Many of us, educators, coaches, trainers, teachers and facilitators, perceive our work as a support for the development of others. And it indeed is – we invest our full undivided attention, our emotions and all our experience to design, organise, and conduct learning experiences for others. And this process is not technical, as its steps might suggest – defining goals, then content, then methods for the educational units. This process contains much more emotional work than one can see from outside at fist glance.
Why is that so? Because educational work is based on relationships. Listening for understanding, creating trust between us and our learners and between the participants in our educational groups, fostering a relationship of curiosity between the students and the subject we teach them about – creating all that is a precondition for successful educational results.
Our work consists of relationships
To enable all that we, educators, communicate with so many actors:
- Often the communication process begins with the contact to the contracting authority or the institutional client. Often the persons we communicate with formulate their request from us, but we need to ask many precise questions to understand what exactly is expected from us. We ask questions like: What are the desired outcomes of the training you want me to design? What do the participants in the training need to know in the end of the training – and what skills and attitudes do they need to acquire? What do they already know about the topic – how experienced they are in the skills the training is supposed to train? How motivated are the participants to take part in the training? Do they participate voluntarily, or do they have to do the training? Have you already organised similar trainings for the same group before? What is the communication culture in your structures? – these are only several examples of questions we need to ask, as the answers, given by the client build the basis for the preparation of our educational design. And to lead this conversation of inquiry in a pleasant and professional way, we already begin creating a relationship from the very first moment of the contact to the client.
- We might communicate with the participants of our training in advance – to learn about their motivation, previous experiences and expectations and wishes, related to the common educational event.
- The most intensive communication part follows during the educational event itself – we teach, moderate discussions, lead informal conversations in the brakes, support, contradict, paraphrase, listen, correct, add – and above all – pay attention to the contributions of our learners. All these activities require from us a cognitive-emotional accomplishment, which depends on our ability to enter into and to stay in a fostering relationship with each of our learners and with them as a group.
- Often in this process we relate in the same time to one or several colleagues, which co-design and co-facilitate the training together with us, or who overtake certain parts of it and facilitate those on their own. So we enter not only in pedagogical relationships, but also in collegial ones, to conduct a training of high quality.
- After the educational event has taken place, we connect again with our participants to send them a wrap up of the event, to collect evaluation forms. We reflect on the event and its result together with our colleagues and evaluate the cooperation with our client/contracting authority. All these processes also involve remaining in relationships in a professional way – and transforming those to a suitable form at the end of the common educational project.
Educators sometimes need to replenish their own ressources
All this communication and relationship work is demanding. It can give us lots of energy and joy, as we feel inspired by encountering partners, colleagues and our learners, by feeling on the same ‘wave’ with them, by supporting their development. And yet it can also let us overstimulated, emotional or somehow confused, even if we do not understand exactly why. When things go well, we feel recharged and motivated to continue with the next project, as we feel successful and fulfilled. But sometimes conflicts occur, the above described relationships do not go well, we experience conflicts or are simply dissatisfied from how thing have gone. Sometimes we experience intrapersonal conflicts in relation to our educational practice – self-self-conflict, in which we struggle to understand two or more contradicting interests or views that fight inside of us.
For our profession it is essential to release such emotional load in an effective and regular way – exactly in the same way as any other helping professionals, such as doctors, therapists, social workers need to do that to remain physically and psychically healthy while helping others professionally. Yet neither for school or university teachers, nor for educators in the field of non-formal civic education nor for trainers in the field of vocational training do such established spaces and practices exist.
This needs to change. That is why School of Mindful Facilitation engages in establishing a regular peer consulting practise, especially designed to support educators. The practise is called Mindful Intervision and takes place once a month, enabling the members of the community to come together and support each other for the challenges they face in their educational practise.
Mindful describes the non-judgemental culture, in which the process happens. Intervision means Supervision, done by peers – by the ones who are part of the same group, and not by an external professional.
In each Mindful Intrvision Session the group choses one case to support. The case-giver shares their challenge and the group looks collectively for solutions, which is achieved through going through several different stepps collectively. In this process the case-giver listens to the conversation of the group from the side, which allows them to perceive what is being told about them in a special way, without urge for justification and without the feeling of being criticized. This helps change of perspective and thus – gaining new insights.
Each Mindful Intervision Session is moderated by one group member and consists of the following steps:
- Sharing of challenges and a common decision, which case will be consulted during the current meeting;
- Description of the challenge by the case-giver, followed by understanding questions by the group-members;
- Sharing of associations that the group members have with the described case-giver situation;
- Gathering of hypothesis about the possible roots of the described challenge or problem;
- Gathering of resources and positive qualities the group members see in the case-giver and their situation
- Gathering of possible solutions & The case-giver feedback on what was helpful.
In this process the case-giver is invited for several times to share their opinion on what they hear the group discussing. The moderator gives the word to the case-giver and to the group members.
Benefits of Intervision
There are diverse benefits from participating in an intervision session:
- One can digest emotionally burdensome experiences, related to their professional life and/or finding concrete solutions to their problems, benefiting from the collective intelligence of one’s colleagues
- One can discover own blind spots, bring light to them and develop awareness about one’s own interpretational or behavioural patterns, thus gaining control over one’s professional behaviour through insights
- It offers a safe space, as the group members come from different context and are not part of the same organisation as the case-giver themselves
- Over the course of regular participation one can develop their own emotional intelligence and benefit from burn-out prevention, as witnessing the work of other colleagues also offers learning experiences for oneself and the regular ‘download’ of unresolved issues at work is necessary and beneficial for psychic health.
I first got to know and inspired by the method of intervision from my colleague and friend Irina Flotskaya – psychologist, psychotherapist and a great educator, too. In the frame of a project we realised together in Sankt Petersburg some years ago we tought the method to a group of trainers, who wished to professionalise their work with adult learners in the Baltic Countries. Later on, I learned more about the method in the course of my Master studies in Psychology and my own training in Psychoterapy at the Albert Pesso Institute in Osnabrück. Each time I have facilitated an intervision session I could witness how useful this simple method is for the ones participating. This is why I am convinced by its power to support.
Welcome to join us
School of Mindful Facilitation will host the next Mindful Intervision Session on August 13th, Thursday, from 17 to 18 h CET (online). If you do educational or counseling work and are interested in valuable collegial exchange with others like-minded colleagues from different regions of our globe, do not hesitate to join us. The session will be moderated by me, Silvena – and you are much welcome to join.
All Mindful Intervision Sessions are free of charge. To receive the access for participation, sign up for our newsletter here and you will receive an email with the link to the online room prior to the Intervision Session. Looking forward to hosting you in a brave, safe and nurturing collegial space of mutual understanding and professional peer-support.
What is your experience with intervision and peer consultation processes? How do you replenish your energy to be able to keep on doing educational work from your heart? Feel free to share your experiences in the comments below. Thank you!