Symposium Reflections

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So much curiosity about what and how others teach

I really enjoyed the first day's activity- it seemed like I was listening more intently and calmly as we progressed to higher risk questions.  My main thought coming out of the first day is that I would love to see other teachers' curricula and have a better understanding of what others do in their classrooms.  I suspect that what I do- primarily applied ethics case studies- about issues like CRISPr, end of life care, environmental dilemmas like water rights, etc. is very different than what other teachers in the room do- but I am eager to find overlap and see how p4C can be useful in a setting like mine.  I am grateful to be part of the program.

Who am I and why am I here

The warm and welcoming first session that we had today led me to revisit the emotions of excitement that I felt when I first encountered P4C and at the moments I met new friends in the P4C community along the way since. And when Takayuki mentioned that he questions who he is for his students, I started to wonder who I am inviting my undergraduate students so eagerly to the community of inquiry and why I am here doing such work. As I mentioned, I am conflicted between my belief that P4C and community of inquiry will benefit my students as individuals and as future teachers (and thus benefit their future students) and the fact that this may have caused extra struggles for my students after they graduate. However, when I read Toby's article after the session and reached p.55, I had to pause. It was because the episode reminded me of one of my brightest former students, who is now struggling yet working hard and strong as a novice teacher. She once mentioned in our circle that, as a child, she used to read the textbook for "Morality" class (we have that as a mandatory class for 1-9 graders here in Japan) like it was the Bible, because she couldn't understand how a good person should act; she was bullied at school and by her family members growing up, and she thought that by acting exactly how it is suggested in the textbook, she would be accepted and loved by others. But sadly, she never was saved by the textbook. Although we did experience a few conflicts among the students in the circle after she joined my seminar due to some comments that she made that didn't show care for others, by the time she shared this story (maybe an year later), she was both a loved and loving member of our community. And remembering how the seminar became a community that she belongs in, I am now leaning towards thinking that what I am doing for them is for more good than harm. (Eriko)

I was very happy

I was very happy because I met new and old friends who love p4c and got the flesh energy to keep and develop p4c from everyone. Dr.J told some impressive stories and on "wounded people" who overlapped my experiences. Shock, distress and sadness make us face the questions of life and make us philosophical. Therefore, the p4c dialogue is sometimes salvation. Two weeks ago I facilitated a p4c in the 4th grade class. In that class, some boys are violent and the classroom teacher is having a hard time. We played some p4c games and came up with questions. The boy who often fighted asked, "Why is humanity on earth?" It is very philosophical. His question moved me and implied that he is struggling and exploring the meaning of life. (by Taketo)

Final Reflections

    The most impactful moments of this symposium had to do with my understanding of the role of the facilitator. Two specific moments around this understanding stick out. First, the understanding that the facilitator must/is heavily encouraged to let go of their ego. By ego, there is the ego that makes us the despot in a class, the ruler that has absolute control over rules and what is considered ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ in the class. I know to let go of that fear of having something not be ‘right’ in our discussions. However, there is also the ego in me that wants to share all my knowledge with my students, not to say they are wrong but to share because I’m excited to share. I began to learn that this ego can also stifle discourse and inquiry. If I always hop in right away to bring up an assumption, or clarify someone's question, or immediately give an example, I am taking the fun of inquiry away from my students. As a facilitator I want to be better at letting my students explore an idea and come to a conclusion, or additional wondering, by themselves with minimal input from me.      Second, I better understand the role of a facilitator in different level communities. By different level communities I mean the loose categories of beginning, emerging, or mature communities which designate how well the community understands and enacts the concepts of intellectual safety/emotional safety and the four pillars of p4c. In a beginning community it may be necessary to “meet a community where it is at.” To me this means acknowledging that this community might have a different understanding of respect and rules that I may need to enforce in order to help my community grow. Practically, this means that if I have an emerging community it might be better for me to directly call out inappropriate behavior to let others know it is not okay, whereas an advanced community might be able to reflect on this inappropriate behavior without me needing to explicitly call out the inappropriate behavior. I must acknowledge where my community is at and identify what they may need to help them become an emerging and mature community; and as my students grow I too will change and grow as the facilitator to better match what the community might need.     I can imagine myself bringing these powerful new understandings into my own classroom practice. This of course means that I need to be very mindful of my own actions, in addition to being attentive to the needs of individual students to ensure a safe environment. Once an environment is becoming safe and the community is emerging I can then begin to relinquish more of my ego and let students come to understandings instead of me always interjecting with my own thoughts and opinions. However, as a teacher I will always be attentive to the needs of the community as things change and evolve.

How do we think about assessment?

A powerful moment for me on Tuesday occurred when Chad asked whether we think of assessment as something done to our students or something the students are doing. I've long lamented the fact that assessment is done to students in a way that seems to give them no agency. But I didn't realize that I was assuming that there's no alternative. The idea that students themselves can do the assessment, and that we can create the appropriate tools to measure that assessment is a wonderful insight -- a genuine "aha!" moment.

Using Games for Saftey.

After discussing the good-thinkers toolkit (GTTK) I learned about a few games to utilize in order to practice the GTTK with students. Games such as 'good idea or bad idea' where the teacher (or students) pose a scenario to students, "What if chickens were 6 feet tall?" then ask "Is that a good idea or a bad idea?" This gives students an opportunity for using the 'Reason' tool when saying if it is a good idea or a bad idea, they could also give examples to support their reason. In addition to practicing the GTTK, games allow for students to share their opinions or thoughts in a 'safer' environment. When something is posed as a game their is less risk in giving ones own opinion since all students are engaging with the same level of risk together and it isn't perceived as 'serious'. This allows students to begin feeling more comfortable sharing their own ideas/opinions while also practicing the toolkit. This concept of safety in games is new for me, and I hope to use more game like activities to help students feel safer when sharing opinions.


In last session, I talked that GTTK is a little bit difficult to translate into Japanese. But this expression is not accurate. A tool means assumption. But this is not whole description in using A tool. As Dr. J and Dr. toby mentioned, children can assume we are married from marriage-ring. Just assuming marriage is not enough. We assume from certain evidences. In short, GTTK is related each other, and each behavior using GTTK is some kind of move in mental act. So, these processes cannot be translated in one word. Of course, we can perform these mental activity in p4c.

Plain Vanilla

I left Tuesdays session thinking about how different it feels to do p4c with other adults than with children. It made me think about the power I have when facilitating p4c, even when I try to participate as a student as much as possible. It was also a helpful reminder of what some students may experience! I felt anxious about coming up with a "good" question before we even finished reading the stimulus. I had trouble thinking about a question as people were still talking and there was no silent time given. I felt excited to discuss the question but also nervous that I wasn't listening as well as I could be. This left me thinking again about the student-teacher and teacher-student roles and how we as educators can put ourselves in vulnerable positions (like doing p4c with our colleagues) to remember what it feels like for our students and to humble ourselves as we continue teaching!

Plain Vanilla

We can read text differently. I noticed the relevance between our questions and how we read texts. Different questions show richness in text. Plain Vanilla has enormous possibilities as vanilla ice cream has. I believe p4c has a great power when we make teaching materials. Often materials are constructed by teachers. And teachers want to teach as they want to do. But in p4c, students can make questions and also they can change whole class dynamics. So, teaching materials are common wealth in classroom. Facilitation reflect on who the facilitator is. It's true. Therefore in p4c sessions, students might notice the teacher's true self. This is why as a result of p4c, the class gets to be more mindful, friendly, gentle. I have new question from this reflection. Reflections in english (not my native language) illustrate me new perspective every time. Thumbs up and thumbs down is good way to evaluate p4c inquiry. But how do we evaluate p4c by writing reflections? And how can we assess p4c learning experience from written articles? Perhaps these are my new research questions.

Intellectual Safety

I have two reflections to share from our Thursday session that arose from the Intellectual Safety post-its. I mentioned this briefly in our discussion, but I keep coming back to the prevalence of feeling words and also descriptions of bodily experiences on the post-its. This included words like: comfortable, uncomfortable, scared, safe, humble, fearful, excited, and feelings of trust. There were descriptions of sighs, eye contact, body language, and laughter. If these descriptions tell us about what an intellectually safe (or unsafe) experience might look like, then I can’t help think (and feel) that there has to be more acknowledgement of this in p4c, and in education more broadly, and more space to let these experiences emerge. I think there’s something here as well around not always privileging the mental capacities of a student and who this might allow into the conversation, who it might give more access too. So, what does this look like in p4c? How do we acknowledge and invite the body and our feelings into the conversation or activity in a way that if not fluffy or disconnected from everything else we’re doing? All of these thoughts and feelings were amplified by Dr. J reminding us that wonder is a feeling (I had never really considered this!). One other thing that I’m continuing to digest was the comments some folks made about inner intellectually safety and how it is often my own self-talk that keeps me from participating fully in a discussion. I have definitely had students who this is also true for, who are so hard on themselves they end up creating an unsafe environment for their own thinking and sharing. I’m excited to think more about this and bring it into the conversation with my elementary classroom this fall.