I often circle or tip-toe around a subject.
This is a comment I feel to have received a number of times over my lifetime.
I cannot help but think of a predatory bird circling ahead, observing and watching from all angles, looking for the decisive moment.
Or in this case, the decisive question.
This has not been forthcoming, so this reflection seeks to hone in, to take a better look at the land of critique.
Critiqistan, if you like, I certainly do.
Because there is something in queering critique, decolonising and intersectionalising critique that is of deep interest.
But step back for a moment, the why of critique? I do this because I feel my own trauma has affected my studies throughout my life, in relation to tutors and peers, from primary to university and beyond.
It is this feeling of constantly being alien in a hostile environment, that I wish to quell. Or at the very least, temper.
It is my belief that for those of us with a cynical view towards the world, and therefore the institution, will often interoperate neutrality as negativity.
Perhaps they, like me, will also engage in self-sabotaging behaviours in relation to self-determination, that hinders their ability to honest with themselves and live a life with integrity consistent with their personal sense of morality and justice.
That is to say, what is not important, is to affect their journey. What is important, is to make sure they do not ‘go off piste’ or ‘off the rails’ as a result of neutral or negative criticism.
Ok, so now that’s clear(ish), how does this relate to the ARP?
The ARP is a series of questions, and so I will present a series of questions as my ARP.
I like the simplicity and self-referential nature of this creative action, fitting of Aikido or wu wei philosophy (approximately, action through inaction, flipping the question or the reverse uno card).
So the core part of ARP is action, reflection and personal practice. Now that I am clear that I wish to ‘leave no student behind’, what can I do?
To make a football analogy, I am thinking about the Belgium National Team, who are famous for their track record in developing young players. There are some useful takeaways that the Belgium Blueprint provides: a focus on education and resilience, and a desire to stop young players from slipping through the net. Romelu Lukaku, Kevin De Bruyne and Vincent Kompany have operated at the top level, but it is interesting that Simon Migniolet was signed by Sunderland because of his desire to balance studies alongside his playing career. There is too much focus on ‘superstars’ and that every player with the commitment and desire should be given the opportunity to develop. Given that football is one of the most competitive of competitive worlds, mental health for those that ‘don’t make it’ is a serious issue. Often these players feel isolated and cannot talk about their struggles.
Back to the ARP, I want to make sure I can account for every student in my care, and to do so in such a way that does not over-burden or overwhelm me.
The question I am asking now is, how can I develop a practice of critique that centres the student wellbeing?
How can I use trauma informed pedagogy to make sure that no student is left behind to struggle alone?
How can I create a connection with students who may be cynical towards institutions?
What information exists out there to help me best facilitate trauma-informed critique?
Thinking hollistically, I cannot check on each student individually on a weekly basis, but beyond best practice in the crit, when a challenge does arise, how can I check in a form of post-critique aftercare?
I am thinking of the student who cried in a crit adjacent to me.
I am thinking of the student who does not engage in the workshop.
I am thinking of these various opportunities that are not taken, and harm that may be caused. Some difficulty is part of the creative process, but it is not our jobs to add to the difficulty, it is our job to help students manage this challenge themselves.