By TERRY ELLIS and CHIP ROMER
At no time in this learning process did the child feel inadequate about his initial inability to stand and walk. He simply intended to stand and kept trying until he was successful. While he may have become frustrated, the young child does not possess the self-awareness to feel inadequate. He simply directs his will towards that which he wants to achieve, and, through trial and error, eventually gains mastery. As parents watching this effort, we might be struck by the vulnerability of our child or by his heroic perseverance, yet he isn’t feeling vulnerable or proud of his determination. He simply wants to stand and walk.
For the young child, inadequacy is a way of life. Fueled by curiosity and desire, he is continually learning how to manipulate his body and how to interact with his environment. Inevitably, in our culture there comes a time when a child becomes self-aware in relation to the rest of the culture and its norms. The child becomes aware of his inadequacy. Shame is born, and with it a sense of vulnerability. Metaphorically, this can be seen as “the fall” from the paradise of early childhood.
In Waldorf education, there is a conscious intention to delay this onset of self-judgment, a desire to “keep children young” so that unself-conscious desire for learning can endure. This is one reason that Waldorf educators hope to protect children from media exposure, where commercial content creates premature desires and judgments within children. This is a reason why Waldorf educators discourage the photographing and videotaping of children in their schoolwork and play—seeing themselves in pictures or on the screen awakens self-judgment; rather than remembering the joy of playing the lion in a second-grade play, the child watching a video of that play is likely to measure the quality of her performance against that of her classmates. This invites self-judgment; and feelings of inadequacy, vulnerability and shame enter into the young child’s life.
In our heroic culture, our common defense against the shame of inadequacy is to establish expertise. A ten year old who has yet to master riding a bike decides he “doesn’t like bikes” and becomes an expert skateboarder instead. He diverts attention away from the shame of his inadequacy and toward his expertise. As adults in this culture, we continually fix ourselves into areas of competence or expertise in order to protect against shame—and this stunts learning, which by its nature is dynamic, experimental and includes failure.
By focusing on what we know already—by becoming experts—we learn not to learn. As experts, we live only in the well known. We do not explore the frontiers of our comfort zone, where learning—exploring something new and unfamiliar—necessarily occurs; instead, we remain in our defended expertise. Rather than learning, we end up static, repeating that which we already know.
Turning away from shame has become an entrenched neural pathway—biologically for individuals in our culture, and metaphorically for our culture itself. We default to our comfortable expertise without even thinking about it. Our aversion to the shame of inadequacy is so habitual that it creates a kind of trance state. This trance obscures the need to grow and learn. The trance blocks natural—childlike—excitement for the discovery of the unknown. It is as if the young child has decided he is content to be an expert crawler and denies any interest in learning to walk. We habitually settle for the static safety of familiarity instead of expanding through our inadequacy towards the unknowns where expansive learning lives.
In groups (schools, businesses, charter school development teams), expertise resides at the fixed center, and learning—with its requisite inexpertise, uncertainty and inadequacy—lives on the periphery. A group tends to rely on the competence and confidence of its central experts. Group learning, however, is a dynamic process and is best served by the most sensitive member, often the most marginal or peripheral member, speaking about her sensitivity. This act names the shame that lies at the center of the trance of expertise; once that shame is named the trance is broken, inadequacy can be explored and learning can occur for the whole group. The sensitive “inexpert,” much like a child, lives on the periphery of the culture—the frontier of inadequacy; when her process of discovering the unknown—learning—is shared with the center, the whole group culture learns.
In our culture of expertise, the very process of learning has been scapegoated because it requires the dismantling of expertise, which brings with it exposure to the shame of inadequacy. Innovative charter schools are seen as experimental laboratories, whereas mainstream schools tend to be fixed in their established expertise. Charters live on the periphery of public education, pushing the boundaries through experimentation—and commonly experiencing inadequacy—in order to grow and support new learning. They are often scapegoated by the mainstream because they threaten the cultural trance of defended expertise. Charter schools inspired by Waldorf education are currently on the periphery of the traditional Waldorf culture, and their willingness to experiment on the edge can sometimes be seen as threatening.
Attuning our sensitivity to our own inadequacies awakens us to learning opportunities. When we feel ourselves pressing against our inadequacies, we are on the edge of something we do not know but are ready to learn. Rudolf Steiner, in founding the first Waldorf school in 1919, placed teachers outside of their field of expertise: the mathematician taught language arts; the artist taught science. Steiner believed that teachers striving beyond their expertise—or living dynamically with their inadequacies—would serve children as the best examples of learning how to learn. Whether we are educators, charter school developers, parents or mentors, we too can model how to learn by summoning the courage to live in the dynamic tension of our inadequacy. Expansion—individual and cultural—will be our reward.
Terri Ellis and Chip Romer were lead developers of Credo High School in Sonoma County, California, where Chips is currently Executive Director and Terri is a board member. For more information, visit www.credohigh.org.
Wednesday, May 15, 2013
Wednesday, February 20, 2013
Please note: In this presentation, I am concentrating upon one specific aspect of the question of “school readiness”, which I feel is frequently either neglected or simply taken for granted. The preparatory materials for this conference ably & comprehensively provide medical, salutogenic, psychological & developmental perspectives founded in spiritual science & others will be expanding on these. Here I wish to introduce something of a reality check by restricting myself to asking about background conditions & cultural assumptions.
The following is a two-point key to this:
- We need to hold a much clearer recognition as Waldorf educators that claiming research “proves” a particular view of any question has little purchase in public discourse. (Researchers dislike the idea too; they never aim to put themselves out of business). It may be different elsewhere, but educational research in the UK has very little influence on practice nationally &, on the whole, even less on policy-makers. News media editors like the occasional piece of “sensational” research, but generally such items are buried within days of appearing
- A question such as that of “school readiness” resonates into daily lives & into the wills of individuals where it meets a number of factors that are rarely stated & are often not even “known”, such as –
- social & political norms & implicit values
- life conditions
- “public mood”
- family history
It would need a paper far more extensive than this summary to deal adequately with exact nature of each of these. Here I shall simply try to set out a few issues touching on the question of norms & life conditions & suggest ways in which they might be important if we are to contribute to improving childhood for all our children.
Assumptions about statutory school age tend to be along the lines that governments drive the trend to introduce children into the school system at an ever earlier age, Strictly speaking this is not so. A review of World Bank data on international school starting ages reveals that "legal school age" has rarely shifted in the course of two decades: Armenia & Brazil, for example, stand alone in having brought school age down a year, in both these, from 7 to 6. Starting ages are remarkably stable across all countries. But that reflects the way legislation & rights determine this aspect of children's lives. Something else is at work when we note the pressure to prescribe formal education for children at ever younger ages. It is important to recognise this when considering how best to respond to the "shoolification" trend.
If early schooling is not an explicit policy indicated by changing legislation, where does the implicit drive towards it come from? I suggest that this is a question whose constituent parts are complex & multi-levelled. If Waldorf educators are to adequately explain their view in modern terms, & certainly if they are to attempt to influence policy, understanding of the precise nature of the question is crucial. My view here is that the crux of the issue is predominantly “cultural” rather than one of political programmes or legality. If as Mr Bumble[ii] declares, “The law is a ass, a ass, sir, a ass!” the animal’s fodder is public opinion & public assumptions.
It is rare for people to do other than seek the best possible upbringing for their children. But “doing the best for one’s child” depends upon context. In a militaristic State a near-brutal toughening up of young children may serve as response to doing one’s best for the next generation no less than the lenient spoiling that may have seemed normal during the “let it all hang out” days of southern California. Common practice among the wealthy middle & upper classes during much of the nineteenth century all but excluded children from the company of their parents, placing them in the hands of nannies, governesses, tutors & boarding schools. Before the advent of compulsory schooling, working class children either joined their parents at their place of work, or, before the age at which they could be economically useful, were looked after by local women, usually elderly & unmarried or widowed, often in what were known as “baby farms”. The plot of Gilbert & Sullivan’s operetta, HMS Pinafore, turns on the fact that, one of the characters, “Buttercup”, had mixed up the identities of two infants in her care. As she has to admit with great embarrassment:
When I was young & charming,
As some of you may know
I practiced baby farming[iii]
In the world of reality, unfortunately, in most industrial cities during the first phase of industrialisation, baby-farms in terraced slums consisted of every available space crammed with cots in which infants might be penned throughout the working day. At a later period, it remains unsurprising that Rudolf Steiner found a coincidence of interest & intention between the educational method he was creating & the work of Margaret MacMillan, whose east London nurseries provided care, & hot baths, for pre-school children from families with few options as to how to look after them. That may seem far away from modern conditions, but in many ways contemporary deprivation – we could call it developmental deficit – is as profound as that of less materially privileged ages.
There has, of course, never been an ideal time for children. Each age brings its own typical problems, misconceptions & developmental challenges. Nonetheless, & in spite of a modern belief that adults should spend “quality time” with their children (an ideal premised on achieving a near mythical quality: “work-life balance”) the friction point between children growing into the world & adults having to maintain their life in that world remains acute for the vast majority of families. Not surprisingly then educational settings, including Anthroposophical institutions (perhaps a little late), now have to take into account the need to care for ever younger children. This is relatively recent, even ten years ago in my experience, most early years’ practitioners & their colleagues would have been firm in their view that young children under three “belong at home”. In the UK the length of the school day in our younger classes can also be a problem area for busy parents. As one committed Waldorf parent put it, “If the school wants us to continue paying fees it had better arrange things better so that we can earn the money to pay them!” Perhaps we should not forget that children being looked after at home (which was, during the first half of the last century, one of the tokens of being financially “comfortable”), came at a cost paid in the frustration & unfulfilled potential of millions of women. Ideal conditions do not exist at any time. If the duty of the economic life is to make resources available to the cultural- spiritual sphere, schools also have to be responsive to needs of parents & a progressive education takes the conditions for what they are & then creates the best possible arrangements for children to learn & flourish. I am unconvinced that our schools always arrange matters accordingly.
Our concern here is for the transition between early years’ setting & school proper. My question to this is, “what assumptions are being made?” Assumptions play a powerful role in decisions about education & we all make them. Their power derives from the factors listed at the introduction of this paper social & political norms & implicit values (i.e. life conditions, “public mood” & family history) & from the fact that in order to act at all, some things must be taken for granted. But the apparent nature of those certainties does not imply that they are necessarily wrong or suspect. Only when our assumptions detach from the general movement of a culture do we tend to recognise their presence & examine them: current concerns about the nature of discriminatory language (& behaviour) is an example of a process of detachment of this kind. Speaking from a British point-of-view, the Waldorf assumption, formal education should start with the child’s second dentition, can find itself flattened against the stone-wall of national & cultural assumptions such as:
· The earlier a child “starts to learn” the better (which itself contains the assumption that children only really learn anything useful in school)
· School is about “learning lessons” – formal education – break times are for play, but these should be relatively short & supervised by adults
· Since five is the legal age for full-time education, getting into school before that must be a good thing
· The English language & its writing system is complex & that means starting to learn reading early ensures the best potential outcomes for literacy[iv]
· The world is highly competitive: children growing up now will be at a huge disadvantage unless they can master skills & gain knowledge in a way that puts them ahead of others, thus helping the UK to gain commercial advantages over its rivals
· Children are “safer” in school than elsewhere
· School is where children make friends & learn to be sociable
The general need for both parents to go out to work, the scattered nature of modern families, with little support from the extended family alongside the way the power of the state interacts with individual liberties & rights works as glue for such assumptions. In England we have witnessed a continual tinkering with what is essentially a curriculum (referred to as “the framework”) for children under the age of five, which tends to increase the tendency to imagine that children must be missing out if they are not making recordable steps towards formal academic skills[v]. While I do not intend to suggest that dialogue is useless in these circumstances, or that evidence of other points of view has no effect, there are many who would agree with the fundamental principle of a latter start to formal education, I think that we need to reflect on such convictions & accept that “what’s best for the child” can result in conclusions that are unpalatable to Waldorf educators.
For example, many colleagues use a phrase like “school readiness” as a definition of how the child is, perhaps based on their professional view of the child, a view that may or may not be supported by a school doctor, but with the essential assumption that school readiness is a condition of the individual child. Occasionally, a parent may even respond to suggestion that child is “not quite ready” with, “So what’s wrong with him[vi]?” (Not a good basis for ongoing dialogue). Moreover, the concept of school readiness elsewhere is much richer than this, including the readiness of the school (& teacher) for the child, & the extent of the support from family & community[vii] (see, e.g. www.pediatrics.aapublications.org). Looked at from this perspective, notions such as that readiness can be assessed easily, or that readiness is mainly a function of time, or that children assessed as “not ready” do not belong in the classroom, need rethinking. To listen to the way some teachers speak about whether a child is ready to enter Class 1, you might be excused for imagining the Class 1 experience as a dubious, even mildly poisonous substance that should only be administered to children strong enough to withstand its noxious potential. Something that may have some basis in truth, but which ultimately underlines the responsibility of the teacher.
Some years ago, there was discussion among some colleagues in Britain about changes to school law in Norway. The report was to the effect that, for reasons not entirely clear, school regulations had been altered & as a result, in Norway, Class 1 was now called Class 2, while Class 1 age children would in reality be their last year of kindergarten. Many British colleagues were outraged by this “attack on the freedom” of fellow Waldorf educators in Scandinavia. No-one in that conversation seemed to recognise the insignificance of the change. We should call to mind that Rudolf Steiner was prepared to accept the necessity of State exams in Class 3 & Class 6 provided the school was left free to follow its own pedagogical route to those examinations. If children are less school ready than they were, & there does appear to be evidence of that, & if individual variation in development is more marked, should we not be considering transforming the nature of the divide between Kindergarten & Class 1? It is often forgotten that Steiner saw the three-seven-year model of development as inherently therapeutic in a general sense, i.e. it was a means of putting children in touch with the human developmental archetype not a simple pattern into which children should somehow fit (or be fitted!). It is possible that the essential principles of Waldorf education are more often compromised in strict adherence to the letters, or numbers of Steiner’s indications than by the ill to adapt to the real & present needs of children & their families.
Education takes place in a context & educators should be alert to this cultural background. I must make it plain that I am not questioning the fundamentals of Waldorf practice here, but I am saying that if a school sees disparity between its provision & the readiness of children in their seventh year, if the “requirements” for Class 1 are considered too great, the first question should be how the school might adapt itself to the needs of the children rather than to immediately prescribing an extra year in kindergarten. At a conference organised by the SWSF for kindergarten & Class Teacher colleagues, one of the speakers, a Class Teacher & school founder, strongly put the view I am suggesting here, “Don’t worry so much about whether the child is ready or not, if they are in their seventh year, send them up & we must find the right way to work with them”. The fact that for many this was a so striking a statement demonstrates that the opposite tends to be the norm.
The challenges for children during the twenty-first century look to be more subtle & less overt than those of previous times. This is not the place to go into the detail about the numerous ways in which what is needful in first phase of childhood is being pulled from under the first tottering steps of infants. To name a few of the symptoms, we could list: increasing movement problems (e.g. retained infantile reflexes), language delay, behavioural issues & such matters as childhood obesity & precocious sexuality. I would suggest that each of these, although quite different, is more-or-less an intensification of that tendency to psychological frailty & declining vigour that can be found everywhere. I think any teacher with experience over more than a single decade would recognise that brittleness of soul that even our most healthy children can sometimes manifest when faced with the normal difficulties of growing-up. If we are to respond to the challenge all this places before us, we should think carefully about how our schools respond to the general culture in which they are placed &, I suggest, pay more heed to the way children are met in their learning & development wherever they are in the school.
To that end, I conclude with a short-list of pointers for further work, research or reflection:
· In a UK context, schools have to be very alert to working in an education system in which full-time education at age 5 is mandatory (“in school or otherwise”, is the phrase in the law that allows for home education). Because good Primary schools tend to be over-subscribed, our Kindergartens have to be very clear if there are any doubts about progression long before the child reaches age 6. The case of children with special educational needs is especially delicate because of this
· What does the phrase, “holding back the child” convey & how does its meaning resonate in those using it? It seems to suggest something very different to Steiner’s call for the teachers to “awaken” themselves in order to (appropriately) “awaken the children”
· Similarly, we might ask what “not starting academic work/literacy/numeracy until such & such a stage...” or even “avoiding over-taxing the child” might mean. An inspector, who was very sympathetic to Waldorf practice, described visiting a school when a teacher entered the office with a kindergarten child. The child noticed the words “First Aid” in large letter on a first aid box & asked what they said. The teacher responded by saying, “Never mind about that now” & hurried the child out of the room. The inspector felt this was an unfortunate & inappropriate response to the child’s natural curiosity. There may, of course, have been specific reasons for this teacher’s choice, but, as a general point, was the inspector or the teacher correct in their view of the situation?
· Following from those examples, if what we do for the very young child prepares the child’s faculties, as I believe is the case, should we not be describing that preparation in positive terms & describing far more clearly how what the Kindergarten Teacher does helps to optimise learning potential? In this particular, Waldorf principles are a close fit with Vygotsky’s concept of a “zone of proximal development”. This is not to propose simply merging one into the other, but the Vygotskian formulation has several advantages: the “location” is “nearest to” rather than “precisely here” & it is described as being within a “zone”. Most importantly, to talk of an optimum period for the teaching of certain skills or knowledge avoids the impression that there is a belief involved that children cannot learn these earlier
· I have also heard the phrase, “No explicit teaching takes place in kindergarten”, is this true? I don’t think it accords with what I observe. Just as Class Teachers often need greater awareness of what is achieved in the early years, do Kindergarten Teachers need greater understanding (& better training perhaps) in such things as promoting sensory integration &, for example, phonological awareness? Guiding children in the moment using an implicit, imitative, method really calls for greater depth of feeling for such tings
· Similarly, given that a Class Teacher may usually only have the opportunity to work directly on building the foundations for literacy & numeracy with a class at most three or four times in a career, do teacher education courses - & ongoing development workshops - provide sufficient practical strategies to do this?
· Steiner intended that Anthroposophy would enrich & revive the general culture. That’s a huge ambition & there are some notable successes (varying from country to country). How can Waldorf schools play their part in this unless they continually strive to show their hospitality & active contribution towards the challenges of the common lives & concerns we share?
· How do answer the -
Six Year Old Blues (?)
Mum sent me to the Steiner
And Kindie’s mostly nice,
We play outside all winter
And skid across the ice!
But now I’ve got a problem:
“I want to go to school!”
All my friends are going
And they say it’s really cool.
My teeth are just not wobbling,
I missed the Easter test,
I’ve even got a special game
To help me with the rest:
I lift my hand,
I tug my arm,
I try to reach my ear
I think my head is far too big;
I get so very near.
I met the nice class teacher,
She smiled & knew my name,
She even had a chuckle
When I showed her my ear game
I think she really likes me,
She said I was the best,
But she was sad as sad could be
I missed the Easter test.
I lift my hand,
I tug my arm,
I try to reach my ear;
I think my head is far too big:
Now I’ll have to wait ONE WHOLE YEAR!
Kevin Avison February 2013
[i] We will use the term “school readiness” throughout. So far as the UK is concerned, it is essential to look at the question in the round & with a view to the implications for a child throughout their school career. A narrower focus on “class 1 readiness” is in our view inadequate, often leading to greater problems for the child later & giving too much weight either to a short term decision in the hands of kindergarten &/or class teacher.
[ii] In Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
[iii]"Buttercup’s confessions” from HMS Pinafore, words by W.S.Gilbert
[iv] Although education Ministers & others have attached a great importance to improving standards of numeracy, literacy remains the key concern for most people. It is significant that, while usage of the word “literate”, meaning “to know one’s letters” derives from the 15 century, this implied the ability to read, but not necessarily to write (hence the convention of “making one’s mark” to witness a document. Usage of the word “literacy” as a quality is much more recent (first recorded in 1883), although use of “illiteracy”, usually as a pejorative, is recorded in the late 1600s
[v] The SWSF in the UK – especially my colleague Janni Nicol, has been able to engage in an effective dialogue with policy-makers to exempt certain parts of these requirements for our kindergartens
[vi] I’ve used the gender specific “him”, largely because, in my experience, boys are more likely than girls to be “not ready”
[vii] A “checklist” from a commercial educational website with advice for parents & schools is appended below (Appendix 1). This is a fair indicator of how the expectation of school precedes the evaluation, but it’s worth noting that most of the checklist is about helping the child to be ready
- There are several measures that let you as parents conduct an evaluation to make sure your child is ready to attend school. Listen to what and how your child speaks and look at how he/she communicates to other children – this will help you judge whether your child is ready for attending school. Review the listed indicators and conduct a test to find out whether your child meets the requirements.
- Feeling self-confident within a school learning environment.
- Working independently and cooperatively within large and small groups.
- Focusing on doing tasks, following prescriptions.
- Working within time constraint.
- Listening to a story in large and small groups.
- Following two- or three-step oral directions.
- Sharing ideas and knowledge within a group.
- Caring for personal needs.
- Caring for personal belongings.
- Following school rules, respecting the property of others.
- To make sure your child is independent and ready for school, you can follow several tips listed below.
- Let your child spend more time away from you or regular caregivers – then the child will gradually learn to do things without your help.
- Talk over your child's day. By discussing how the child spends his/her day at school, you can learn more about the child’s troubles, and then suggest solutions.
- Appoint a homework area in your house. In such a way you will show your child the importance of school work.
- Make your child do some tasks for helping at home – this will be a part of future classroom routine. You can use worksheets to show the child how to better organize school-related tasks.
- Teach your child to be responsible for personal care, such as dressing and personal hygiene.
- Attend the school open day together with your child.
- Take your child to the school playground and spend their time to make your child familiar with the school environment.
- Show your child the shortest and safest route to school.
- Save money by planning your child’s wardrobe in advance by purchasing items on sale and shopping at discount and consignment stores.
- Acquire only seasonally appropriate clothes.
- Make sure your child has the right shoes for school, gym class and sports.
- Acquire necessary uniforms or special clothing your child may need for phys education and athletics.
- Be sure all of your child’s new clothes and shoes meet the school dress code.
- Be sure your child’s stock of underwear and socks is renewed and updated.
- Attend a school supplies shop and ask for a kit – usually such shops provide a set of school supplies.
- Create a school supplies list. You can use a program to make such a list. Include the following items in your school supplies list:
- Spiral notebooks and exercise books.
- Books required for education.
- Ballpoint pens, mark pens, colour pencils, crayons.
- Ruler, eraser, glue stick, pencil case.
- School backpack.
- Lunchbox or a suitable container for lunch.
Wednesday, September 12, 2012
WHO NEEDS ADVICE – where can you go from here?
Careful readers of SWAS mailings will know the answer already! –
· Advising is not about telling others, “This is how I did it!” or giving directions on what “not to do” -
· It is about observing, listening, sharing & exploring professional questions
· It is a profession of service
· Advisers are not “ultimate experts” in Waldorf education
· They do have to develop some capacities, which are different to those needed for teaching a class
· They strive to be reflective colleagues, trying to learn from mistakes (including their own)
· The adviser’s agenda is yours! – the agenda of the reflective practitioner seeking ways to do things even better
· They visit settings across the country (& beyond) & so can help every teacher to feel part of the collegiality of schools
· They facilitate networking, not replace it
· They can do so without the interest of a particular school as the centre of their concern
· Their work is about “fellowship” - serving collegiality
Wednesday, August 01, 2012
Bringing the house down - Samson's solution, or working in a team but wanting my own way
We all have different perspectives and quite often there are a number of possibilities whatever the problem. Stamping out disagreement is a way of making ourselves “right” by ensuring that others are shown up as “wrong”. But there are subtle versions of this: retrospective correction (in my own time), or the saving up one’s own viewpoint for a more advantageous moment (catching others off guard) are common forms of power-play, manipulations that are less honest than outright tyranny. While win/win thinking and behaviour tends to encourage better team-work, enabling disagreement to be creatively channelled, using position or sheer obstinacy to block discussion can turn the team-work of others into short-term personal advantage, but at huge cost to the team & any project they undertake. The crucial strength of team-work is that it can integrate different perspectives & turn debate into seeking the best solutions for the activity
A sense of entitlement & a need to be special brings competition & a self-serving ethos into any workplace, in a collegial one most of all. Entitlement is opposed to collegiality, creating division while encouraging a “totemic” culture that is common to many work-places. As the proud owner of the exceptional horse, the self-entitled holds the reins of any discussion & thrives on the “flunky tendency” (see 4). The alternative is to work as a true collegiate: in a way that allows everyone to be recognised for their unique contribution. Everyone who is part of the team is there because their contribution is valued. This does not exclude “leadership”, but an effective demotic leadership depends upon the needs of the specific situation, rather than mere status. Thus diversity becomes aligned to creativity; & the quality of leadership & initiative are available to all members of the team
Gossip is usually a form of speculation, often spiteful, neglectful of facts or partial in interpretation. Such speculation can grow and cause fear and discontent. Gossip usually includes & forms a powerful underhand alliance with complaining (see 5). Not only is gossip a negative force, in that it wastes time, but engaging in gossip about someone is rarely good, tending to drive a wedge of distrust between everyone in the organisation (“Who will be the next victim?”). The alternative is to create honest conversations based on one’s own experiences, inviting others to contribute theirs. Sticking to facts, not getting personal, discussing your own thoughts, feelings & intentions openly, without attributing motives to others is a must for effective teamwork
People-pleasing results in a lack of growth and a denial of unique talents and contributions. A need to be liked, especially by those who appear more powerful, often stems from a fear of not being good enough, or of being rejected for speaking up. This is common to strongly hierarchical organisations, but also to ones in which hierarchical relationships are covert rather than explicit. Weak leaders encourage this trait in team members because it adds to their relative security. The alternative is to speak your own truth, but to do it with respect for the truths of others
Complaining is a method of self-assertion that minimises the risk of contradiction. It thus dodges the effort to communicate honestly. Complaining avoids having to forgive others or to be forgiven. Complaining about someone else behind their back is opposed to empathy, or any attempt to put ourselves in another’s shoes. Gossiping complainers in particular tend to place a barrier around them, safe in the certainty that what they say will change nothing. Good team-working involves genuine criticism, sticking with the facts & contributing positively even when the topic is uncomfortable
Watching out for these five traps is easier said than done, which is why good team-working benefits from effective facilitation. Each of the five “dangers” set out above can be used to review a meeting. It is for each person to reflect upon whether they have fallen into one or more of the traps. Using them to describe others is a version of trap 2 & tends to lead directly into trap 3. Links between the items indicates their co-dependence. Pulling out any one of these in order to examine can help to SHIFT the problem