Simon Fraser University – Faculty of Education
MEd Post-Secondary, VCC Cohort
Selected Problems in Higher Education
Professor: Dr. Doug Mauger
Student: Kathryn Truant
October 21, 2020
“Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind” (Geisel, n.d.).
While I agree with Dr. Seuss’ sensibilities in principal, I believe that a sense of moderation must be present in all dialogical instances because everyone ‘matters.’ I need to reflect on my own degree of moderation, and reflect on the fine line between communication and speaking (in verbal and written platforms). There are limits: one must be informed, or at least committed to being informed. And, one must recognize the difference between empathetic conversation and emotional reaction (and overreaction).
In a previous reflection, I discuss ‘otherness:’ “As an educator, how do I compare (and coexist, and exert) my own experiential truths with the experiential truths of others? Further, how do other people’s experiences affect me in their direct ways (actions) and indirect ways (words)?” (2020, pp. 5-6). I chose the quote from Dr. Seuss as a direct reflection of the feedback that I received from my professor regarding an assignment on contribution to my learning community. He asked me to consider what my learning goals and expectations look like in this course, in this program, and in my community (D. Mauger, personal communication, October 15, 2020). I admit that I tend to get emotional at times in response to things that challenge me. For example, in class this past weekend, our professor asked the cohort to consider how we feel about educators staying on in their respective institutions at advancing ages, instead of retiring to make room for younger up-and-coming educators. I overreacted. I took this exercise personally (because I consider myself an aging educator, and I guess I am sensitive to the fact that I am closer to sixty than I am to fifty). I am positive that our professor had no intention of offending anyone; it was simply an engaging exercise, and I believe I should have moderated my comments to him, especially because I expressed my feelings in front of the entire cohort.
Moderation in hindsight does not count unfortunately. While I applaud Dr. Seuss’ conviction and self-assurance, his statement is causing the ‘lightbulb in my head to flicker’. I wonder how many times I have affected my own students now that I am a student myself?
One of the most important ways to moderate my responses to the words and actions of others is to perform a self-assessment. I will begin by creating a personal survey to assess and hone my capabilities:
– Am I informed?
– Am I conveying my educational goals?
– Are my personal learning outcomes being met?
– Am I fostering a positive learning environment? For myself? My cohort?
– Am I promoting my own critical thinking (a deeper understanding)?
– Am I disrespectfully pushing boundaries?
– Am I setting appropriate boundaries?
– Am I being empathetic?
In, Interpersonal Communication: Relating to Others, Beebe et al. explain, “Being empathetic is the essence of being other-orientated. The opposite of empathy is neutrality. To be neutral is to be indifferent” (2018, p. 143). It is okay to have emotions and to be affected. Mezirow argues that transformative learning is a progression initiated by emotional affectations:
A process by which we transform our taken-for-granted frames of reference (meaning, schemes, habits of mind, mindsets) to make them more inclusive, discriminating, emotionally capable of change, and reflective so that they may generate beliefs and opinions that will prove more true or justified to guide actions (2000, p. 8).
I look to Brookfield to inform the assessment of my own behaviour as a learning and transformative experience. Learning is not simply a ‘bloodless’ cognitive process. He illuminates that “learning – particularly that involving risk, discomfort, or struggle – is highly emotional (2015, p. 55).
So, what will I do to moderate my emotional responses to others, and how will I do it? It is time to set some goals, and to generate a personal and professional ‘to do’ list:
What I need to focus on:
– Empathetic conversation (vs emotional reaction and overreaction)
How I will achieve this goal:
I can be empathetic and assertive. Keep in mind that the self-assessment questions listed above in my Interpretive section are paramount before initiating this assertive yet moderated process; Beebe et al. (2018) outline five steps. The first step is to describe my view of the situation. I need to view a situation from an ‘other-oriented’ standpoint (other people may not feel the same way that I do, so it is not always best practice to direct my assertion in a group discussion). The second step is to disclose my feelings, and the third step is to identify the effects (I think it will be difficult to articulate why I feel the way I feel). The fourth step is to be silent (give the other person time to digest what you have shared), and the fifth step is to paraphrase (or mirror the ‘other’ person’s response). The fifth step is very important because it demonstrates that I am listening in-turn. To ‘be who I am and say what I feel,’ means that I need to communicate by responding in moderation, and to do this, I need to continue to be a reflective student and educator.
 I am sorry Doug.
 The use of the idiom is the best way for me to articulate how I am processing this train of thought.
 It is currently a very short list.
 It would probably be to my own benefit to make this my first step on every occasion.
Beebe, S. E., Beebe, S. J., Redmond, M. V., Salem-Wiseman, L. (2018). Interpersonal communication: Relating to others (7th ed.). Don Mills: Pearson.
Brookfield, S. D. (2015). The Skillful Teacher (3rd ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Geisel, T. S. (n.d.). Without citation of a specific work. Wikiquote. Retrieved from https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Dr._Seuss
Mezirow, J. (2000). Learning to think like an adult: Core concepts of transformation theory. In J. Mezirow & Associates, Learning as transformation: Critical perspectives on a theory in progress (pp. 3-33). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Truant, K. (2020). How do I foster a learning community in a meaningful way? EDUC 806 Selected Problems in Higher Education. Simon Fraser University.