“Interpretations, criticisms, diagnoses and judgments of others are actually alienated expressions of our unmet needs.”

Dr Marshall Rosenberg

The strangest insights arise in the most unlikely of places. Last Thursday I bounded into a regular meeting of staff with my latest tech toy – a Livescribe pen. For those unfamiliar with its function, reading below will illuminate you. Of late, I have been a loud proponent of this device leading some to suspect that I am on commission. Anyway, what follows is a recollection, if not an accurate recount, of the interaction between myself and another teacher whose name has been removed for obvious reasons. Let’s call her, as elections are in the blogosphere, Julia.

Steven: Hi, Julia

Julia: Hi, Steve

Steven: Steven, actually.

Julia: Steve, right…

Steven: *bouncing like a puppy* Look at my new toy! *brandishes 4GB Livescribe Echo pen*

Julia: Oh, one of those. I know what they are.

Steven: Yeah, it ‘s a pen that-

Julia: – I know, it writes on a tablet and converts to text.

Steven: *mildly confused* Actually, no. It records audio and-

Julia: Oh, I know. It records a meeting and then you can play it back.

Steven: *pulls quizzical face* Um, well, yes it does that, however it does more than that. It also copies what you write and allows you to-

Julia: *briskly* I know, it allows you to read it on your laptop. You can download a file from the pen.

Steven: *irritated* Actually, more than that. *feeling alienated* It records audio and links it to the text for playback at any time with a touch of the pen on the paper.

Julia: Oh. *avoids eye contact* Really.

Steven: *Silence*

Julia: *Silence*

So, what was the result of this interaction? I felt alienated and unheard and she, to all intents and purposes, felt proven wrong. This was certainly not my intention; I was hoping to share my enthusiasm. Over the years I have learned; sorry, no, am learning to temper this enthusiasm with a more circumspect attitude. The last thing I wanted to do was make her feel ignorant and for our meeting to end up being more like a parting.

I reflected on this exchange and realised how much I do this with my own students. How often am I rehearsing, ‘knowing’, exactly what they are about to say and not actually listen as they are saying it. Moreover, how often to ‘iKnow’ the learning they are capable of and limit their achievement to the confines of my expectations? Rubrics are a fine example of this. Yes, they provide support and guidance to allow students to achieve but they can also bind creativity and narrow opportunities. That’s why I try to put extra criteria that is non-criteria into rubrics where possible – “Something beyond the expected” is one heading I like to use.

What is my need in practising ‘IKnow’? What does needing to predict another person’s response meet in me? Familiarity? Comfort? Meeting curriculum outcome/task descriptors as set out by documents? I’ll let you know when I fathom it out.

‘iKnow’ is now the opposite of what I want to be as a teacher. Rather than knowing the other in my mind on my terms, I want to be able to see others separate from my expectations. To do that, to fully see another is to begin to care.