I write this article invited by the coincidence of today being 8th of March – international women’s day & also after participating in the conference called Re-imagining education.
Muhamad Yunus, Nobel Prize winner for Social Economy model ( Grameen Bank), said in his book and I paraphrasing his words mind that: the reason why Grameen Bank was so successful was that we lend money to women if I help a woman build her business, her activity, I know I am helping the family actually… there will be a new roof over their heads, children will go to school. Just a small pause here, I met prof. Muhamad Yunus back in 2006 in a conference for social business in Europe, no words to express here enough the aesthetic of that meeting, the social economy is an important part of re-imagining education, if not the way.
Education is in the end caring, growing, cultivating the community. The feminine capacity building ( or principles as they are referred to) of course do not refer to women but to any educator – man or woman and cultivating the feminine capacity in education in order to reimagine education for the 21st century (sustainable, distributed leadership, integrative learning & curriculum, ecological awareness, self-leadership). Feminine capacity building is not gender-based, it is the consciousness with which we embrace education.
Here are some threads which I invite you to follow to see which one might serve you to cultivate the feminine capacity in your learning ( school, community)
The learning happens in the relation
Neuroscience research shows that we need to cultivate an environment that makes space, fosters, and explores learning relations ( between students, student-teacher). For this to happen Kirsti Lonka Head of Psychology of Education Faculty in Helsinki and many other researchers invite us not to “teach” but to “learn” the students, there is no one giving and the other one receiving. As a teacher, you as well learn from the space co-created with the students. And here I can say that when I asked most of the young men teachers in Finland, why they choose to be teachers they said “ because it feels like playing in a cool lab..always trying new things and learning new things”. Jenni, class teacher, has said many times she lets students teach her, especially digital & gamification, it is a good fun way for her to do her job and for students to practice job-related skills.
Nurture & wellbeing
There is no learning happening in 2 states of mind: competitiveness & boredom. Create the mindset of the teacher that invites students to build the image of the one learning. Building up confidence as learners and in the end love for learning. These are premises for deep learning, meaning stretching skills for learning with no “learn-out” for students or “burn-out” for teachers. The learning process is energy building not energy taking, the mind, and the body, after a day “of school” feel refreshed (nurtured). If this is not the reality: ask what works for you and your students, do more of that, pause & break time from thinking for you and your students.
Create a learning environment in which students can experience different skills and passions. We create a mindset in which learning is appreciated not one type but many, this way “ all students experience success, their own success”. Cultivating a mindset of self-sufficient members of the community happy & enjoying life indifferent of the social status or money in the bank account ( this is very much in the middle of Finnish, nordic “happiness”).
The world we are living in is a world of nonlinear problems, “wicked” problems. As teachers, we create environments& spaces in which there is no right or wrong answer or multiple answer questions or recognize the correct answer, but learning that will invite students to “bother their heads”. Practice both learning and unlearning. Unlearning as the practice of letting go of what you think you know and be ready to learn it again through a different path, also practice self-evaluation, peer evaluation that will create a safe space as well as meaningful learning ( where the teacher can facilitate learning of attitudes).
A safe place
” We cannot solve the problem of today with the mindset that created them”, we create a space of creativity in learning. Creativity means one experiences vulnerability; students (as any of us) need a space in which they feel safe, creativity operates not only from the brain but from the heart as well and hands, as they feel vulnerable, we need to hold that space to feel safe, and we do that by doing our own reflection work (consciousness). There are many instruments to support creating a safe place – like class rules ( one that I really like is “how does learning environment sounds to you, looks to you, makes you feel”, and then based on students answer we co-create the rules and most important we follow their impact, we stay open.
Creating an education in which we do not have the mindset of control, the learning process is nonlinear as well, we do not manifest control at every step as that will create tension with all the 21st-century competencies we desire ( compassion, social entrepreneurship, sustainable development & decision making, helping oneself and the others etc). As MIT professor Otto Scharmer said in many case studies: we create results that neither of us desires. Future foresight- practice with students future-based thinking. Learning context that do not seek (mainly) the solution hence the focus being the process itself, we can practice social pedagogies and hence making space for INTUITION to be part of teaching& learning, to be present in the room( insightful learning). Just an example from Finnish class -drama in the class as subject teaching, using different storytelling simple instruments to cultivate listening, suspending own judgment, multiple perspectives, inviting voices from the filed in the class ( using social presencing theater).
Make space for silence
Practice during the day moments of silence, this will train students there is a pause between two thoughts, and to cultivate that resource, the beauty of the silence, will teach them there is no need to occupy all the space in a dialogue, silence will cultivate compassion, cultivate and prepare for multiculturality, in silence, there is space or better say the practice of learning about my own roots, culture and as I do that I become more open to other cultures and perspectives and respect that. Mindful of thresholds– we cultivate staying alert as teachers ( which also means letting go of doing many things at once, and lose ourselves in planning all the details) and when we do that we are coaching students creating a space of proximity where both “shallow” and deep learning is possible- sometimes we allow easiness and easy task when too much is present in our learning day and when they are ready we can invite for harder work- deep learning and thinking process, so students are practicing being aware how it feels. Feeling the threshold between tasks, between levels of performance will build learning based on strengths and positive culture around school & teaching.
There are more principles, we can observe to allow re-imagining education, each of these principles can have 1-2 instruments that resonate with your teaching and practice them constantly allowing the experience and students to change the instruments ( prototyping) after that sharing with the community at large so you can upscale by giving others access to shape your work ( letting go) and this way you constantly learn.
So I leave you with the encouragement of journaling for 1 week, every day for 5 min: what would the world look like when your learning & teaching embodies this feminine capacity building?
- Georgia Ntousikou learning through the systemic view of the relation, nature
- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zone_of_proximal_development and https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-the-zone-of-proximal-development-2796034#:~:text=The%20zone%20of%20proximal%20development%20(ZPD)%20is%20the%20range%20of,to%20perform%20these%20actions%20independently.
- Learning with awareness for local intuitive knowledge https://researchportal.helsinki.fi/en/publications/political-ecology-of-asymmetric-ecological-knowledges-diverging-v
- foster spaces & environments in which to develop multiculturality https://researchportal.helsinki.fi/en/publications/how-to-create-a-flourishing-classroom-an-intervention-protocol-fo-2
- Deep listening for deep learning and intuitive learning to be possible https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_QHfOuRrJB8