Relationships are defined as ‘the way in which two or more concepts, objects, or people are connected, or the state of being connected’. It is a phrase we hear on a daily basis in a personal, professional, social, spiritual, metaphysical and environmental context, amongst others. We use this term loosely to describe an entire multitude of situations, contexts and scenarios.
Today I had the good fortune of spending the entire day in the company of Dr Thomas Jackson. Now, here is an individual who has devoted his life to this very cause on a deeply profound level. He can often be quoted using the term ‘connectedness’, a deep seated connectedness which allows him to reach out to a vast array of people and build strong purposeful relationships. It is on this solid foundation that intellectual safety and P4C find the rich and stimulating nutrients to grow and flourish. It has become abundantly clear today that the immense and explicit importance placed on relationships by the academy is one of the, if not the, largest contributory factors to their success. I am of the opinion that too often people skate over the concept of building relationships in the deepest sense of the words. It can often be assumed that it has already been addressed because it is in its ideology a basic component of what it means to be human. It is basic. However, I would like to intercept this narrative with a thought provoking caveat…
Building relationships with our pupils is key as educators and practitioners and we are duty bound to fulfil this criteria to a lesser or greater degree, dependent upon the individual. This is a privileged position we are entrusted with, to connect to another human life and influence it through the art of teaching. It has been observed that an increasing number of pupils receive wraparound care, attending breakfast and after school clubs. The reasoning behind this is completely understandable as many parents feel the increasing economic and financial pressures. However these pupils, including very young children, are spending a decreasing amount of time with parents. As educational and out of school care providers we can create the most loving, nurturing, warm environments for these pupils however, we are restricted by protocol and safeguarding to comfort or support them for instance in a way a parent might (this is not to say I am opposed to the safeguarding of children and young people in any way, it is paramount that this continues to be a firm focus). This lack of physiological and emotional interaction at a young age made me reflect on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and pose some interesting questions: are we as a society neglecting the bedrock of essential human development? how will this impact on their capacity to form and sustain relationships in the future? what impact will it have on mental health? what are we as a society consciously doing to address this issue? is the allure of self actualisation inadvertently making us neglect the foundational blocks of safety, love and belonging? if we continue to persist with this trend what will the future hold for the human race as we know it?
Now this brings me back to the work of the Uehiro Academy of Philosophy and Ethics in Education and this is precisely why they are in my opinion at the forefront of leading P4C. Their mantra of not being in a rush sounds simplistic and it is. However, how many of us can honestly and truly say that we embody this sentiment and actively display it in our own personal lives, in our homes, in our classrooms and in our relationships? It seems to me that time is one of those precious commodities that we all seem to have less and less of. We seem to spend the best part of our lives being in a rush: a rush to finish school, a rush to find a job, a rush to accumulate enough money to feed out materialistic wants and desires, a rush to find the right person, a rush to be married, a rush to have children, a rush for our children to grow up … and so it continues. I can’t help but wonder what is the ultimate price we pay for this frenzied state of mind? What are the subtleties and minutia details that we miss on a daily basis? what impact do these have over time?
Imagine then the oasis provided by a place that allows you to do precisely that. Convene, think together and slowly but surely to be able to drill down through the layers of emotions, experiences, hopes, dreams and primal wonders. To have the time to find them, reconnect with them and share them genuinely and sincerely with a community of co-enquirers. This is the sacred experiential place provided by P4C Hawai’i, a joy to behold and an absolute pleasure and privilege to be a part of. I am truly humbled and forever grateful to have had this experience, it is an experience that every child has the right to access and I have every intention of ensuring that I share this treasured necessity with as many educators as possible in order to make it a reality.