Monday, October 1, 2012

Your Safe Place

Yesterday during rehearsal, as we discussed learning, teaching and coaching, Will pointed out that in his experience, one of the most important things for a teacher to do is to create a safe place for people to try what they're being taught. You want to create and environment that encourages experimentation and exploration, one in which there is no shame in trying and not succeeding.

I've been thinking about Will's words since then. I agree with them. People are more open to learning when they feel safe and accepted. We all seem to perform better when relaxed and clear and an environment that feels safe makes it easier to do so.

When I think about Iris working with kids, I'd have to say that the corner stone of what she does is to create an environment that feels safe and secure. Her approach goes beyond providing a sense of being accepted. There's something about her level of focus, her in-tune responsiveness and plain old confidence that puts kids at ease.

I'm definitely not a fan of guilt and shame as motivators. It's not that I'm altruistic; I just don't trust them and I don't like what they yield in terms of relationships.

When I think about environments for myself, it occurs to me that it's not so much about feeling safe as it is about not being distracted by people with agenda other than my learning.

All that said, there was something about creating a safe haven that nags at me. It's one of those I-agree-but-I-disagree scenarios where I can't put my finger on the "what" with which I disagree. For example, I know that there are times when not feeling completely safe is a necessary component of optimal performance. Your adrenaline kicks in, your senses become hyper-aware, etc. However, that isn't what's nagging at me.

Hmmm...  What about all the kids growing up in the US who have an increased likelihood of being run over by a car should they ever travel elsewhere in the world because they've come to believe that cars should stop every time they step into the street. I guess I would cast this as an artificial (or perhaps, false) sense of safety. But that isn't it either.

OK, here it is. It occurs to me that the best safe place is the one that goes with you. Ideally, you would teach someone to know how to feel safe and secure independent of the situation, to know what she's about regardless of what others might say, to have confidence to spare no matter what parts of her plan fail, to know that she's OK, period.

Of course, I have no idea how you teach that other than to provide opportunities to try it. So I guess it comes down to this. I love the idea of creating and maintaining a safe place for learning; I just don't like the idea of it becoming a necessary condition for learning.

So what do you do?

Happy Monday,

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