Why teaching is not learning

September 7, 2022



This is a discussion with Steven Shorrock about the contrast between teaching and learning and why education and teaching are so far away from learning. It all began with the story of a little girl (Steve’s daughter) whose expression ‘I don’t mind’ as a response to being marked down for being late to school did not go well with the teacher. We explore the power of metaphor, language, feelings, power and authority in everyday interactions and why teaching can never be the same as learning.

Further information

Nippin Anand  00:01

Welcome to another episode of embracing differences with me Nippin Anand. Today, I’m joined by a very special guest, who has inspired me for many years for simply being who he is. Steve Shorrock. Steve does not need much of an introduction. He is well known in the risk safety human factors and economics community. But I will do the ritual anyway. Steve Shorrock works at Euro control as a senior human factors and safety specialist, and as editor-in-chief of the hindsight magazine, which some of you may have read. It’s worth read, actually some really good articles there. So drawing upon a very special and personal experience, we explore the tension between teaching and learning. And what makes learning so different from teaching. I hope you will enjoy this discussion.


Steven Shorrock  01:07

All right, well, well, let’s Well, anyway, so thanks for coming by inviting this, this talk from our exchange yesterday about education. It’s something that we’ve talked about talking about, for a while, between the two of us. After some of the things that we’ve shared some of the experiences we’ve shared. And I guess what prompted this conversation was a conversation that we had yesterday, and I just revealed a small anecdote from one of my daughters. So I’ve got two daughters. One is 13, and one is 70. So the 13 year old, has been in high school now for one year. And it’s also relevant that she’s autistic. And she’s neurodivergent, and has a very different way of seeing the world sometimes, sometimes a slightly different way of communicating, and sometimes a different way of hearing. And certainly a different way of thinking that I find endlessly fascinating. I’ve taken the habit over since she could really speak I mean, and certainly since she was around three of writing down things that she has said such that now I have hundreds and hundreds of things written down. So this is something that really means a lot to me, these these anecdotes, these things, I write a lot of things down, therefore I’ve got a lot of material. And she knows that I do this doesn’t affect what she says. But she knows, she knows that I do it. She didn’t know for many, many years, but she does know now. Anyway, she told me about one thing that happened in school. And on the same day, she sort of got told off twice, by two different teachers. One was that she arrived into a class, and she was seven minutes late. Because she had been to the toilet. And the way back to the class was a bit complicated. They’ve got this completely ridiculous one way system around the school that was introduced during COVID. It’s got no evidence base around it or anything like that. But if you if you go too far down one corridor, you can’t just turn back, you’ve got to follow the one way system all the way back around. Imagine if supermarkets weren’t like that, and you’d forgotten a tin of beans, you know, why you wouldn’t bother to go back and get them. Anyway, she was seven minutes late, she needed to go to the toilet for essential reasons. And the teachers just casually said, you know, you’re late. And my daughter said, Well, I needed to go to the toilet. And she said, Well, you you should have waited. And my dad said, Well, I couldn’t. Now no child should have to explain or adult for that matter why they can’t wait. And then the teacher said, Well, I’ll have to mark you down as late. And my daughter said, Okay. And then the teacher said, Well, do you not mind? And my daughter says, No, I don’t mind. And then the teacher got very angry at that. She thought maybe she was being cheeky. Whatever the teacher wasn’t, it seems curious about what she meant by I don’t mind nor Of course, you know, respectful of that. The need for dignity, you know, someone goes, needs to go to the toilet, you don’t ask them what they were doing, why they were so alarmed and so on. But anyway, that’s another point. But she didn’t understand on made an assumption about what was meant by No, I don’t mind. What she meant was, well, you have to do what you have to do. But it’s nothing to do with me. And why I don’t mind is because when my parents don’t mind, attendance is not something that they are going to tell me off about. Because there’s always a good reason if I’m in school or not in school, because I’m tired, if I’m late to school, because of because of other reasons that we don’t. That’s not something that means anything whatsoever to us. And also, she doesn’t mind herself. It’s just something in a book, therefore, I don’t mind. And then she said that, in any case, the threat didn’t come to reality, because the teacher eventually said, Well, I’ve put you down as being on time now. And I just said, Okay, I think the teacher is expecting a thank you. But again, her point of view was, it’s just not my business. Then your records, you do what you want with them, you know, and teachers aren’t used to that. There was another experience that happened the same day that she got told off for this. What happened was, she arrived into one class. And she didn’t have the book for the class, the notebook, the jata, that they just used not to jot things down. I don’t think these things get even get marked. It’s just to make some notes. And so she used an English Johnson. Teacher, notice that she was using the wrong jata. And she said, the teacher said, I don’t know the gender the teacher, the teacher said, you’re using the wrong data, why are you not using your, your ex job for this lesson? And she said, I’ve sent my dad’s I’ve not, I’ve not got it. So I just use this one. She’s got a great English teacher, I mean, really wonderful. She sings the praises of this teacher brought a brand new teacher, newly qualified teacher. And she knows that this English teacher will mind not at all, her point of view was, she’ll just make the notes in the English jotter, then transfer them into the other subject, jata later, and she could then put some blank pages in, and it’s, you know, then everything’s normal in her mind, anyway, it’s her daughter. But the teacher wasn’t happy with this and, and gave her a blank piece of paper to write on it said, You need to copy out everything that you’ve already written onto this piece of paper which Ambleside is, you know, pointless, but she was willing to comply. And she wrote the date down. But then she got her eyes. She said, My eyes just went over to my daughter again. And then then I just carried on writing, not deliberately to spite the teacher. It’s just how my brain worked. And then the teacher came back and noticed actually got told about that. And then she noticed that in the back in the pages next to where she was writing the back of the jata there was a cross cut out like the shape of a cross, like imagine 123456 blocks in the shape of a cross. The reason was another teacher, I think a physics teacher had given the class a task to bring an ice cube into school. Without it Melton Amelie thought in a very awesome adulterous thing, in a very abstract way. And instead of bringing an ice cube, she brought a cube, and she would colour in to make it look like ice, which didn’t melt, of course. And so she cut out the cross, how you would make a cube and folded it into a cube. And the teacher in this case, thought this was really great and funny. And you know, this kind of lateral thinking, and also the English teacher didn’t mind at all. But anyway, she got told off for doing that as well, which was nothing to do with the teacher in question. But anyway, that was just to two anecdotes. That made me think what is learning really? About? Is it so that’s so that’s the question, really, and that’s that’s something that we’ve discussed in the in the past.


Nippin Anand  09:27

Yes, I absolutely. And you got me thinking yesterday, and I took a one hour walk with my wife and I’ve had very similar experiences with my daughter as well. Coming back home with very similar stories like what you articulated. And in fact yesterday, because it was on my mind, I went to my to my kids school in the evening they had this parent teacher meeting. And you know what, what, what one of the things that struck me was two things struck me one was that there was this A presentation on language arts. And everything in that presentation was about the technicality of language. Although you talk about the arts, it was the technicality of the semantics and so on and, and how to form words and sentences. This is a this is a school that, that brings people from different parts of the world together. And I would have expected that kids at this age would be asked questions, you know, the the metaphorical meaning of language, you know, because even, you know, there was, there was something beautiful looking on the wall to say, what is a family, and you ask a kid from one country, what is a family, they will give you a completely different meaning and from from another child, and here’s an opportunity to explore those differences, right. So that was one thing that caught me thinking that such a wonderful opportunity lost when you actually call it arts, this, this is not arts, if you really want to, to explore creativity, then we should be asking people about the cultural meaning of words, start from there as language and as you start to educate children on language. So not much thought given to that. The other thing that really caught my attention was this idea of, of regulating the feelings of children very much down to a self management. So you have those, those three or four colours, red, yellow, green, and blue, depending on where you are, with your, with your anxiety and excitement during the day, on positivity, you are assigning that block. And that was the bit that got me thinking because I think what is really what connects between your example in mind here is that is this notion then that one, we are? Well, we are different. But it’s very, very hard to acknowledge differences very, very hard to acknowledge differences. So when your child says, I don’t mind, the first question that should arise from there is that what do you mean when you say, I don’t mind. And the teacher went into an opposite mode, which is to try and sort that child out, through through control through authority. And I think the reason why that happens is linked to this example, because what the teacher is trying to do in that moment is, is she’s struggling with her own feelings and that moment. So Pedro said that yesterday in the in the session was very powerful, actually, it’s not what the other person is saying. It’s what you feel from those words. And I think that is the key to it. So what the teacher is doing is she is she sees that child, she says something, she doesn’t like it, because it does not suit well worldview. And she has this bodily feeling. And she feels very hesitant, and the brain wants to suppress that. And the brain wants to take control of her and she starts to, to push it back to the child to say, no, no, you can’t behave like this. And it’s no different from that child who’s feeling anxious, during the day or going through, you know, the mood and the spins. And, and instead of trying to engage the feelings of the child, it straight off trying to engage your own feelings as you as you unstart To, to give some sort of meaning to those feelings. Because you know, once once you’re anxious, you will probably make me anxious. So rather than listening to my own anxiety in that moment, and trying to give them some meaning and name to it, I push it back to you, I push it back onto him. So there is no learning at all, absolutely no learning. Because there is no, there is no bodily movement, or at least there is no there is no, there is no, there is no language that you want to give to that feeling at all to your own feelings. So I think it goes back to this same example of the the child when he or she has a problem is your individual problem. Stay on that area, stay in that block, and try to self manage. Because the moment you come close to me, I feel anxious, and I can’t control myself. I can’t control myself. You see, this is the thing. It’s not that I don’t want, I don’t want to explore myself, I want to control myself. I think they’re like therein lies a big problem. So if this is why practices like meditation and mindfulness are so important, because then it’s not just that you’re listening to the what the other person is saying, in my view, you’re actually listening to what your body is telling you from that person as they’re speaking. And I think that is the key to learning that


Steven Shorrock  14:53

Yeah, I think it was at the shine has a model Oh, j i. So the L is for observation, the R is for reaction, which is an internal reaction. Oh j, the J is for judgement, then the eye is for intervention. And so we observe something which could be of course, hearing something listening to something like, No, I don’t mind. And then there’s a reaction, which may be fury, a small moment of in a fury, because the control has seemingly been lost. Also, maybe, because this child maybe is demonstrating more wisdom than I have in this moment. And that’s annoying. And after that judgement, then there is the there is. So after that reaction is judgement, the child is being you know, the child is being is questioning my authority is being disrespectful, is not caring about being being on time and about school rules and policies, and being marked as late. And then there’s the intervention, you know, which is, I’m going to tell you, I’m going to mark you late, you know, I’m going to mark you late or not whatever. And what he said was, which is quite true, what you’ve just hinted out there is that we don’t pay much attention to that, our that internal reaction, we don’t pay much attention to that we just go straight to judgement, which is based on an assumption. And I think, yeah, there’s all kinds of issues of control. And of course, that’s not to downplay the difficulty of the job of the teacher. But it comes back to the whole point about what’s the point of teaching? And what’s the point of learning? What is the purpose of the teacher? And probably that’s such a fundamental quandary that we don’t ask the question very much, and I’m not sure that practising teachers ask it very much. Or if they do, then it’s probably a stock kind of accepted answer. To my mind, the task of the purpose of a teacher is to support this young person, to find their way in life, basically. Now, that leaves it quite open, but it requires a few things. So it requires dignity, which in this small example, was not there. Agency, which again, was missing in the small example. Also requires other things such as acknowledgement of interdependency, and, and, and fundamental desire for learning, which is there in people. But it’s interpreted often that it’s not there because the mode of teaching, not learning, but the mode of teaching doesn’t fit the desire for learning. You, I’ve been reading I read a lot from Carl Rogers, who was a very well known humanistic psychologist and the founder of the person centred approach to well, not just psychotherapy, but the person centred approach to helping and being actually, generally, so it’s influenced social work and teaching. Obviously psychotherapy, because there’s a whole movement of counselling that’s that’s person centred and so on. But Carl Rogers was influenced, at least in part, it seems, by Soren Kierkegaard, the Danish philosopher, who was really the founder of existentialism, as you know, and and existentialism was some, something I was particularly interested in and read it out a long time ago when I studied psychology, because I was most interested in humanistic psychology and stellar. But anyway, he, Carl Rogers, wrote a book called on becoming a person, which is a great but one of my favourite books is it, some of it’s about psychotherapy, but it’s much more general than that. And it can be read by anybody. There’s lots of wisdom in them. And there’s a chapter there about a about learning and education. And he, what he was writing about was an experience he had where he was invited to go to Harvard, some graduate school, I can’t remember the detail of it, but invited to go to Harvard, to present a lecture on teaching, you know, and, and learning and to do it or to do it in some kind of a workshop on that, and he wasn’t sure what to do. And he went on, he went on holiday. And it’s one of these things, you know, where you went to set some to do some kind of talks on where this happens to me all of the time. And then the time comes that you’ve actually got to prepare and do it, and you just wish you hadn’t, because you’ve got all of this extra work. Now, anyway, it was maybe a bit like that. You went on holiday, and he was thinking about, and while he was on holiday, was reading, reading Kierkegaard and it came to find that Turkey, God’s views on education were very similar to his own or at least resonated and must have influenced him. But what he wrote in this chapter was he just included the script to the talk that he gave, it wasn’t really what they asked for. But he just delivered a very short talk. And it lasted no more than five minutes this talk, and it caused absolute outrage among educators. But it made them think and talk through the night. And what he said was a few things almost logically laid out. But one of them was that I cannot teach another person, how to teach. As an educator, and anything that can be taught, he said, is of no importance, it’s inconsequential. He was only influencing teaching, he was only interested rather than teach in any learning that influenced behaviour. As far as that’s concerned, what could be taught was inconsequential, he said. And he said that the only learning that really influences behaviour is directed by the person themselves. It’s it’s not taught. And this kind of learning that’s initiated by the self where you’re discovering in together with other people, it’s not necessarily a solo act, cannot be directly communicated to another. So that leads you to a really difficult position. And what happened over time he described in this chapter was that he lost interest in becoming a being a teacher. And when he reflected on his own efforts to teach, they’d either been inconsequential or non productive, or counterproductive. So he was only interested in learning and helping others to learn. So that was part of it. He presented this just as opinion. But it was found by the audience to be appalling. What he went on to say was even worse, because he went on to say that, according to his experience, his lifelong experience, this was in the 1950s recordings was experienced up to that point. That experience would say to him, that you should get rid of teaching altogether. We should just get rid of teaching people if they want to learn, we’ll get together to learn. He also he also said other things were on the detail. And I’d have to say I agree with many of the things I don’t agree with 100% of what he would say, I think it’s just a good starting point for a conversation at least. So he said that we shouldn’t get rid of examinations. Because the only thing that they measure, evaluate assess is completely inconsequential. We should also get rid of grades and credits. And we should do away with degrees, which kind of for many people signal an end to their formal learning when it should be a lifelong thing. So he said we should get rid of a lot of things and sort of start again. Now, you have to understand this context is in learning that influences behaviour. That’s the only learning that he was interested in. Even so, I think this is this is kind of his set of experiences that influence those conclusions that he came to himself are a good way to learn. Now if I go back to my daughter you know, Rogers, Kierkegaard, and my my 13 year old She certainly gives me as much insight as to as to any of those two guys but she said you know, she says many profound Things along the same lines that she has noticed since being a small child. So there was one time she talked about merit schemes at school point scheme. And I think this was in a primary school. And she said they don’t, she said, they don’t make any sense, because the teachers don’t see everything that you do anyway. And what she said, what kids do, is they just do things to get merit points. She’d already seen something. And she’s seen something that’s in place, not only in schools, but in workplaces, you know, reward promotion systems, and all of these these kinds of things where you’re given merit points, according to certain how well you do on different scales, or, you know, all complete nonsense. She had already seen that this was nonsense. And so, I mean, I’ve got so many, you know, so many examples like that, from her where she can see, I mean, on the amount of time in school, what she often says is, it’s just far, far too long. She said that, I mean, the school day is about seven, I think it’s about seven hours long. She said we could easily cover everything in for I mean easily. And she says most of the subjects are really a waste of time. And she can list the ones that are really a waste of time, you know, where the teat where, for instance, it, she said, you know that the children know a lot more about it, and for teachers to teach each other.



subjects that should be joyful, are very, very boring music.


Steven Shorrock  26:43

Cooking Cookery, you know, learning to cook dry drama, things that should be interesting or boring, and things that should be useful or useless. And once you strip away all of those things that are just glorified childminding classes, you’re left with quite a small number of things that are useful, and she can list them English, for instance, which she absolutely loves. And she loves it partly because she has the most wonderful teacher who she has told to me why she is you know why she is so great. Maths, she doesn’t love maths, but she does think it’s important. Science, she thinks, you know, it’s important. The other, many of the other subjects, it’s not that she doesn’t think they’re important, but the way that they’re taught is glorified, is just memory tests. And she says, anyway, I forget it all anyway. And so it’s not useful for her because she forgets after even a week or a month or a year. So


Nippin Anand  27:49

it’s, it’s very close to my experience. And I think it again goes back to the same idea that why is it that certain things and certain subjects and certain experiences are more enjoyable than others. And I think one of the key reasons for that is that we are learning we actually feel that we are learning something. And I’ve been reading Damasio for a while now and one of the one of the most influential neuroscientists in the world. And he talks about this, this this connection between emotions, feelings, and hemostasis, which is the regulation of life or life processes. And, and the thing to understand here is, in my view, at least, is that, you know, feelings are driven by emotions. So as you speak to somebody as you generate that, that, that we call it curiosity, that open mindedness, the willingness to actually listen, when your child says, I don’t mind and being little bit more inquisitive about it and say, What do you mean by that, what you then do is you you have, you have generated that feeling within you, that you are, you are open to learning, you are open to learning more than what is already stored in a memory. And I think that gives a very positive way to the other person. It’s very enjoyable. So from a relational aspect, it’s very enjoyable to to know that the other person so and it’s infectious, it’s contagious. And when you say that, nobody teaches you the whole idea of being taught is actually killing the spirits of learning. Absolutely, there is no connection between teaching and learning. And all the learning begins from me. So the this is, this is precisely why so many change management programmes fail, because it’s all inclining towards the other person, somebody else has to learn somebody else has to change. But what about me? Have I have I taken notice of those feelings as they arose? Have I given them given them a meaning? Have I given them a language? Have they gone in my memory? Am I able to explain things better, or have I expanded my metaphors, my vocabulary as a result of the last interaction I had. And I think paying attention to this dance between emotions and feelings is fundamental to learning. Which does not happen very often. Because too often, what we’re doing is we’re suppressing those those feelings down as they arise, because we think they are going to be a brain centric, which is not the case. So we don’t explore that relationship between the brain and the body. And we lose any opportunity to learn anything new. Let’s, let’s see, my thoughts so far. And, and I think if we want to learn, we have to stop thinking about what the other person is saying, and start feeling what we are listening to, as they are constantly speaking. And I think there’s a huge, huge difference between the two, huge difference between the two. That’s how I see it. And I think, subjects where where Emily enjoys it, I think there is an element of being of being being in resonance with the teacher with that embody, that I feel what you feel, I hear what you say. Things like that. And I think that they’re beautiful metaphors, but they do create that love between two people who then move closer to each other. And as much as the student wants to learn or is learning, the teacher also ends up learning something new. But difficult, very, very difficult for most teachers coming with 1020 years experience. And I think this is where the whole model of learning and education needs to change. They need to move away from the idea of teaching people telling people and actually starting to, to have those conversations that create that bodily movement between two people are


Steven Shorrock  32:02

absolutely wonderful. eras, something you said, reflects something that Russell, a cough, philosopher and systems thinker, there’s an architect, interestingly, something that he said, and they said, who learns the most in the classroom, the teacher, the teacher learns the most. And I think that’s absolutely absolutely true. I often asked family why this particular teacher, you know, is such a great teacher, and she just responds with things like, she’s just more human. You know, she’s just more human. This is a teacher who, as I understand that, one and a half or two years ago, was still working in McDonald’s to get through teaching college, you know? Now, many other children most apparently feel the same. What I find is that most children have the same sort of feelings towards each teacher. Now, if you were really curious and self reflective, I mean, you’d need some courage, of course, you would need that anyway, if you’re going to be self reflective. Really. You you might want to know, what do these young people think about me? How do they feel about me? Right. And are you prepared to, to ask? I’ve asked that question to students before very directly, what did they think about the way that I’m teaching I did in my first year of teaching at university, and wow, I was I was glad I asked it, but I wasn’t. You know, and I adjusted and adjusted each year after based on that question. I remember I asked it one time, and one young, one young man said, straight up, meaning in an Australian straight up. Meaning you really want to know, right? Do you really want to know, because there’s an authority gradient here, right? And he’s worried what’s going to be the implications if I tell you, he was basically told me, you’re trying to teach too much. It’s too much. These are 17 year old kids in Australia at the time, whatever, 18 years old, whatever is too much. I was aiming way too, and I was given them way too much information. You know, I was teaching psychology and absolutely, I was the next year I cut it in half the material. The next year, I cut it in half again. That continue. Anyway, you know, it’s just being self reflective, and then I would want to know, okay, this teacher here, I mean, seems to be really popular. What is it? About you, and about what you do that brings on this amazing rapport and Pathak rapport. And that empathic rapport is fundamental to any relationship, especially when you’re in a loan learning context that’s explicitly designed for learning that empathic rapport is absolutely key. Because we also want this. So the teacher is good at this imperfect report, what she’s also seems to be very good at, is understanding some background empathy. So this empathic report, but we also have this background empathy, like what is it like to be you? Okay? And so, good. teachers to use that word, are constantly curious about what it’s like to be that person. Now, every young child going into a classroom has stuff going on. And some of it will, you know, just make you cry, you hear about you know, select my own daughter, okay, she’s autistic, most teachers, you know, probably don’t know that certainly most teachers, you know, don’t know that. Okay, I mean, you can’t know everything about every everyone, but it does mean that she’ll use language in a particular way. She’ll hear you in a particular way, she will interpret what you say, in a particular way, she will respond in a particular way, her body language will be of a particular kind, which won’t be neurotypical and so on. Now, that changes everything changes everything. Imagine how many, you know, boys diagnosed and girls, you know, diagnosed with attention deficit disorder, you know, and autism, which affects, you know, different boys and girls differently sometimes have been labelled as you know, unruly. Or, as, you know, lazy, distracted, you know, what, because you just don’t know some of these fundamental things about the person.


Nippin Anand  36:54

And I think you’re absolutely right, what what came to mind as he was using those words was was, was the symbol that we use in many cultures, which is what I point one finger at you, three fingers pointing back at me. So my judgement about us the reflection of who I am, and I think, to be to empathise, and this needs to be understood really well, I think, to empathise, it’s fair to also empathise with with teachers in this instance, because what is happening to you as you encounter something novel, that you have never seen before is that your homeostasis which is which is the the like burning processes is completely out of order. So you know, you you, you want to your body works automatically, your your heart, your gut, your breathing, your lungs, everything goes automatic, but when you detect some anomaly, the first thing is that these things start to fall apart, they they go out of sync. So you hear that disturbed child or you, you you, you use, you encounter a word from a child, which which is not part of your daily words, your whole body regulation goes out of control it so the default position is to quickly bring it back in control and not lose that those emotions. When I think what good teachers do, as usual, describe people when you use the word courage, I think this is courage. Because biologically courage is to acknowledge those emotions through feelings is as they occur to you, are you able to give them a new name? Are you able to become conscious of those feelings that guess that child makes me scared or anxious, or I don’t like it, talking to that child. And then you see that you end up in a very different space, because now you are, you’re actually paying attention to what you’re listening, not what their child is saying, and what you’re feeling in that moment. So I think that is the key to the people who are courageous, they’re courageous, because they are able to, to live with those uncomfortable feelings for a little while. They’re able and we talk about curiosity, we talk about humility, and why is it so difficult to achieve? Because most people are not comfortable, they want to quickly they’re made to believe that feelings are dirty feelings are something we should be ashamed of. And we lose the opportunity to give those feelings a new name. And hence we never learn anything new. I actually have an example from the from the aviation in the maritime world, which which most of us are very familiar with. And we have this this silly idea called Crew Resource Management. And you must speak up when when you detect something is wrong. And I think to an extent it makes sense because, yes, you know, when you have a looming danger, whether you’re not on a ship or you’re an aircraft, whatever, and you’re headed towards a problem, your unconscious knows that much before you’re conscious and you will get enough body signals. But we are taught in all these schools horses to suppress our feelings, they’re so brain centric courses. So we are never able to give any name to these feelings. And I think the downplay of feelings is is is what makes us dumb. It doesn’t make us intelligent, it doesn’t help us to learn anything new. So as I’m getting more and more into neurosciences, I’m signed on to stand Yes, you know, metaphors and, and language has a has a psychological dimension to it. But it also has a very, very, very, very powerful neurological dimension to it, which we are missing. And if unless we are willing to live with our we trying to do unless we make friends with our feelings, I think we will never learn anything new. Never. I see.


Steven Shorrock  40:50

Yeah, I’m teaching is I still do adult learning, oriented teaching. And it’s a really, really difficult thing to do. Working in a school, as a teacher, I can’t imagine, you know, how difficult but just to be curious, at least yet of these things and of, of practices, that that are gonna make your life easier as a teacher, as well. Like somebody like just just some of these things that you’ve that you’ve spoken about already. And I think, most teachers, if not everybody can learn from some of the core conditions that were expounded by Carl Rogers, for for, for Well, originally for personality change, but in the context of therapy, but they work in relationships more generally. And that those are genuineness or authenticity, where as you were talking about that, that you are, congruence is the word that he used really, where there is a congruence between what you feel what you say, how you behave. And you’re caught, you’re trying to look at that, you know, constantly, like, why am I reacting in this way? I tried to do this all of the time. You know, what, why, why am I reacting in this way? Or why am I feeling this, but I’m acting in another way. Now, why? Why am I incongruent, now, that’s going to be a problem for learning as soon as you have that incongruence. So from, for the therapist point of view, and from the teachers point of view, there should be some degree, a large degree of congruence. Between that it’s now you can be very skillful in how you express it. But when someone says, No, I don’t mind, then you can be skillful in how you express your anger at that, or you can interrogate it yourself, what is it that’s going on for you, that makes you angry about the fact that a child doesn’t mind that they’re being marked down as late, you know, so that’s one thing. The other thing is empathy. That’s necessary for change. And this was something I think that was expressed by technologies as well before Rogers that if you want to help somebody to learn, you basically have to meet them where they are. You have to you have to empathise with them. You have to, I think he said, You have to find him where he is, and begin there. Right? So that’s the, that’s the, that’s the exact same idea. Basically, Rogers was expressing them in the 1950s, and so on, find him or her where he or she is and begin there, right. So there’s all aspects of empathy that we can look at. But it’s also it’s important that that empathy, Rogers said, is communicated and understood, received, whatever, by the other person. It’s not just just sitting there being empathetic in your own little world that has to be communicated as well, skillfully. And then the third thing that he said was necessary, was unconditional positive regard. And that’s a big one. That’s a tough one, because you might not like this child. Right? That doesn’t mean that you have to, you know, that you have to agree with everything that they do, but you have to have his Rogers said, for therapeutic change for effective therapeutic change. Or let’s say in this context for change In terms of learning, you have to have unconditional positive regard. Another way to say this less strongly, might say might might be something like, there has to be respect. Respect for agency, respect for dignity, respect for autonomy, but also interdependency. So there has to be respect, or you might say, assumption of goodwill. You know, but those kinds of things that are there, and I think you can, you can go forward a long way, based on those three principles.


Nippin Anand  45:40

Yeah, and, most often, what we hear is that, in practical terms, there are 20 children in the class, and we simply don’t have time for that. And I think it’s, it’s a very superficial explanation, I don’t I don’t think it has a lot to do with the practical aspects. I think what it has got to do with is that when you enter into a conversation, you just leave or park beside your agendas for a little while, at least, and precisely what what the teacher should have done in this instance, is, okay, you know, I hear you saying, I don’t mind. But I would like to hear a little bit more about what you mean by I don’t mind. And I think that becomes contagious, then. In the long run, I think it’s more fruitful, more productive, also, to work with children, who are actually willing to listen and learn from each other and from you. And it’s vice versa. But I think so my my point really is, it’s not so much of a practical issue, what you’re fighting most of the times is, is your own anxiety to give away that control, and not suspend your, your authority in that conversation. And, and we, we, we assign it a practical problem, which is not it’s not a practical issue. So we’ve been working with a number of companies. And we see all the time, the same thing, that one person, you know, what, we had a beautiful example, actually from, from from one of the guys who works for the ship manager. And he realised after many years of his interaction with the ship captains on board is that you send a message out, Steve, to a ship, and you ask them for certain details. And what you see from the other side is it just they just shut off? They don’t want to talk? Because all the time when they see the interrogation, the language of, of the emails, and the question is very interrogated. Now, you change that around and be a little bit more empathetic to say, It’s okay, you take your time, I understand where, what what you’re going through. And it just works the other way within 15 minutes to get an answer. So I think once you are able to let go of control, you start to see that it actually works. In practice, there’s a lot of people would probably listen to this and say, Oh, this is idealistic. And I always say this one thing to them that, Okay, what if you think this idea, you can call it idealist or idealistic, but have you tried it? Have you tried it for once? If you have not tried for once, and then label it is whatever you want to say? I think that the difficulty for most people is to take that first step, that first step in faith. I think that’s that’s the hardest bit for most people.


Steven Shorrock  48:37

Yeah, yeah. Yeah. It’s, I mean, it’s terrifying to many, the idea of relinquishing control I learned this lesson over 20 years ago, when I was much more in control of felt like it, of of everything, and people in my lives and I became a carer for an alcoholic who was completely out of control. Not much good of that experience came for me, except an almost total personality change. Where I totally almost relinquish the idea of controlling other people that aspect of me really changed 180 degrees you know, when you’re living when you’re living with someone and caring for someone who’s in and out of detox centres, psychiatric units, literally running away, climbing up the walls and, and so on. You realise how much control you really have when it comes down to it right. And it’s a little bit like, you know, what Rogers was saying about teaching that anything that can be taught, which is very controlled, directive is inconsequential. And as little influence on behaviour, when it’s when we’re talking about any kind of learning that’s influencing behaviour. It’s, it’s kind of similar. And that’s why he went from it, who? Well, he, his approach is very much not called non directive. So we have this line, very directive to a very non directive. And I certainly became much more interested in that more non directive side, but it gives me anxiety. I mean, if I go into a session, and I have no structure, you know, I have no notes, then that can be quite terrifying what Carl Rogers did in another chapter of his book on becoming a person, he set up a learning situation with some graduate level students, and they were expecting him to go in and to teach, right? I mean, this is the great man, I mean, you know, to go in and get one of these big lectures, like all of you know, like, all of the lectures that we know, and ourselves included, we do that sometimes I certainly do. And he didn’t, he just went in with a bunch of papers, notes, recordings, and invited people to make use of them. I don’t even think he invited them, he brought them in and just mentioned that they were there. And then he just left it very, very open. And of course, the first few sessions, people were annoyed and discussions went everywhere. But after a while, people started to self organise, and teach, you know, all learn together, let’s say. So you have to get over that. A little bit. Like, you know, if there’s a gap in a conversation, we start to build up some anxieties, anxiety, you know about it. So how do you get over the compulsion to control? And allow a little bit of time for people to adjust to themselves?


Nippin Anand  52:03

I don’t have an answer to that. The only thing I would say is because it’s it’s a very chicken and egg situation. Because most people haven’t tasted it. They don’t know what it means to live with that little bit of uncertainty, not too much, because that would kill us. But that most people who take that first step, never come back. Never is that first step there. And Martin Luther King Jr. said that so beautifully that take the first step in faith. Don’t look at the full staircase, just take the first step. And I think that’s the key to it, you got to take that first step and see the tasted, and most never return. Must never returned. It’s so hard. So going back to the point in when when Emily was I said that I don’t mind. I think the first question should be placed in the metaphor, which is the metaphorical meaning of that, please help me understand what you mean, when you say I don’t mind. And that’s the first and there is no return from them? Because you might think that she said, I don’t care. But that’s not what she meant. So you’re mostly in your anxiety, most of the times and miscommunication is, is is is the mother of all problems, as we all know. And no, but how would you like to conclude this discussion now?


Steven Shorrock  53:25

Well, I guess to invite people to reflect on what is the purpose of teaching? What’s the purpose of being a teacher? If we stick with that label, since it’s, you know, the one that everybody’s familiar with? Yeah, to have a think about that. And to think how we might better improve through learning from other disciplines, you know, because within any discipline, you have this kind of what the what the French call, or what a French phrase or defer mastery on Professor now. It’s, we were to play on words, I suppose that our profession deforms the way that we look at the world. So we have to look outside of our profession, in order to really learn there’s no point just asking teachers and the teaching profession about what’s the point of being a teacher, you know, so we can look elsewhere. We can look to other other disciplines, you know, and so on. Yeah, so just to invite invite people to think about that, because we all have a role. I mean, especially if you’re a parent, then you’re certainly the most important teacher that your child will ever have. And again, just these ideas of power control, uncertainty So anxiety, empathy agency, all of these kinds of issues that are so important when it comes to learning just what what do we think about those?


Nippin Anand  55:14

Yeah, absolutely. I’m just thinking to conclude this session, maybe just throw an open question my end as well, you, you’ve talked about what is teaching mean to you? And I would, I would also say, what is the feeling of learning? helped me understand that. And I think that would be fantastic. When it was the last time you felt learning? What was that feeling helped me understand that. I don’t think that would be brilliant. Also,

Steven Shorrock  55:43

as I was waiting, I was waiting as you were about to speak there. I thought that’s what you might say. And I’m glad. I’m glad that you. I’m glad that you did.

Nippin Anand  55:52

Quite. Well. It’s been wonderful. I just love every conversation with you. So thank you. It’s been likewise. What did you think? If you’re inspired by this discussion, and would like to read more on the topic of learning and teaching, you can email me at Nippin.anand@novellus.solutions. Steve is available on both LinkedIn and Twitter. In fact, he is far more active on Twitter. So if you wanted to get ahold of him, he’s more than willing to answer your questions. I know. That’s it for now. Thank you for wanting to learn more than you knew yesterday. I will talk to you again soon.