Saturday, June 07, 2008

Keeping the frame, keeping your cool

I learned a lot in my first full week with my summer chaplain students (this past week). I had some anxiety going into the week as I had not really scripted out minute-by-minute exactly what I was going to be doing on each of the five full mornings of educational program that we had together. I knew that it is very important to give students some sense of a stable and predictable frame, especially in the early weeks of a program, and I was afraid that if I didn't have such a scripted program prepared for them there would not be enough of a frame.

But, in the end, I decided two things as we were entering the week:
  • 1) More important than having a scripted frame for these students, was having a supervisor who was not wracked by anxiety (and who could therefore be able to be present for them and be able to listen -- and respond -- to their concerns).
  • 2) That a frame could be set just by having predictable start and end times for the educational program.
So, what I did was throw away my the expectation I was putting on myself that there should be a scripted program. Instead, I had a list of important things I wanted to get to during the week. Each day, I decided which ones I would try and get to during our time based on what we had been able to do the day before. I think it worked pretty well and maintained for the students both a predictable frame and a supervisor who was able to be present to them.

It surprised me that I was able to do it this way. I had often witnessed my supervisor taking this kind of (relatively) unscripted approach, but I thought I would be different from him in this regard when I took on this kind of task on my own. It turns out I was more like him than I thought I would be. But, I was, as I wrote in my last post, different in one important respect -- I used the group, rather than individual setting, much more for the initial work of asking students what they wanted to do and how they hoped to do it.

The next two days are the holiday of Shavuot, and I will be unable to be with my students. This will -- in congruence with my theory of supervision -- give a good opportunity for much needed צי מצום/tzimzum from me for them.

I look forward to hearing from them about their experiences when I get back.

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