I’m reflecting on over ten years of learning and sharing NVC in the context of being an Educational Psychologist -working within an education system which both infuriates and delights me in equal measure.
What is there to celebrate?
A lot of amazing friendships- in the midst of my busy working day I enjoy the connections with colleagues and teachers. I place importance in building relationships first in all I do. It makes life a whole lot easier and more fun. We have very important conversations with parents about their children and I much prefer to do this in a context of warm relationships between the adults. Sometimes this takes work and walking towards conflicts and upsets. It’s always worth it,
One specific piece of celebration is that learning NVC “on the job” has not only been an honour it has greatly supported me to be able to offer empathic guesses which fit the moment. These may not be classical nvc, but when you are face to face with an angry parent from a very different social class as you – you need to learn pretty quick. When how to build an authentic connection with the receiver of my guesses does understand me and visibly relaxes and becomes more open to listening,
I’ve been able to share NVC with colleagues, with teachers and with parents. And I’ve adapted and evolved along the way. For instance I no longer teach NVC within school to young people. Unless the whole school community is learning the process and willing to move into a “power with” structure and philosophy and treated with kindness and above all with a sense of equity. I am not willing to work with the people with the least power. As one young person said to me years ago. “This is great Miss but if I try this on a teacher I’ll just get punished”
What is there to mourn?
The reward and punishment culture is so enmeshed in our education system in the UK that people can’t actually see it as a separate optional piece which we could chose to not use.The idea of being rewarded for our work is also something I hear adults talk about- many colleagues are in education for the pay/ for their mortgage. A recent comment about this which I overheard left me feeling such hopelessness. I am longing for education to be stripped back to the simplicity of willingness, exploration, discovery, togetherness and joy and for all of us to be equal participants..I find it a challenge to stay hopeful that this will change in my lifetime.
I believe we have an innate sense of kindness and can grow an ability to work out our conflicts and I’d love to see children left to do this without the interference of the bigger people in the room. I recently mediated between two 4 year olds who both wanted a toy shark. All eyes were on me to see how I would do it, everybody enjoys seeing the psychologist fall flat on their face! What I noticed as I let go of an outcome and I repeatedly dropped into my body into a place of trust that they could sort this out without intervention from me.
Me: “Wow Rachel you really want this shark don’t you… ?”
I turn to other child (C2)……“and you Euan you really want it too?” …..pause breathe….. “what are we going to do?” ……pause breathe………very loud protests from both children- all adults in the room looking at me (!).
Me: (quickly) “I can see you really want it and you notice you had it first…?” C1:”yes” “And you really want it because you like the look of it soooo much”…. “what are we going to do? ““It’s hard to know what to do ……scratches head ……because you both want it at the same time?” “I’m a bit stuck…. any ideas?” ……..pause breathe…..And to my delight one of them said: “I’m going to let him have it for a little while and we can play together” They both turned and went back to the water tray.
I trust that everyone can find a way through a conflict becasue I’ve tried it out and it works. We all need support, some meditation, some reflecting back. I’ve learnt that we don’t have to fix it!
I’d love to see others join me in the practise of Nonviolent Communication within education so this trust can grow.
Shona Cameron C. Psychol AFBPsS Educational Psychologist, Certified Trainer with the Centre for Nonviolent Communication Author of Chapter on NVC in Restorative Theory and Practise ed. Belinda Hopkins