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.