The Bodywork of Learning to Teach: Toward a Somatic Framework for Teacher Education

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Learning to teach is a mimetic process of cultivating the postures, positions, gestures, expressions and complexions of pedagogical sensitivity to other beings. Sustaining this learning process is a kinesthetic register of consciousness, heightened through practices of breathing, balancing, timing and feeling, and a somaesthetic register of consciousness, nuanced through practices of energy, flow, vitality and synergy. In other words, learning to teach has primarily to do with the behaviors of being sensitive to children and youth in all their particularities. Such behaviors, while reducible conceptually to skills or competencies, can be understood phenomenologically as being constituted by a motional consciousness that is evidently kinetic and aesthetic and that is subtly kinesthetic and somaesthetic. This experiential stratum, this observable, felt and finessed sense of learning to teach, is examined in a pre-service program where the disposition of pedagogical sensitivity guides the learning of student teachers and those who mentor them. The bodywork of learning to teach is outlined as a set of practices, drawn loosely from the arts and humanities, and specifically from the somatic disciplines of physical mindfulness and intercorporeal consciousness. A particular case is made for incorporating analogous ‘agogic’ practices, as found for instance in ‘equine-guided education,’ in order to attend fully and bodily to the pedagogic practice of learning to teach children and youth.


Keywords: Teacher Education, Pedagogy, Body Language, Phenomenology, Somatic Consciousness
Stream: Teacher Training and Professional Development
Presentation Type: 30 minute Paper Presentation in English
Paper: A paper has not yet been submitted.


Dr. Stephen Smith

Associate Professor, Director of Professional Programs
Faculty of Education, Simon Fraser University

Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada

I am responsible for the administration of pre-service teacher education programs in the Faculty of Education at Simon Fraser University. These programs cover k-12 schooling, across all curriculum areas, and include French programming, Indigenous and First Nations programs, and international programs situated in China, Trinidad, Jamaica, and Mexico. My research has focused on children's experiences of play, pedagogical relations, the body language of teaching, and the components of health and wellness. Recent work addresses teaching dynamics beyond classroom instruction and with what Donna Haraway calls 'companion species.' 'Place-based education' and 'embodied pedagogy' are the recurring themes of my scholarly pursuits. These themes have been pursued phenomenologically and experientially through movement practices ranging from circus arts to horse riding.

Ref: L09P0699