Teacher as container

I remember reading an article some years back called Consultant as Container***, or something like that. It spoke about how an organizational consultant can play a role in ‘holding’ the emotion in the room during periods of change and that this act of holding can assist in allowing the change to continue.

A teacher’s work is very much like this. So is that of a consultant who works with teachers. During the school year, I am generally exhausted by the end of a day and never any more so than during exam periods (man, do I hate exam periods. They are too often taken way too seriously by everyone (but mainly educators…) and result in way too much stress).

I find myself interacting with nervous students (and teachers) and definitely gathering in their emotion so as to let them focus on getting through. It’s like all of a sudden we delve into an alternate universe where all that matters is getting that paper done, finishing that exam. Of course, and especially in adult education, that isn’t all that matters. Students exist outside of their papers and exams. They have families, jobs, and who knows what else to have to manage on top of the difficult emotions surrounding schooling and exams.

It generally takes me two weeks after the end of any given school year to feel rested. I know I am not alone in that. Emotion is exhausting. It is also such an important part of what we do when we work with our students, our colleagues, our school communities.

* A side note — wouldn’t it be a good idea if, instead of having to deal with the intense emotion surrounding examination periods we found a different way to examine?

** In looking through my blog, I realize this is not the first time I write about this…. See Holding Emotion.

*** In case you are interested, I found that article I referred to at the start:
Consultant as Container: Assisting organizational rebirth in Mandela’s South Africa by Smith, Miller, and Kaminstein in Journal of Applied Behavioral Science June 2003 vol. 39 no. 2 145-168

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