Welcome to Episode 39…another wonderful exploration with James Crader. We’re just so damn excited to have him as a part of the team…the conversations we’ve had on and off recording have been incredibly rich, stirring up all kinds of edgy and fun topics we can’t wait to share with you.
In this episode James and I use one of his recent articles titled: “What They’re really saying is…”, which we’ve linked to in the show notes. In the article James shares a teaching experience, perhaps you’d even call it an epiphany, and it has everything to do with listening to what are students are NOT telling us, what they’re NOT saying.
We dive into some really cool stuff I’ve been exploring this past year including: how the brain learns, cognitive overload, and top-down vs. bottom-up processing. There are some really great ideas in this episode…AND of course, lots of laughs. We hope you enjoy listening.
Don’t hesitate to get in touch with us! We want to hear from you. All the ways in which you can reach us are below…
Our hero for this episode is Dr. Dan Siegel, author of the book “Mindsight.” Dr. Siegel is a is a clinical professor of psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine and the founding co-director of the Mindful Awareness Research Center at UCLA. He is also the Executive Director of the Mindsight Institute.
Among other topics, Dr. Siegel explores mindfulness, the mind and brain and interpersonal neurobiology. His work is relevant to us as teachers because it helps us understand another aspect of the human experience as well as the depth of how we form relationships with our bodies, ourselves, and the world.
Dr. Siegel’s work has made a significant impression on both James and I and we hope you enjoy exploring it for yourself.
Other books by Siegel that you might enjoy: Mind, Healing Trauma, The Mindful Brain.
Our Pro Tip for this episode is to play with Open Questions.
This may not seem like a very unique idea, but open questions, are a significant part of many coaching and therapeutic methods that not allows a practitioner to extrapolate information from a student’s own insights and internal experiences, but helps the teacher to shift from the perspective of needing to know, to being comfortable not knowing; shifting the priority to curiosity and listening rather than problem solving and fixing.
Open questions are a critical part of a method called Motivational Interviewing and used to help a person discover for themselves the truth of their situation; to become more aware of their current state, their motivations, and space between where they are and where they want to go.
Open questions, are just what they sound like: NOT yes or no questions. They’re questions that evoke a thoughtful response.
Scenario: When you’re student is struggling with achieving a movement, instead of cueing them to correct, try asking questions like:
- How could you do x differently?
- Can you tell me what x feels like right now as you push out/pull in/roll back et cetera.?
- Pause for a moment, and rest. Can you tell me where you’re feeling the strongest sensation? (You could direct their attention to an area of the body for more specific inquiry and insight.)
- How would you describe what it feels like to x (roll back, roll up, curl up, push down… ).
- If you could choose one word to describe how this movement feels, what would it be?
These open questions empower the student to feel their experience rather than think their experience. Feeling experience — felt sense — can be a much more powerful guide for a student when developing new strategies. It allows the strategies to arise out of the current state of the body rather than to be manufactured based on some string of things they have to DO.
This kind of questioning promotes bottom-up processing rather than top-down. Open questions can help us bypass cognitive overload (CO) AND shift out of CO. When a student is experiencing CO, they stop processing, they stop listening, they stop being able to feel and it often triggers other fears: “I’m not capable. I’m not good/smart/fit enough to do this.” And more.
Open questions allow us to reframe the movement experience and shift the “authoring” of the work from us to them. We’re not in charge. We’re just witnessing and nudging.
How can you nudge your students toward a more bottom-up experience using open questions?
Your mission, should you choose to accept it:
Next time you’re inclined to cue your student out of trouble, DON’T! Instead ask an open question. Keep it simple. See if you can get them to author their own experience; to notice what’s really happening within them and allow that to lead them.
Can’t wait to hear how this goes! Share with us via email or the comments below!
Evolved Body Blog by James Crader as referred to in this podcast:
And we want to bring you back around to Vanessa Rodriguez’ book “The Teaching Brain” as she dives pretty deeply into the topics we’ve broached in this podcast.
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