Why you should read this
I believe that education should include the whole student, emotions and all. This is a not a persuasion piece. This is an impassioned rallying cry to those who are already get it.
Education that does not include authentic emotions in healthy ways is dangerous and ineffective, arming a self-propagating culture of stigma, fear and isolation with innumerable consequences for individuals, families, communities and economies.
Emotions are the elephant in the classroom, and that the inclusion of emotions may be the single most vital and timely innovation in the modern history of education.
I have developed a new kind of class as a way of including emotions which is proving incredibly powerful.
I’ve run these classes a number of times with university students over the last 6 months (since November 2016) and the feedback has been incredible.
In fact, based on this student feedback, I’ve now been booked to run sessions with maternity staff within a number of NHS Trusts across England in summer 2017.
It was so unexpectedly brilliant. I feel overwhelmed and reassured and glad I was able to share my true thoughts and feelings.
I came in feeling very cynical but it ended up being a positive experience. I didn’t think it would work but it did.
This session made me realise that I needed this session! I feel less overwhelmed and much less alone.
It’s not common at University that you get given the chance to express feelings and listen to how other people are feeling and I think it is really healthy.
How this began for me
I have been in health-related fields for close to twenty years, during which time I have journeyed from being an emotionally shutdown researcher to passion advocate and practitioner of person-centred (holistic, whole-person) education.
Including Emotions In Education (IEIE) came about whilst working in the education of health professionals, where the big drive from legislators, regulators and research is to develop practitioners who are compassionate, courageous, considerate and so forth.
Studies show that emotionally-developed practitioners can access higher order clinical outcomes that are otherwise simply off the table.
Studies also show that emotionally-developed practitioners are less prone to burnout (and less prone to making burnout-related errors).
With the exception of some mental health programmes, clinical students in higher education currently learn about emotions and their importance, but they are not provided with safe spaces in which they can experience and explore their own emotions and the emotions of others.
It is quite simple: if you want to develop person-centred practitioners (of any profession), their education must be person-centred, which means including the whole student, emotions and all.
So I started running a new kind of experiential class with university students – including trainee health psychologists, student midwives and speech therapists.
The class is not complicated. In fact, it’s really quite simple, though but perhaps not easy. You could say it requires less head, and more heart and guts.
How the class works
The protocol is constantly evolving but in essence, it combines the following elements:
- Healthy orientation to emotions
- Ground rules such as confidentiality and non-judgmental listening
- Inclusive and non-hierarchical circle-based physical format
- Sequenced processes to structure the flow and deepening of experience
- Emotionally authentic facilitation
I talked about including the whole student, but it’s true to say that truly including emotions in education means including the whole educator too.
In plain terms, it is my role to infuse all this with my own emotional authenticity – so students can witness me disclose my emotions and that’s alright, or they can see me cry and that’s alright too.
That’s important to stress because in order to work, this experience needs to breakdown the hierarchical power dynamic between teacher and student, such that we can experience authentic relating at the level of common humanity.
The combination of ground rules (intellectual communication) and authentic modelling (emotional communication) is really what enables and empowers participants to finally share their emotions in ways that they subsequently say was so needed.
I believe that including emotions is vital and applicable to education at all levels and within all disciplines, not just to clinical students in higher education.
My visions for this work
I have a vision of this being adapted for schools, running sessions with teaching staff to initiate them into the facilitation role.
I have a vision of bringing this to student unions and sparking a culture of emotional authenticity and emotional literacy through peer-led student sessions.
I have a vision of cross-hierarchical sessions where we include patients, health professionals, their managers and the commissioners in one circle and reach a place of common humanity.
I have a vision of motivating those who read this to make contact so we can collaborate to grow this work into their own contexts.
It’s very simple.
- you would to discuss running sessions with your staff or students
- you would like to learn to facilitate these sessions
- you would like to collaborate or help in some way
- you have questions or advice
If you value this work or know people in education who might benefit from knowing about this work, please share it widely on social media!