Grazing, even for a moment, on the outskirts of great coaching

Leonard Cohen’s Preface to the Chinese translation of his collection of Beautiful Losers poems includes this passage:

When I was young, my friends and I read and admired the old Chinese poets. Our ideas of love and friendship, of wine and distance, of poetry itself, were much affected by those ancient songs. … So you can understand, Dear Reader, how privileged I feel to be able to graze, even for a moment, and with such meager credentials, on the outskirts of your tradition.

His thoughts sprang to mind this week when I had an opportunity to meet two coaches (a head coach and an assistant coach). I did feel immensely privileged to spend time with them. I had been following the coaching career of the head coach for over a decade. The assistant coach has been involved in my critical friend project for five years.

When we met I had one question: “How have you turned around the energy in the team?”. What they shared, in confidence, fascinated me. When I watched the team perform, I saw at first hand the outstanding performances of understanding they had co-produced with the two coaches.

I was in awe of the privileged access I had to their coaching on the outskirts of their everyday practice … grazing.

Photo Credit

At the game (Keith Lyons, CC BY 4.0)

Outside (Keith Lyons, CC BY 4.0)

The light they brought to the world

I have just read Stephanie Abraham’s post about her brother’s suicide.

It is powerful and profoundly helpful discussion about the impact of suicide. She observes:

during bereavement, we need more support than those grieving other types of death, but often receive less. The grief that comes with suicide is especially complex and traumatic because it’s typically sudden, sometimes violent, and we’re left reeling with questions about what happened and what we could have done differently. We’re also more likely to face stigma, shame, and isolation.

Stephanie shares a link to a Harvard study (2009) and their conclusion that “Survivors may grieve more intensely, and for longer periods, than people mourning other types of loss”.  Stephanie adds:

Suicide jars people to the core, which makes them even more awkward and scared about talking about it. People feel preoccupied about making mistakes or saying the wrong thing. I understand. Still, although there are no magic words to make the pain go away, words do matter, especially in times of great distress. The way we speak to the bereaved can comfort or sting.

She provides some important suggestions about how others might help comfort:

  • Don’t ask details about the death
  • Console the survivor
  • Don’t ask about the mental health of the deceased
  • Focus on the well-being of the survivor
  • Don’t project your guilt
  • Offer to listen to the survivor
  • Don’t pretend everything is normal or that nothing happened
  • Share positive memories of the deceased

Stephanie concludes her post with this paragraph:

When someone dies by way of suicide, their death often overshadows their life. The responsibility to remember them for the light they brought to the world, rather than for how they left it, shouldn’t just rest on survivors’ shoulders. We should all keep the deceased alive through sharing stories about them. (My emphasis)

Stephanie’s post is very timely. My brother John took his own life in November 1982 three days after his 26th birthday. I am keen to remember the light he brought to the world and in doing so try to address the awkwardness each of us feels about suicide. Stephanie’s guidelines are immensely helpful in this process.

Photographs help too.

Photo Credits

John at Primary School

John at pre-season training (bottom left)

Social practices and intersubjective acceptance

A photograph of notes made by Mara Averick and shared by her on Twitter.

Last week, I was introduced to Matthew Rampley’s exploration of visual culture. In his discussion of architecture, Matthew observed:

Architecture needs to be thought of less as a set of special material products and rather more as range of social and professional practices that sometimes, but by no means always, lead to building. (2005) (My emphasis.)

His mention of practices caught my attention, particularly as I was thinking about how we use space and place in convivial ways.

Two other papers this week have focused my attention on social practices and intersubjectivity.

The first is written by Daniel Dominguez (2017) and discusses web skill acquisition in open learning environments in the context of learner autonomy. Daniel considers “the heuristics and linking the practices of individuals using the web and the skills they develop from these practices” (2017:103). He observes “the new competencies the web offers for people to be active in constructing new pathways for social participation and, especially, learning”.

The second paper is written by Gary Schaal, Roxanna Kath and Sebastian Dumm (2016) on the topic of interpreting data visualisations. They present a hermeneutic methodology “for interpreting visualizations that aims at intersubjective acceptance”. Their paper is in German. My limited technical German led me to reflect on the points they made about the visualisation process:

  • Data sampling
  • Algorithmic analysis of the sampled data
  • Choice of visualisation for the algorithmic analysis
  • Hermeneutic interpretation of the chosen visualisation

Their own learning journey has been enriched by the work of Don Ihde, part of which has focused on science’s way of seeing that can be explored by visual hermeneutics.

Matthew, Daniel, Gary, Roxanna and Sebastian raise some very important issues for me as I continue my journey of open sharing in digital habitats. They remind me that as we share our work and induct students into digital connections, we can (and must) take a reflexive approach to what we are doing about our occupational social practices.

Photo Credit

Mara Averick’s notes (Twitter)