Three participants are already waiting inside, as a stroller enters the meeting room. “This person is in the wrong workshop”, I think as I walk towards the young woman. She quickly extends her hand to greet me, while enthusiastically saying “I'm really looking forward to this workshop! Do you have any objections to me bringing my baby along?”
Before I can reply she inclines her head toward the stroller to indicate a tiny sleeping infant. Stuttering, I answer in my best English: “You are obviously experienced and we do have an extra room if you...need to...ah......
“Feed, change his diaper, and tend to him if he starts crying.” she finishes, then laughingly rushes on to say “I'm so glad I'll be able to take part these next few days.” Her happiness is apparent and sincere.
I head toward my colleague from Hungary, who has been watching this scene with the mother/student, for her opinion. Her look sends me a quiet message of approval: “It's just fine with me.”
As I turn to give an encouraging nod to the young mother, I notice several new students, talking and laughing, coming through the door. Behind them I see the outline of yet another baby stroller. I walk over to greet this new mom and look into the stroller: a baby boy, about three months old, gazing up at me, smiling.... I think, we can do this!.....there's always room for one more.....welcome.
Stavanger, March 2015: by invitation from the University and in co-production with a colleague from Hungary (also a teacher of supervison skills), we gave a three day training workshop for 1st and 2nd year students of supervision. In total 14 women and 1 man attended the module How to deal with diversity in supervision which offered an opportunity to work, discuss, practice and complete exercises within this given theme. The mood of this first day is rather strained as people struggle to get to know one another and work to understand the overview of the program discussion when so far all talk is in English. We make it possible to hold some practice in Norwegian.
We are impressed by what we see when they talk in their mother tongue: the non-verbal language teaches and shows us a lot……
In Norway, women receive either 52 weeks of maternity leave at 80% of their wage or 42 weeks at 100%--fathers are eligible to take 4 weeks of this leave. Thus, it appears obvious that in this country one's child both grows along and comes along as a parent furthers her career. In the coming days I will witness how both the docents and participants are affected by the addition of the babies into our group.
Let's check in on the two babies: they are behaving as if it's very normal to be included--sometimes they sit on their mother's lap and other times they fall asleep in their strollers, in the next room with the door ajar.
A group of women (and the one man) are excitedly discussing in their subgroup and practising an exercise. Suddenly the sound of crying....
I realize I have begun to identify the sounds each baby makes and head into the next room to pick up the little boy. While the group carries on their discussion with great enthousiasm, I walk through the big workshop room with him in my arms. The crying stops as I quietly sing to him. He may not have understand the words to the song but rewards me with a big smile and looks right into my eyes.
A moment of reflection—in the “here and now” strikes me: besides the supervision concepts of thinking, wanting, feeling and doing, is there also room for feeling swept away? Because this is what is happening to me now: teacher is overcome with emotion, baby in her arms, students incredibly hard at work. What a wonderful environment in which to learn. I wink at my colleague...we understand each other....the group is working well: we give them autonomy, and our trust that their efforts while using their own language within each subgroup are creating places of learning.
A little later both teachers are walking with babies in their arms....crying seems to be contagious. Hungarian songs must sound equally as appealing as Dutch and Norwegion ones---long live diversity!! We “meet” each other in this big space, changing the outlook each time we move.
Later we sit in a big circle....the intimacy of the moment now broken but another intimacy develops: both babies are now nursing while someone from each subgroup relates the process of the exercise they practised. Concentration is high, experiences are diverse, and there is laughter.
In evaluating the day it appears that participants are managing better in English than this morning....for some reason there is less tension in the atmosphere.
One mother asks everyone: “Did anyone have a problem with having the babies here today?”
The first answer is mine: “On the contrary....I'm grateful for this experience. I hope the babies come again tomorrow.”
July 2015 Gerian Dijkhuizen
The module described above was developed by a project group of ANSE. This module was given for the first time in Stavanger, Norway, March 2015. For further information, search: www.anse.eu