What Does Communal Growth Require?

What does communal growth require? What questions will we pursue together? Why? And what impact do we notice our pursuits have on our community? This episode is arriving late May 2023.


  Welcome to pursuing questions.     Imprints of inquiry, possibilities for play, and     provocations for living. This podcast, formerly known as The     Playful Podcast, is for those cultivating an ethos towards     mutual flourishing, healing, learning, and living well     throughout the human experience.     Here we linger at the intersections of reflection and     revisiting in hopes of nudging ourselves into intentional,     innovative, and reclaimed ways of being, thinking, and     imagining. Within our lifelong learning journeys, we transcend     predetermined scripts and boundaries by harnessing the     interdisciplinary wisdom of early childhood educators and     really anyone who facilitates experiences with humans, big or     small.     Your host, Kim Barton and I am living, loving, learning and     playing in Guelph ON the city known as Two Rivers and the     Lands, traditionally governed by the Dish with One Spoon     covenant. Join me in the quest within the questions. I’m     excited to wonder, wonder, marvel and play alongside you.        

So I’m feeling so inspired right now to just capture how a few of     the big ideas I’ve had lately suddenly feel connected and     intersected.     And that’s always an important feeling for me when, when     there’s kind of this serendipitous alignment I’ve     known for many years that connection between myself or     within myself, between myself and others, myself and the more     than human world and between big ideas, is something that I just     trust about the world.     As something that I follow because I hold my stand to     pursue curiosity over compliance and so I trust these     intersections that don’t always seem logical or don’t always.     Aren’t always um visible at different points in time. I believe they reveal     themselves when they’re supposed to anyways, so here we go, some     big ideas.     I’ve been thinking lately about how, as a pedagogical leader, I often am gathering human beings     together. Usually big human beings, adults, pre service     education students or early childhood educators, sometimes     families. And so it’s become really important to me to be     curious about my.     Ethics around gathering people, How I start a gathering, what my     intentions are, how I move through the experience that I’ve     curated, and however, reflect on what we’ve experienced to     continue.       always aware that we Co create     the experience and I don’t hold all the.     Information or knowledge or potential for growth.     And so within my thinking of gathering.     I often well, I guess lately I’ve been thinking like what     does it mean to feel safe? What does it mean to feel     comfortable?     What does it mean to feel like the space is tolerable?     What does it mean for it to feel uncomfortable, and what does it     mean for it to be unbearable?     And I asked these questions because so often as adults we’re     told that our learning and our growth.     Is uncomfortable.     And.     Well, I somehow believe that to be true, and I know I’ve felt it     in my body. I also know or I also believe that learning     happens in relationship.     And through Co regulation, or at least being in a state of being     regulated enough that my brain can form new connections and I     can use my prefrontal cortex to critically think and reflect on     what is happening.     One of the biggest reasons I feel challenged by this idea of     growth and discomfort is because.     Of what I know about human nervous systems, when our     nervous systems are flooded with stress, the blood flow goes from     our limbs and from our prefrontal cortex to our core     areas, including our heart and limbic system where amygdala is     and we make decisions based on instinct.     And reflex to survive.     And so if I’m if I’m uncomfortable enough or if I’m     in an unbearable situation, I actually don’t think I can learn     and learn to do anything differently or grow.

So I     challenge this idea just a little bit because I actually     think that, like, I have to be relaxed enough that I’m in a     regulated state in order.     To use my full brain capacity, my free prefrontal cortex, and     to.     Think differently, right on learn or learn in the first     place.     So.     How then do I think about this idea of growth being uncomfortable.     Thankfully I was recently at an institute with Anne Marie     Coughlin and Laura McGee Baird and if you have the chance to     attend, I cannot recommend it enough.     What they talked about and I don’t want to give it all away,     but if we think about how plants grow.     Where does growth occur on a plant?     It’s often from the most vulnerable parts, the most     flexible, tender, not fully formed yet places.     And so I think growth requires an uncertainty.     The more certain we are, the more rooted we are.     And yet growth happens at these tips.     These edges of…   not yet certain.     And then the same, the essence of what Laurie and and Marie     actually said was that learning happens invulnerability. And I     think that’s a good Brené Brown quote in there to wrap it all     together.     And so I I want to move forward with that, but I want to add one     more piece.

My dad is has a background in being an athlete     and he’s often talked about how exercise tears our muscles. And     so if we exercise and exercise and exercise and exercise, we’re     actually just tearing down. We’re not growing and     rebuilding.     The growth in rebuilding happens in rest.     So I want to add that this communal growth, when we come     together and gather, happens through both vulnerability and     rest and regulation.     So then that asks the question of a community as we gather,     what are we willing to experience together in the     pursuit of sharing ideas, perspectives, questions, and     growth?     How do we move from a place of safety and comfort into     tolerability, vulnerability, bravery, and at times,     discomfort?     How do we know the edge of where that moves into being     unbearable, and how do we come back into our regulation and     rest?     To recover from growth.     So I guess all of this to say that, you know, learning is     actually an ebb and flow between vulnerability.     Stress and rest and regulation. We need our basic needs to be in     a state where we can effectively learn.    

And just to add one more complexity here, I recently     learned that.     Compassion.     Actually requires our prefrontal cortex to be engaged.     We can’t experience compassion in the state of fight or flight     or stress or high anxiety when our amygdala is getting all of     our nutrients and blood.     Because our prefrontal cortex is offline, and we need those brain     structures to think about and reflect upon the emotion that     we’re experiencing and that another is showing us.     And when we’re stressed, those boundaries between another     feelings, what we’re seeing in our feelings get blurred. And     that’s actually where this idea of compassion fatigue comes in,     because our sense of self and other is compromised and we are     flooded even more by anothers emotions instead of being able     to think about them and to.     Engage that the kind of process by which we convey compact, like     empathy, and that we enact compassion in action.     I’ve been privileged enough to work alongside colleagues who     have taken up.     With these ideas and put them into action and lived and     breathed this way of being in community with people and     exploring all the edges of growth and and in doing so, they’ve enacted the importance     of having agreements. When we come together, Are we agreeing     to be vulnerable? What does it take to be vulnerable together?     I want to live in a world where.     We each have the tools.     To rest, recover and regulate as needed along this journey of     growth and vulnerability together.     The ability to kind of be in communal, you know,     vulnerability is I think what Ontario’s pedagogy intends to     ask of us because it asks us to consider pedagogical thought as     asking ourselves what we’re doing, why we’re doing it and     what impact it has on our community. And I think.     It’s asking that of us individually in in micro     moments. You know when a child says I can’t put on my boot…     what do we do? Why? What impact does it have? But it also asks     that of us, I think on a much more macro level and I don’t     think it’s quite embedded.     What it means to us that in groups together.     How do we create the conditions to, as a community, reflect on     what we’re doing, why we’re doing it and what impact it’s     having?     And so as a pedagogical leader, I think that.     That’s the space I’m living in lately, at least somebody who’s     like figuring out what pedagogical leadership means and     entails.     I want to live in a world where we can talk together about what     we’re doing, why we’re doing it, and what impact it’s having on     each other and.     Other humans, and more than humans around us.    

And I think, I guess I say this because.     Um.     I’m grounding myself in an ethos towards.     Mutual flourishing, healing, learning, and living well     throughout the human experience from birth until death, and to     ask hard, unanswerable questions throughout our time that launch     us into lines of flight that make available so many possible.     Um journeys so that we can choose with awareness where we     might want to go with our lives and time together.     In saying that.     I’m reminded that I stand to pursue curiosity over     compliance.     That’s a hard thing to stand in.    

As an eldest daughter of three.     Um, I took on this role of wanting to be the easy child,     the one that did comply, the one that was.     Told through hidden messaging that I was perfect. That’s where     I found my value in just going with the flow and making things     easy, being flexible, saying yes to whatever was needed.     Um, it was actually my middle sibling who taught me that     there’s there are other possibilities. What else is     possible other than compliance? We can say no, we can question.     And then my youngest sibling.     Is the one who made me curious.     About.     Taking those questions up in a much bigger way.     My youngest sibling, as you’ve maybe heard on this podcast     before, lives with Down syndrome, and from the age of     eight I became.     A young caregiver for her and within our family dynamics.     And that is what launched me into, um, a lifelong journey of     being curious about what it means to care and facilitate and     be in relationship and you know, be a mentor in someones human     experience.     And I think you know, there’s so much privilege in that I have an awareness and a     lived experience about.     A life that has looked.     Different that we’re than what we’re told is normal. Different     than what we’re told is possible. You know, I think my     parents were told things when she was born, like she’s never     going to read, and yet she does.     You know, there’s been lots of messaging that says she might     not live alone or um.     You know, a list of endless things that she may not ever be     able to do in in her life. And yet here we are asking questions     about what she can do and asking her what she wants to do with     her life and going from there. And so that brings me, or that     keeps me in this sort of space of thinking pedagogically about     human beings and what can we do? Why do we want to do them and     how are we going to go about doing them?        

I guess this whole story about compliance and and sisterhood     reminds me that I’ve now found my way to valuing curiosity. And     I I’ve known I was a curious person for a long time, but to     actually value that and to use curiosity as a compass took me     so long. Because society doesn’t really value curiosity. It     doesn’t necessarily make you money, doesn’t necessarily     support your relationships. In fact, it can really cause some     relational challenges and stress when.     You know asking ask questions at the wrong time or you want to     know more when someone doesn’t want to talk about it. Or.     You know, you remain open to ideas that don’t seem logical or     that seem threatening to a relationship.     So to stand and curiosity over compliance, um.     You know, really, really is interesting from that     perspective. And just one other way that it’s kind of really     interesting is that we’ve we’ve learned in an embodied way     through the public school system to comply with close ended     questions or requests to answer questions like what colour is     this, what province do we live in, how many, how much?     What year?     Sit down.     Stand in line, Cross your legs.     Um. And this hasn’t created structures for openness that     has. This literally has wired us to comply, or to find solutions,     rather than to pursue unanswerable quests that might     take years or lifetimes.     So standing in the pursuit of curiosity over compliance.     Is a divine calling to take the long view with things and to     trust that there’s a journey here worthy of pursuit.     And to you know if you roadblocks or stumbling blocks     or you know to view any like no that I get right on this journey     of like finding yeses and finding doors that are open.     Requires not only that long view and that curiosity, but it also     involves the whole community. This work is not meant to be     done in isolation and any.     Idea that I put into action is so much.     More robust when bolstered by.     That of a whole community.     I hope that’s not too vague, I’m trying not to.     Talk about things I’m not ready to talk about, but I am also     trying to mark this way of thinking about bringing people     together in a way that allows us to.     Explore curiosity.     To really be invulnerable, space together.     In a way that doesn’t just.     Reinforce compliance.     Or agreement, but that actually.     Invites us into curiosity collectively.     In our pursuit.     Throughout the human experience.    

All right, that is all I have to say. Hopefully there’s something     in there that will make you think a little bit and perhaps     open you towards trying new ideas. I hope that you’re able     to stay playful and embrace the quest within the questions.  

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