A Different Way of Seeing

When we go on holiday to our place on the Coromandel Peninsula, we have the opportunity to drive past a particular rock formation from nearly all points of the compass. From the Thames Coast side, it is nothing special against the skyline, but from other angles it takes on striking shapes. Locals call it Castle Rock, but our kids always thought of it as the Giant, because it seems to have the profile of a face like that of the supine (sleeping) Giant in our illustrated version of Oscar Wilde's tale of the Selfish Giant. The point is that whatever vantage point you take, the rock seems to take on a different shape, a metaphor, if you like, of the various perspectives on human endeavour.

I thought of that rock a couple of times this week, while attending an Auckland University Faculty of Education Conference on Supervision. The gathering of about 400 professionals went under the rubric Common Threads, Different Patterns, and called on an image of weaving differing threads of flax together, that had been the theme of a previous conference in 2004. And there certainly were a lot of different threads. I attended because I undertake pastoral supervision for a number of clergy, and was looking for training ideas for our local group as well as fresh insights to my work. (Supervision is the discipline of regular in-depth reflection on one's practice, and work relationships, providing opportunity for celebration of one's successes and examination of one's blunders.) Conference attendees were mainly social workers, with some nurses, occupational and and physio-therapists, and a smattering of teachers and medics. As far as I know I was the only pastoral supervisor there, although two of the workshop presenters from Australia turned out to supervise clergy as well. So I wondered if the proceedings would be relevant enough to justify the cost of the exercise.
I had no reason to be concerned; nearly everything I heard connected in some way with my supervision role. Sure, the keynote speakers were from widely divergent contexts - child protection, iwi social services, clinical supervision of health professionals and university teaching - and their presentations were not specifically tied into the practice of supervising clergy. But each one had nuggets for me to take away, structures and paradigms to adapt, insights to apply. The workshops (67 of them; I got to attend ten) were even more diverse; I chose topics I thought might be helpful, and mostly I was right, but I came away realising the profession of supervisor has many differing applications. Some people must be supervised by their "line manager", so the exercise has elements of assessment and appraisal as well as ongoing education; others intentionally take up supervision from someone from another organisation or in private practice, so as to keep clear boundaries with confidentiality and self-disclosure. Even the name supervision has a variety of interpretations; some saw the word "super-" as meaning "over", others as "extra", and still others as "big picture."
I certainly came away with "something extra" and a bigger picture, and an awareness that like Castle Rock, supervision has a number of faces depending on one's perspective. The image of the multifaceted mountain has given me a tack for a sermon on the diverse community in the first century church at Syrian Antioch (Acts 13) this week. But nowhere did the notion of diverse perspectives come across more clearly than in a workshop using Playmobil figures and a storyboard; but I'll post about that next time!

When this week have you been aware that someone is coming from a different angle than you? Were you able to see things from their standpoint?

Mā te rongo, ka mōhio; Mā te mōhio, ka mārama;

Mā te mārama, ka mātau; Mā te mātau, ka ora.

Through resonance comes cognisance; through cognisance comes understanding;

through understanding comes knowledge; through knowledge comes life and well-being.

Maori Proverb.