Friday, May 01, 2015

"One looks back with appreciation to the brilliant teachers, but with gratitude to those who touched our human feelings. The curriculum is so much necessary raw material, but warmth is a vital element for the growing plant and for the soul of the child." - Carl Jung

There is an exercise I like to do with people or groups.

It starts with the question: "Can you remember a specific experience when you felt like you were really learning--when you were deeply engaged and growing as a learner?" (I usually have to say, "inside or outside of school" for a school audience, as they may feel they are supposed to pick an academic moment when that is often--even usually--not the case.)

Just talking about those experiences typically evokes really good feelings. They are usually stories that have become scaffolding for how we see ourselves and our lives. Or they are touchstone or "velcro" (have stuck to us) stories by which we measure other experiences we have.

These experiences almost always involve feelings: feeling supported, or challenged, or trusted, or encouraged, or inspired. And these feelings almost always have come from one other person, in a very individual interactions that respected our agency and our desires for self-direction. Someone took the time to really help me understand how to do something, or someone understood what I needed, or someone believed I could do something, or someone cared enough to take extra time to help me...

As you can imagine, the answer is never "that test I took in fourth grade." Maybe it was a challenging class assignment, but it still had a caring individual who understood how the challenge would help you.

The exercise can stop there, just with the sharing of those experiences, since in and of themselves they provide a really valuable lesson in how we actually influence others.

But there is a very good follow-on question:  "What were the conditions that led to that experience?" For deep learning and growth to take place, and for human interactions that support, challenge, or inspire others--how can we create the conditions for those kinds experiences and interactions?

Whether we're talking about a family, a class, a school, a community, or a work environment, thinking about the conditions for real learning and growth remind us that influencing others authentically is about touching human feelings and creating opportunities to do so.

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