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Coming in from the Cold

by Rebecca Thomas

Are some feelings good and some feelings bad? A question I posed to 17 students in a tuakana teina class today.

At first they were tentative to answer.

They weren’t sure if they could give the right answer, but what followed on was a delightful conversation led by them about how our feelings can relate to behaviours. Using the Pulse tool they unpacked how the fictional students in the class might be feeling, backing it up with a reason.

“She’s angry because she doesn't like her haircut.”

“She’s happy because she’s dancing, I dance when I’m happy.”

“He’s unsure because his mum is in hospital and he doesn’t know if she will come home tonight.’’

(this tool can be purchased here)

These Year 1-4 voices were very perceptive, one would think they were incredibly wise for their years if you heard them. Truth being told they were being their own curious selves, unspoiled by the world in a cohesive environment set up by the teacher. They were given time and space to explore ideas, share perspectives and listen to others in a talking circle. This talking circle was bound by 6 simple rules to keep everyone safe.

# 1 Only speak if you have the ball/puppet

# 2 Speak to other students and not the teacher

# 3 There may be more than one good answer

# 4 Agree and disagree respectfully

# 5 Build on each other’s ideas

# 6 Listen to the speaker

These effective rules were helping to create a classroom norm where everyone was valued, safe, happy and accepted. This type of environment can be challenging to set up. It can be hard for the teacher to let go and just listen; it can be hard not to jump in and support them when you think you are needed; it can be hard to allow the rules to be guided by the group and not the teacher, but the returns are wealthy and more suited to the ‘long game’. This is the cohesive glue every classroom needs.

In the absence of social cohesion humans will form social groups naturally. It is the hope that these self-selected groups will form healthy ‘norms’ together, but it is also possible they do not. Either way, the existence of several small sub groups can hinder a larger group from becoming united.

School/class values and beliefs have weathered the storm lately, so it makes sense to re-engage with them as we bring people back together. Bring people in from the cold.

Taking time to build cohesion when we are feeling a little fragile will give us a shared sense of ‘normal’ and belonging.

(read about others Schools and the way they use tools like this here)

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