The SPDN in Edinburgh on 21/22 April, 2015
What’s love got to do with it? This question was at the very heart of the 12th event of the Social Pedagogy Development Network, which sought to explore the role of love within professional care and educational practice. Clearly, the theme resonated strongly as we were overwhelmed by registrations, with 200 places filling up within 10 days! Thanks to the fantastic efforts of the City of Edinburgh Council, who hosted the event with support from Edinburgh University, the Centre for Excellence for Looked After Children in Scotland and Harmeny Education Trust, we were able to extend the number of places and welcomed an amazing 240 participants at the day event.
Around two thirds of those participants had joined us at the evening seminar, hosted at the magnificent City Chambers. The evening seminar started off with short presentations by Mark Smith (Edinburgh University), Laura Steckley (Strathclyde University), Pat Petrie (Centre for Understanding Social Pedagogy), Nicola Boyce (St Christopher’s Fellowship) and David Kingswood (Capstone Foster Care) sharing their perspectives on love within a professional context. You can listen to these again thanks to the Radio Edutalk recording available here:
Following these thought-provoking presentations that highlighted the complexities in, challenges around and reasons for talking about love in a professional context, the conversation was opened up to the floor. And this showed the real strength of the SPDN: for the next 90 minutes the microphone made its way around the hall, and a fascinating conversation unfolded thanks to the thoughtful, critical and inspirational contributions from many of the participants. Some shared their practice experiences, some reflected on the wider systemic and cultural issues and what could be done about those, whilst others voiced their hesitation to use the term ‘love’ and talked about other ways in which we can show love.
The evening seminar concluded with a fantastic entertainment programme by young people from Edinburgh. The Marvellous Adam dazzled participants with his remarkable magic tricks; the girls from the Royal High School Fiddle Group provided an excellent medley of Scottish music, and Alan and Kyle Rowan from Firhill High School were a brilliant double act on the accordion and keyboard, which brought the evening to an atmospheric close as the fiery-red evening sun slowly sank behind the city skyline.
Due to the huge interest, the day seminar took place at Edinburgh Conference Centre, thus enabling us to accommodate all 240 participants who had signed up. The programme began with welcoming words from our 4 host organisations and an energizing group activity aimed at bringing everyone together and conveying a sense of being part of the SPDN. Much of the morning was centred around exploring the meaning of love through a creative activity, which was kindly provided by Dawn Williams and her artist pedagogue colleagues from the Sage Gateshead. In groups around each table, participants were encouraged to draw the outline of each others’ hands and heads and gradually fill these outlines as part of their dialogue about the different ways to express, convey, understand and experience love. To guide participants in their exploration, we introduced Gary Chapman’s 5 Love Languages, which illustrates that we communicate love in very different ways and therefore might not understand the ways in which others show their love. In their feedback, many groups made reference to the concept and felt that this has relevance to care practice in several ways.
The afternoon offered participants a diverse range of workshops to either explore social pedagogy in more depth or find out more about how love features in practice. Most workshops were repeated in the second round after a coffee break. Below is a break-down of all workshops. Materials from these are available to SPDN members on request.
- Exploring your questions on love in a professional context – Robyn Kemp (ThemPra) & Nicola Boyce (St Christopher’s Fellowship)
- Integrating love in working with families as a local authority – social pedagogy in practice – Robert Koglek, Jutta Weber & Karolina Slovenko (London Borough of Hackney)
- The Pedagogic Corporate Parent – Scott Dunbar (City of Edinburgh Council)
- Using outdoor learning as an effective tool for developing positive trusting relationships – Kyle Strachan and Tracy White (Harmeny School)
- ‘You can’t require someone to love someone professionally – the two things don’t actually marry!’ Love as a gift in residential care for young people – Majella Mulkeen (IT Sligo)
- Introduction into social pedagogy and HHH Project – Liliana Santos and Christine Spurk (City of Edinburgh Council)
- Threshold concepts in child and youth care – Graham McPheat (Strathclyde University)
- The P.L.A.C.E. of love – Edwina Grant & Courtney MacLean (Grant Consultancy & Training), Janet Sinclair & Fran Rooney (City of Edinburgh Council)
- Falling in love with being loved – Love in foster care – Amanda Mercer & Anne Kunz (Aberlour Fostering)
- Why We All Need Love: The Lessons of the Past – Ian Butler & Simon Booth (Breaking the Cycle)
- Soup, Support and Sustainability – Jeremy Millar (University of the West of Scotland) & Alex MacFie (Beith Trust)
- Social Pedagogy in the UK today: findings from evaluations of training and development initiatives – Claire Cameron (UCL Institute of Education)
- Love is like a Rubik’s cube – Jonna Fraser, Patricia Walls & Keith Boyle (Kibble Education and Care)
- Of Love and Kindness – Max Smart (East Lothian County Council)
In drawing together the reflections, learning and actions arising from the event, the last 45 minutes of the day were devoted to 4 reflection islands designed to stimulate reflection around 4 key themes. Here is what people share on each:
What has inspired me – and what am I still grappling with?
I still grapple with all I don’t know. Much to learn, early traveler but will learn
The amount of people supporting SP practice!
The concept of bringing love out more openly at work is intriguing
Cultural change towards love in the therapeutic relationship
Being with friends and hearing their stories
That we are in our pathway, doing okay!
The greatest thing in life is to love and be loved in return
What does love mean?
Other peoples experience and the reflection that took place throughout the day!
The idea that love is a necessary aspect within work context is still one that I need to mull with/over!
WE need to commit to the kids/young people view of their own family
Made me think about different expressions and way to express love
We all have the right to be loved even in the most difficult situations
Made me think about the restrictions or encouragement different organisations allow us to love
Every person is valued and treated with respect
Made me want to think/talk/do/read more about love and the meaning of love for our professions
It is ok to say “I love you”
I know I need to fight to keep our loving cultures and discuss its importance/value
I always thought love looked different at different stages of life … I knew it!
Made me think about love in organisations
I have been inspired & have lots of ides to take back in to my work
Inspiration on how to start more exploration about love with groups
Wholeness and connectedness. Meeting many people and many impulses. Still little emphasis e.g. in workshops on adults.
My understanding of different people’s exp of love within work context and its complexity
In the way that I work today is always with the strength of heart that I worked yesterday
Challenged my thinking … awareness of others
Feeling part of a greater development
How important it is to explore love & the meaning + how to filter this into each individual/workplace
Think how to be authentic, work out how I can show my love to different people/children. Ask different questions. Listen.
The very positive movement of Social Pedagogy – across the caring profession
Listen to my heart. It’s telling me the truth.
Love isn’t something to be scared of …
We all have something to give
Love is more than words
No fear just do it
Love is communicated in many different ways
Without emotion there is no passion and no vision …
My challenge is to get a language of love in to all my meetings
My commitment is refreshed
I will bring love in to the conversation
Today has confirmed my belief that love very much has a place in care/social work across the sector. It can and should be communicated in one of the many ways explored today.
I learned that I have permission to talk about emotions at work and I can choose to work out how best to show my emotions of love and care to the young people and their families – 3Ps
Grappling with constraints of “love” in a professional context
Inspired by the icing video – so creative!
Self-empathy in to ones situations
Grappling with knowing people out there don’t feel loved
If I can easily love one child but not another, then how can I make my care for the second complete?
Real-life stories being shared
Inspired by genuiness. Grappling with other people’s fear of being human.
Inspired: all the different ways we can show love to others
Love does not dominate it cultivates
Love brings out the best of a person
Not smiling just hurting, not hurting just smiling!
Recognize that ‘love’ comes in many shapes
What has inspired me? The people that I have met; the enthusiasm for learning; I have experienced social pedagogy to inspire hope!
A vision of how things could be – grappling with how we change things from the top down
The stories, the experiences, feeling of love
The wonderful experiences and stories have been an inspiration; the space created and the love and warmth people put into organisations and participating on the dialogue and event
“I am not alone” – sun kissed muddy puddles shows light where there is darkness
Sometimes words come first and then feelings (It’s great that folks are talking about love)
What has changed for me through today?
Not as scared to bring the “personal” in to my work
Re-affirmed this is all about who you are and acting on what you feel is the right things to do
I have a powerful need to work in an environment where I am around people who understand Social Pedagogy
Relationships are at the core of what we do as a social worker I will always put that before paperwork!!!
Nothing wrong with showing emotion. Importance of emotional intelligence in the professional
Reflect on my & others feelings/emotions/actions
Continue to explore
Self-awareness & attachment keep the conversation going
Listening … finding the positive & telling the person why they are SO great!
Learn about yourself
Be around people who know how to express love whenever/can
Start/continue a dialogue in different settings (foster care, resi, social work, education, health)
Dialogue and hoping to reduce fear of love in professional context
Stay up to date with research & developments
Continued reflection as relationships change and take different manifestations
Reflect, listen & learn
Don’t over think it
Start conversations with staff kids about how they feel – love
I will remind myself daily that love should be in all I do
Will keep trying to connect with like-minded folks – this has been SO helpful today
Emotions are real!!
Speak from the heart
Lead by example
Language/words around love – complexity of love
Using the example + inspiration to communicate to my students
Including it in practice – supervision, training etc.
5 languages of love – self concept
Think how to be authentic, work out how I can show my love to different people/children. Ask different questions. Listen.
What will I do to share my learning/reflections?
Ask how others do it
Spend more time talking and reflecting with others.
Lead a team development day at work
Challenge regulations to discuss issues of love – put heads above the ? and talk openly about loving kids
I will be listening more too young people and work mates
Live my learning
Communication, Writing, new creation
Lots to integrate in to my fostering
I will give some feedback to the groups I belong to and people I work with
I will start new conversations
Pay attention more to relationships
Change the language we use
Have a conversation with colleagues about love
Bring love + relationships in to LACS!
Use the language of emotion
Use the concept of wellbeing rather than ‘5 outcomes’
To share stories & to learn other stories. Read about those who have loved & changed lives.
Social services education – get more SP!
Voicing ideas for simple changes to incorporate love/relationship in to the work place including paperwork
One requires Haltung to be able to help our children in an organic + loving way
Progress, a reuse of what the arts/creative element of social pedagogy can do for our work
How can I continue to develop my understanding of love in a professional context?
Open up more and don’t be afraid to show it
Continue with personal development
How can I not continue to promote love in my work?
Talk, discuss with others
Remember love is all around us
Keep it on my agenda
Can I hear the echo of love?
Share my knowledge and understanding to enhance others
Love as an attraction ‘tell’ or authentic approach
Continuation of dialogue and discussion
Be open to the fluid, unique and changeable concept of love
Let it flow
To continue to apply the approach to my work
Read and do!
Learn & love
Keep talking and caring about self, colleagues + children
Share! The question how?
Take time at the kitchen table – let’s sit together.
Spend more time reflecting with colleagues
Reflect + role model. Inspire + bring creativity to life
Listen to everything if it is too much use just the bits that feel good
Listen and learn
Talk and reflect life!
Incorporate in work place
Cook soup on an open fire after our team meeting sometime soon!
Talk, share, explore
5 languages … How many can I learn!
I am going to sing
Do something nice even when someone does not deserve it.
Come closer to an understanding of what the limitations of love are!
Just love me x hug x
Find other people to talk about + practice with
Share the hope that’s in the world despite all the crap!
Say the ‘love’ word
Communicate & share
Share the love with colleagues
Discuss love with my colleagues
Write a letter
Reinforce the whole concept of family Gab’s story of drunk Mum + coffee – we don’t do enough of it!
Filter the concept of love with colleagues + young people
Keep talking about love with colleagues and with young people and families
Love is undefined & undefinable + can be different for everyone
Love is like jam – you can’t spread some without getting a little on yourself
The love for children
Professionals can give/need love too!
Understanding and to give more
Love is kind
People inspire me, thinking, dreaming
To develop and explore love
All the different definitions of love in ancient Greek – we need more in English!!
These contributions beautifully illustrate how excited participants were to bring a little bit more love into their professional practice and perhaps to include love more in their perspective on practice situations. They also show the reason why the SPDN is so inspirational: its participants are truly passionate and inspirational in their own unique ways. And when they come together it is impossible not to be captivated by this sense of excitement and determination. As we hope to further grow the SPDN, we’re always open to new participants who would like to join the movement or just get a little flavour of social pedagogy. If you would like to participate, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to hearing from you.