Shea Williams’ Blog Series: Cherry Juice with a Small Side of Humble Pie
I went on a fantastic course a few months ago. I learned SO MUCH and I cannot wait to share a bit with you all. I’ll start by saying the procrastination is real. I have been putting off writing about this for over a month now, fearful that my words would not do this trip justice. But I’ve learned that it doesn’t have to be perfect to start — but starting is perfect.
Quick explanation of the trip — it was an Erasmus+ project, looking at the adaptation of resources/tools for refugees to various country context. During my internship with Global Learning London, I co-facilitated CPD’s for teachers about migration and so I was keen to improve my skillset and look at these tools within the UK context. The training took place in Istanbul where I had visited with my family years ago and fell deeply in love with cherry juice.
I am extremely proud of my Blackness and will never choose to hide it, and I am also aware not everyone sees it that way*. Being aware of the racism in European countries (and about anywhere else in the world), I came into the trip wondering how I’ll be received by the others. There are certain European countries I just wouldn’t feel comfortable going to, some of which had representatives attending. I remember looking at the participant list and mentally bracing myself for the worst.
Right away, the people were so kind and welcoming. In fact, I’ve never experienced a group dynamic quite like it. Despite so much difference (I was the youngest and the only Black person) I didn’t have that hyperawareness I often experience. There were no country cliques at all; just mingling, fruitful conversations and pure laughter. I had my assumptions of people challenged head on, a new but necessary experience. I still would hesitate to visit some of the countries, but it’s always nice to be reminded there are good-hearted people in all spaces even if I rarely see it myself.
My favourite part of the experience (other than running to the supermarket on the first day and buying as much cherry juice as I could carry) was grasping the concept of Experiential Learning. In a nutshell it is a theory that suggests learning is not just a stand-alone act; it is a continuous, lifelong spiral that covers all the steps of feeling, reflecting, thinking and action. We all dominate in different areas of the cycle, and I happen to be in the analysing area (between reflecting and thinking). It is characterised by the ability to integrate and systematise ideas through reflection.
Being aware of my own learning style was one thing but being aware of the way other people think was game changer. Of course, we know that not everyone is like us, but having that deeper level of understanding is a huge asset. From workplace conflict to group projects, a lot can be learned and resolved with even acute knowledge of the way Experiential Learning works.
Group projects, for example - one person might want to get into an activity right away, whilst another might think planning is the best way to start. It can easily lead to misunderstanding or appearing difficult.
However, with an understanding of your learning styles, you may just fall under different styles – Analyser and Initiator. These styles can work well together when understood and utilised correctly.
It could be interesting for a headteacher at a secondary school to utilise the survey so that teachers are aware of their students learning styles. And think about incorporating learning styles into grouping. You can find out more and take the test here. Please do comment your learning style, I’d love to know!
It was a great trip. Don’t get me wrong, I had a few racially motivated experiences. The stares, the microaggressions here and there — touching my hair without permission, etc. I can only imagine the looks if I’d have worn faux locs instead of knotless braids. Not that I care, in the words of a true South Londoner “I’d still do it with my chest”.
This is probably my longest blog entry so far, but with good reason. I learned so much in so little time and cannot wait for my next learning trip (by the time you read this I’ll already be on a plane 🛫). The main lesson I will take away from this experience is that having a level of scepticism can be healthy at times, but completely closing yourself off from opportunities because of the people you think you’ll encounter is not always wise. Besides, we’ve got to travel, upskill ourselves live our best lives regardless; no matter who may try to get in our way.
If you’ve gotten this far then you have to promise me that you’ll try cherry juice 🥤
*Random tip for this month — try to replace words like “but” and “however” with “and” in your sentences. Contrasting conjunctions such as those seem to negate everything you’ve just said, when in fact it’s extremely valid. Notice how I used “and” instead of “but” in this sentence:
‘I am extremely proud of my Blackness and will never choose to hide it, and I am also aware not everyone sees it that way.’
I can be aware of these things simultaneously, there is no need to contrast them. Give it a go and tell me what you think!
Shea joins the Global Learning London team as an Associate, facilitating for our ‘Towards an Anti- Racist Curriculum’ as well as ‘Shared Ground ’ training for school staff.