Monday, January 18, 2016

Practice and Peer Relationships

I've been thinking lately about how space to practice holds space for relationships among practitioners even at very different developmental levels.  If it's about how you perform or the product you make, it quickly becomes hierarchical - some are better than others.  We connect when we relate as practitioners.  I think of a beautiful moment at a music concert when a world class cellist signed her CD to my son, a beginner.  She wrote, "to a fellow cellist."  They both practice the same art and she chose to relate to him around practice.
It seems to me we need spaces to relate around practice rather than responsibility or position.
I have spent a lot of time facilitating groups for adults and kids together in the studio.  It is the uniqueness of the relationships with the adults I remember the most.  I got to know adults through their relationships with kids and with materials.  There was an intimacy in the way we shared the vulnerability of exploring in a child-like manner while creating.  
In the studio the focus was on the here and now and often work time was marked by quiet concentration.  It could be several months of working together before I would learn about the occupations of the adults in the class.  The one I remember most vividly was a high school principal. If I'd learned that when I first met him I might have been intimidated or made assumptions about him. I got to know him first just as a dad making stuff with his daughter - no authority - just there as a peer.  I think it may have been a gift to him in some way too.  If I'd begun the first class with everyone introducing themselves and saying where they are from and what they do, he would have had to carry his position with him into the space.  
Another time, a mother and her 10 year old daughter registered for a family class and I called her to tell her the other children in the parent/child pairs were all much younger.  I offered the daughter could join a class for just kids with more participants closer to her age.  She appreciated my concern but let me know that she and her daughter really wanted to spend the time together.  And they worked together beautifully in the studio, with each other and with the other families who joined them each Saturday morning.  It was only at the last class when this mom asked about a reflective material and said it would be great for her science class that I learned she was a teacher.  Again, I was honored she had taken the time to be my student and my peer and that she had been humble enough to enter a learning space just as a participant with her daughter.  She clearly had lots of experience being the leader in a learning space but in this case she chose to focus on her role as a peer.  
I've written on the Art at the Center blog about the wonderful opportunities for peer teaching I see in studio learning with kids.  I will be writing more in coming posts about ways to nurture peer relationships through a focus on sharing practice.  

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