Teachers are amazing
No, this is not a propaganda piece by the Department of Education, or the TUI, INTO or ASTI. Neither am I affiliated, nor in receipt of any payment, from any teachers or from any of said organisations. Nor, am I trying to be sarcastic, ironic, paradoxical, cynical or any other adjectives you can throw at me (you suspicious minds you). I just want to say that, in my experiences of late, most teachers I encounter are amazing. Can I not just give a compliment? The teachers reading this among you are probably screaming "yes you can, keep going" right now, "we don't hear enough praise", while the rest of you are wondering "what's his angle?" I better explain. Actually, before I go any further, can I also add that social care workers, social workers and youth workers are also, in my opinion, amazing (I have no small about of experience here too). Now I really do have to explain myself.
Where to start? To be honest it's very simple really. The fact is I knew little or nothing about the lives of teachers until 12 months ago. To be truthfully honest any assessment I'd have made would have been influenced to a very, very large degree by my own experiences of teachers, formed when I was a student between the years 1980 and 1993 (they make Reeling in the Years episodes about those years, so that's not a good sign). How do you or I judge what the job of teaching is like? How do you judge when you have little or no experience? Let's face it, we all judge. We judge and form opinions, and are usually quite quick to relay them as well. I once told a friend of mine, not long after I started in this job, that I was doing this thing called Restorative Practices. Within a blink he was telling me how that was all fine in theory but didn't really work in practice. It was too soft, developed by liberals, etc. I thought he must have known something about it. In fact I swear I felt like I was on the witness stand the way he started coming out with counter-arguments against it. As the conversation went on it could easily have turned into a row (which would not have been a good look for the newly installed conflict resolution "expert" in Limerick). In the end it turned out he had little or no knowledge, experience or understanding of restorative practice or restorative justice at all. It was all based on one or two headlines he'd seen in the paper, and I mean headlines, he hadn't even read the full articles.
So, we're back to same question. How do you judge someone or something when your personal experience is limited? If you're like my friend, it's not an issue, you just expound with the little information you have (I do love him though inspite of this little habit). Of course he's not the only one. We routinely in this country expound on such varied groups or topics as "foreigners"and "farmers", "Breastfeeding" and "Brexiteers" (our current favorite), "teenagers" and "Travelers", "politicians" and "priests", "criminals" and "carbon credits" and "vegetarians" and "vegans". Until 12 months ago, if you'd had asked me about teachers, I'd have been liable to say "they have the best holidays in the world", or "it's the most important profession there is" or "they complain too much". Who knows? It could change within the day. The thing is I'd usually have something to say. And it would usually be ill-informed and unhelpful. Now I'd give a different opinion, one based on meeting 60 or more teachers in that time and hanging out in numerous staff rooms. I've heard dozens of little stories and seen maybe a thousand or so students, some of them quite challenging but most amazing and intelligent individuals. I've seen teachers performing mock asteroid impacts with a box of flour and a ball of play dough, teachers continuing to teach after being bitten and assaulted that morning, teachers commanding the absolute attention of 30+ students and teachers being at their wits end because of one, teachers driving and encouraging their students and colleagues to newer heights and teachers struggling after the inspector complained about their break time arrangements, teachers who had who had an entire class singing African songs and teachers who kept going when smothered with the flu. It's quite something to observe up close the highs and lows, the agonies and ecstasies, the efforts rewarded and those thrown back at you.
Does it mean I think every teacher (or social care worker/youth worker) is great? No. Does it mean I have to agree with every teacher (or social care/youth worker) every time? No. But I am now better able to understand and empathise with them for having had these interactions. And this is the point. We need to hear the stories before we judge (ideally we wouldn't judge at all). What if, next time we are asked about teachers, or farmers or Brexit, we didn't just give the same old knee-jerk reaction we always give. What if we listened more than we spoke? What if we asked questions to understand rather than interrogate. The Dali Lama says "When you talk you are only repeating what you already know, but when you listen, you may learn something new". This is so true (of course it is, it's from the Dali Lama). The other old saying is that we have "two ears and one mouth" and should use them in that proportion. The world needs more listening. Try ramping up up your listening for the rest of today. I know you think you do it already, but turn up your listening dial from a 6 to an 8. I guarantee you, you will be surprised what happens.
That's Restorative Practice
My name is Joe Power and I am the RP development officer for Limerick. I thought I would write about my experiences in developing my own understanding of RP, as well as in trying to spread it across Limerick. The reason for this is that I find that both my own and other people's experiences are remarkably similar and there could well be some opportunity for others to benefit from these thoughts (or ramblings!!). Anyway I hope you gain something from it.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.