Confronting uncomfortable conversations in the classroom: the pedagogy of emotion

On October 12, 2017, Jude Walker, assistant professor of Adult Learning and Education, and Shayna Hornstein, a body-focused psychotherapist, registered physical therapist, and recent graduate in Adult Learning and Education, facilitated a Classroom Climate workshop on “Confronting Uncomfortable Conversations in the Classroom: The Pedagogy of Emotion.”

In this session, Jude and Shayna led participants to engage with the role emotions play in the classroom and how emotions have an impact on teaching and learning.

The session invited participants to reflect on the mind, body, and heart when faced with uncomfortable conversations and situations as instructors in the classroom. Participants shared their experience and fears as instructors, while developing strategies when engaging in difficult topics or situations in the classroom. Jude and Shayna led an active discussion on ways to become more aware and attentive to our bodies and minds in moments of discomfort; the facilitators also shared tools to “catch yourself and regroup” during emotional moments in the classroom.

According to the facilitators, “catching yourself” during a moment of high emotion involves a practice of awareness and attunement to our own body’s reaction to the situation. This practice, as Shayna states, is about “keeping one part of our brain watching, without judgement, to attend to the early signals that something inside, maybe our neck or stomach, is tensing up. It’s cultivating a practice, cultivating the observer.” By directing our mind’s attention towards observing the body’s reactions, recognizing the physical signs of emotion being stirred up, and utilizing practices that bring our bodies calmly back to the present moment, our minds become better equipped to respond to the emotional and intellectual needs of the learning moment. In turn, by modelling this “catching ourselves,” we share that practice with our learners.

We had the opportunity to ask Jude [JW] and Shayna [SH] a few questions about how they became interested with the topic on pedagogy of emotion in the classroom.

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