For teachers and program facilitators who want to be reflective practitioners, Mills College School of Education suggests organizing regular fishbowl-style conversations with other teachers or an advisory group. These conversations create a space where you can focus on a specific situation or issue and explore it more deeply without the pressure of finding a speedy resolution. It is similar to what Quakers call a ‘clearness committee’: a group assembled to assist another in becoming clearer about some concern through sustained reflection and analysis. Try it for yourself!
Step 1: Gather a small group of teachers and/or other community leaders who share your interest in the spiritual nurture of children and represent diverse perspectives and sociocultural experiences.
Step 2: A teacher or group leader briefly shares a learning concern or scenario that they are not sure how to address effectively. They use descriptive language to describe the issue and refrain from offering hypothetical explanations or potential solutions. To create the sense that they are surrounded by a supportive network, consider placing them in the center of the room, with other group members sitting in a circle around them. Or, if you are conducting this exercise via video conferencing, encourage the group to maintain the grid view rather than switching to the speaker view on their screens.
Step 3: Once the presenter has shared, group members take turns asking the presenter questions that will help the presenter think more deeply about the issue, such as
- What is your spiritual learning goal related to this situation?
- What would success look like if children met this goal?
- What have you observed about the children involved?
- What assets do the children involved bring to the spiritual community?
- What assumptions or biases might be influencing your interpretation of the situation?
Members refrain from offering ideas or solutions; their sole role at this point is to formulate good questions. The presenter is given time following each question to ponder silently for a minute or two and then respond as they wish.
Step 4: The presenter asks the group what they have heard during the process that might be helpful to addressing the issue. Group members connect their comments to information that the presenter has shared through affirmations and expansions of the presenter’s reflections and analyses. They might also suggest that the presenter gather additional data to help assess and resolve the issue.
Step 5 (if desired): The group invites the presenter to reflect back to them what has been helpful in the public learning process and the next steps in responding to the issue that the presenter is considering.