This week I finished a fantastic round of teaching in Barcelona. A journey that took me to discover and work with almost 40 wonderful young professionals from EADA Business School.
As always reaching the last day it is a must to evaluate and debrief myself on the key learnings. I am writing these words while looking at my students writing the final “exam,” which to be honest it is never the last examination. Life, the real thing, will take care of that by next Monday.
The students in front of me are in the last moments of a full week dedicated to the Business + Career Mentorship Program. The academic version of the Walking Mentorship, a journey that takes you from your current moment into the creation of an action plan for your life.
During the test I usually have some music playing to help smooth ideas, including my own. I closed my eyes and was carried away to a distant place. On the way to the unknown, I got an image of a pair of hands working on Pottery. It was a beautiful image. Working with clay is one of the oldest human inventions, just like education.
Every day my students discover the parks and nature hidden in the city, walking, talking and thinking. Whatever route you decide to make the final destination is always you.
Back to the “pottery workshop” inside my mind, I had a thought. What if a student is just like clay in the hands of a teacher?
Each of my students is a mixture of small grains. I can see that the elements are all there, the potential is there, but it is not yet all it can be, what it should be and what the world requires them to be.
In my daydreaming activity, I could see myself as a potter. From the beginning of the teaching process until the end, at the core of the student, nothing substantially changes, nevertheless nothing stays the same.
For clay to be transformed (both students and professor are clay) ; you need to let go of your initial concept(s). First, put water, which for me, is related to our openness and attitude, the more water, the easier it is to handle and start the process of learning how to learn.
After start spinning, that’s the moment of debating contradictory and often new ideas and views. It really feels like spinning at times, especially in a society often handcuffed by political correctness.
If you are malleable, it is possible to touch and be touched by the ideas, examples, and stories. Your soul can slowly start to be transformed into something different, more detailed, more in-depth, more real and authentic, usually a better version of yourself.
Kneading is the name of the game. A fundamental activity to prepare the clay for shaping. It involves manipulating the claying in a fashion somewhat like kneading dough for bread. It ensures an even distribution of moisture in the body. For me, this is the facilitation process were every teacher has the opportunity to highlight the connections between knowledge, the individual and the world.
Time is almost up. Soon the brilliant young professionals in front of me are going to hand over their papers. Despite all the warnings some of them think that they are ready to hit the ground and start running, but they are not 🙂
A mentor knows that it is essential to do a couple of things more. Remove the air trapped within the “clay body” through a process called de-airing because if you don’t do it, you will not be able to proceed.
After the air goes out (usually related with ego) you are able to keep just the essential. By now you have been shaped, dried but you still need one more step.
The final stage is the one that we often don’t mention in class. Mainly because it only can take place after we finish. To turn clay into a unique piece of art, it requires the need to go through heat and high temperatures, something around 1000-1600 degrees Celsius. This process evaporates all the water (our preconceptions) and induces reactions that lead to permanent changes. This includes increasing the strength and the solidity of the object shape.
Ok, now, you are ready to go!
Two weeks passed, time flies, always! The teaching is now over. But life has been showing me that the end is always the beginning of something new.
A final thank you to the resilient “pottery makers” that often in the backstage of a school help forge new lives, year after year after year. Jordi Diaz, Nigel Hayes, Antony Poole, Jimena Mesto, Silvia Santisteban just to mention a few. Without you none of this would be possible.
Notes to self*
When in doubt always go back to 0,00km which is the name of the first exercise in the survival kit. If you need someone to walk by your side, you know where to find me.
Keep walking with me,
João Perre Viana