recently that I just. I feel I needed to talk through, but also I thought maybe my half thought out ramblings might be worthy of sharing in this space. I have been invited to think about another way to think about pedagogy. Is was sent to me by one of my colleagues, and it’s a blog by Christina Vintimilla. I I really like what Christina says here in in that she offers that

pedagogy is that which thinks, studies and orients education. It’s purposes, its protagonist, it’s histories, its relations and processes.

And for me, that sentence speaks to how pedagogy is both ominous, but also it is it’s almost like. Bleeding like there is like the pedagogical thought that I might have today is so based on today and yesterday and what might be tomorrow that. It’s going to feel and look different in the next coming few days, in the next few weeks and then next year. So it’s not. It’s it’s not necessarily like, repeatable. And then she also says pedagogical thought lives within the tension between theory and practice, between what happens and the reflection on what happened. And wow, that sentence has spiraled me into a place of understanding pedagogy as breathing life between theory and practice. Reflection. Between between what happened and the reflection on what happened, but also between reflection and action and between, between. Umm. What was experienced and what I might want to build curriculum around? And this space is a in between. It’s an in betweeness for me. This space, it’s a generative space of possibility. It’s also, it’s also a space to be humanized because I think it invites us into this. Not only education, but any in any position where we are designing an experience for somebody, this is the space where we decide what’s worthy. We decide what we want to take up and what we want to leave behind. And it’s a space where it it’s really a transitional space.

And, um, I’ve been trying to connect this idea of transitional space to. All the transitions that I see in my life. So if you can roll with me here with this little meadow walk um. Sometimes it’s easy to think that learning happens most when content is being delivered, or when there’s an activity that’s been intentionally designed. But I’ve been starting to think about how learning happens in the transition between experiences. It happens. When I’m trying to put on my shoes to get out the door, it happens. You know, when I’m, when I’m, it happens when I when I go to an outdoor Ed conference and I decide that the session I signed up for isn’t for me, and I skip out on it. And then I stumble across my colleague and we have this wonderful side conversation that never would have been under other circumstances because we both just happened to be taking a break, stepping away, transitioning from something to another thing and bumped into each other. I also think that. This is so connected to me for transitions in like seasons or transitions and rhythms, meta rhythms like the rhythm of our rhythms.

And I was told this story on the weekend about how a couple weeks ago would have been the optimal time to do. To do walnut dying practices, so like taking walnuts and dipping fabric in. In their solution to dye the fabric with the colour of the walnuts and somebody said, oh, I noticed there’s a lot less walnuts this year, but this is the time that they typically drop from the trees and. I heard that sometimes walnut trees actually hold on to their fruits a little bit longer and as a way to. To kind of sustain and restore and and not just output or produce and. It’s a nice reminder that sometimes even though it’s the time to be doing XYZ. Having a fluctuation in that rhythm. Is what helps us maintain that rhythm for longer. So anyways, it was it was this idea of like a slight variation or or. Fluctuation, a rhythm of our rhythms, and this. Not and kind of the the shift between these different ebbs and flows in in the human experience, but also what it means to be a living being on this planet.

And I feel like I’m I’ve wandered very far away from what I was trying to say. So the next thing I’ll offer is that this idea of transitional space being a place to linger in was also something I heard in a blog post, again sent to me by my colleague, that talks about how music happens between the notes. And this was a A I think Yoyo MA was perhaps quoting somebody else who said this. I wish I could remember better, but. Um, this idea that music actually happens between what we hear is so fascinating to me, and aligns with this idea that the space between deserves. It deserves life to be breathed into it. It deserves thought and intention. And just as, just as much as the notes that are played in music design, the experience of what we hear in music, what makes us feel, the space between the place where where our anticipation might be or you know, what we expect to happen next builds up. And then it’s either reinforced or violated, which is one of the things that makes music so fascinating to us is our expectations around what we might hear next. And it’s. It’s in the pauses. It’s in the, it’s in the spaces between the notes where so much of this magic happens. So. If. If this space between is worthy of being experienced and it’s a place where we are invited to. Move from what happened into reflection and also move from reflection. Into deciding what from the reflection we want to take up, right? Because it’s not possible for me to take up every. It’s not possible for me to take up tomorrow every possibility that I might have dreamed up of of today there, there is some decision making involved and this is where we’re invited to. This is the humanizing part of of pedagogy and designing experiences because the decisions I make about what is what’s worthy of being taken up at this time based on the information I have today, is based on things like my values. It’s based on things like my lived experience. It’s based on things like my intuition. It’s based on thinking not only with my prefrontal cortex, but also with my senses, with with the space that I might be working with, with the other human beings, or more than human beings I might have in mind and those decisions are what make education and other practices, caregiving, other, other practices where we design experience for others, that that’s what makes it so relational and so humanizing is that a robot can’t come in and. End up designing what I design because it’s truly based on this contextual. Indeterminant, right? It’s it’s unknown. It’s it is a space of unknown. It’s a space of I I might anticipate or expect something, but what I actually decide. May or may not align with that expectation. And I say that both from a place of pedagogy and a place of music.

OK, so I think I’ve made a case that this this space between is worthy. So now if. If I believe that the space between to be worthy. And I’m also trying to, you know. You play with with another version of the script of a good ally which which is disrupting the the anger to action connection. Might I inject the space between in there? Might I? Inject. Insert intersects the experience of emotions or reflection or truth or story that I’m hearing. Decide that it’s worthy of a space between space before action, and live in that space a little bit before I take up action. This all sparked to me from a few moments that I encountered recently where where I had a I experienced somebody saying something and I had this huge nervous system response and this story in my mind that said to be a good ally, you have to take action right now. You have to say this back to them. You have to offer this insight or education and you have to act, act, act. And I didn’t act in that moment. Something in me just said hang on. And. Then I experienced waves of guilt because I didn’t act and because some little voice in me somewhere said hang on. Um, what I didn’t realize is that. Is that when I shared that experience that I’ve been having with one of my colleagues, that it would lead me to a place of rethinking the story of who what a good ally looks like and what good allyship looks like, feels like it sounds like. Because I didn’t think that was an option. And who am I to decide what good allyship looks like? Feels like it sounds like. And yet, how do I hold good allyship in one hand and hold my resilience in another and and ensure that my good allyship? Doesn’t burn me out. And perhaps. These micro moments where I feel like I should do XYZ, I should say something, I should do something, actually are an invitation to pause and linger in the space between and wonder with what happened and breathe life into what happened as I’m reflecting on it. What story about what happened do I want to create? What story of what happened is worthy? What story of what happened is from my perspective? Or could I invite other perspectives on what might have happened and where might lingering in that lead me to? And wouldn’t the action from? You know. Rewriting different versions of the story? Um, wouldn’t that lead me to different places of taking action? Wouldn’t action then look different from each version of the story of what happened? I I want to weigh the fact that, um, the thinking in the space between whatever that space you want to call it, if it’s pedagogical thought or if it’s meta reflection or. Or if it’s a script, writing whatever you want to call it, all that. All that thinking is worthy, but all the doing is also worthy. And in this podcast, I call it a playful podcast because I believe in the value of play. And I believe that just as much as I have to think my way through the stories I want to hold and that I want to tell about something that’s happened are also as important as playing with what I’m going to do differently. And for me to to know and do differently, I have to have opportunities to play, to try to test. To fumble. And so I just again want to make clear that action I’m I’m trying not to discount the fact that the action is necessary. But I want to breathe life into is what happens before we decide what action that we want to take. What action looks like, what action is in this situation will sound like, who it might involve, how I decided that that action was was worthy versus another that I left behind. And. Um, I think it’s through. It’s through play and it’s through. It’s through permission to. To try that, we get there. The final note I want to end on is that these moments, moments like the ones that I’ve been experiencing, where somebody says something, my nervous system, you know, I have this stress response. I feel compelled to take action in that moment and and then maybe maybe I decide to to do something or say something or not those moments. Um. Could be held. With just as much wonder and curiosity, warmth and affection as. You know, joyful moments in my day where where I look up at the trees and the sun lights flickering through the dancing leaves and I can feel it on my face and see it on my eyelids as I close them. That sense of of. Ah. Can be instilled within these within these moments of human. These relational moments of of human, you know, conflict or confusion, misalignment. Um. And allowing. Allowing our curiosity and our attention and affection. To come through. Is such a beautiful way to. Enter into an end to just validate the space in those micro moments, the space between what happens, how we reflect on it and how we choose to respond. That. That to me that space can be as wide or as as micro as you might need it to be, especially depending on how much practice you have and navigating some interactions or encounters like that. I think that. Well, it’s it’s this isn’t my thought. I didn’t think this up, but I believe that that um. That taking a breath. And you know, when I have that nervous system response, rather than acting from a place of my of the blood flow going to my reptilian brain, doesn’t it deserve to have my prefrontal cortex online? Doesn’t it deserve to have my body be in a state of? Of. Doesn’t my response deserve to be informed by my prefrontal cortex, but also my senses, my intuition, reading accurately what that other person might be giving me in their social cues? And how can thinking with all of that information lead me to respond in a way that is perhaps? Not directly from a place of anger. And although anger may have mobilized me into. That space between and maybe anger deserves and invites. You know thought or or, you know, movement or motivation? Um, can we disrupt the urgency narrative around these experiences and instead realize that that rest and and space and thought and time that these moments deserve these things of us as humans, that’s that. In our quest of equity and justice, that. That all human beings involved in those processes deserve rest and. Time and space and access to resources to think with, to decide what and how they might respond.

Hopefully what I’ve shared here in the smallest form in its in its most microstate it activates something in you in your value system that you say. Hmm, not for me. It doesn’t align, and here’s why. And you’ve confirmed your own values, even if they oppose what I’ve offered here. In the best case scenario, what I’ve offered here is a provocation to move us somewhere else in our thinking. It might. Again. As much as I think this this is the product at this time of my thinking, it’s actually. Part of a space between of something else that will be that I don’t know what is yet. I guess, I guess I do have one final, final thought. And it’s just that I attended a speaking event recently. I guess I bared witness to a professional conversation held on held virtually between Jean Clinton, Ann Marie Coughlin and Laurie Baird. And I learned so much. But one of the things that I kept coming back to is. I think it was Anne Marie. I’m probably going to mess up who said this and and where it came from. But we talked about how we can’t hold wonder and certainty in the same hand. We can’t hold curiosity and certainty in the same hand. And I think for me. I I just feel that in my bones. I feel that. Um. I have strong values of curiosity and. It often. Leads me to a place of complete, unknown, complete. Doing things I’ve never even I’ve never done before. Doing things that haven’t been done before, dreaming up possibilities of taking action that. That perhaps haven’t been done before or haven’t worked before because we wander into a place of unknown. We generate our own knowledge. We generate our own ideas and theories and realities that require action, right? Like I can’t think my way into a new reality, but I can. I can create one if I if I, if I think deeply and then I I decide what is worthy to be. Tried differently so. Yeah, I guess in all of this, it’s it’s that in our journey of of pursuing justice, equality. And it belonging, honoring diversity. And spaces of inclusion and indigenization. I wonder how that journey can be held with just as much curiosity, and that it means that it comes with perhaps less certainty than we have thought we signed up for. This was a particularly important topic for me because of the long pause I took in this podcast without really any explanation, but also because I’ve noticed so many pauses in my life and how it’s actually the pause in something that has led me to a completely new realization. Or it’s like holding on to something longer than I would intend to. That’s led me to move towards something that’s much more effective than I could have dreamed of and you’ll probably hear in. Episodes to come, what some other versions of this pause look like, and what it has led me to.

Thank you so much for listening to my meandering thoughts on this topic. I have deep gratitude for anybody who stayed with me with this one. I know that it might not have made a lot of sense and this is me going public with half thoughts, the essence of which is that. There’s so much power to be cultivated in a pause, and that life actually happens in the transitions between. Anything. As always, I’m curious to hear how some of these ideas land with you, so please feel invited to reach out to me on social media at playful pedagogies or Thanks so much, and with deep gratitude I’ll just say stay playful, stay curious, and stay moments.

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