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  • Writer's pictureNeža Krek

TRANSCRIPTION: HOW TO STOP THE TRIPLE DISCONNECT IN ADULT EDUCATION WITH MAYA BAHOSHY

guest: Maya Bahoshy


How did you get to do what you do?

What is your origin story? What was the spark that said, this is what I want to do?

In retrospect, it all makes a lot of sense. But my journey has been quite secure. I started school and was very much a scientist. Per se, my excels in math and science. In the English system, you focus quite soon and I was advised to focus on what I was good at versus potentially what interests life. I went to university for a very traditional undergraduate degree in physiology and got slightly disillusioned with studies on the subject.

So I then looked at international development, and global health. I knew I was never going to go down the corporate lane. For me, human development was always going to be at the forefront. I explored and played around with the ideas of Psychology at the time, but was very much told I was a scientist.

I worked in international development for a while focusing on behavior change. I decided if I was going to stay in this field, I should probably do a master's because no one understood where physiology got me into international development. If there is one thing that an English undergraduate degree gives you, it is the ability to make those connections and look beyond the subject. I did my Master's in international development and there I really got into the psychology side of it. So I looked at the health behavior change. I did social psychology, and that's where my passions really started to grow within that area.


Do you remember a turning point where your brain and your heart and everything just came together?

When you knew this is where I want to go.

I think it's funny because I went into it trying to stay away and go for the bigger picture rather than health. But seeing classes around behaviour change and psychology and pushing to do that. Then sitting in one of the classes where we learned about theories and processes around how we develop our behaviors. That was very intuitive and fascinating to me in a way. That put everything else aside and I knew that this is where I wanted to be.

I stayed in it, and I actually advocated to work and set up a branch for the organization I was working in. So they focused on behaviour change. It was a humanitarian relief organization and most of this work was more on longer-term development. But I was advocating that no matter what we do, we're going to try to promote some healthy behaviours.

I then moved back to the UK. There was a lot of work back home that needed to be done. I had the fortune of looking at social enterprises a bit more with someone who was doing a coaching course. Looking at more innovative education and youth development. And that really started to ring a bell.

The other big turning point was that I did a coaching training course. And the validation that gave me. Of having been raised on the very intellectual side of academics and hard skill focus. But being innately much more of a soft skill, human relational side. It was amazing to be valued and see the impact I could give.


If I were to challenge you to give soft skills another name, how would you categorize them?

They are fundamental human skills, or relational. People's attitudes are changing about soft skills, communication, empathy and listening skills. They are gaining more weight and relevance. But I think fundamental is definitely the word to give it that gravity. There's an aspect of knowing yourself, being able to tune in with yourself as much as it is with others.

If we go back to your life story, you landed back in the UK and it all made much more sense. You were frustrated about certain things. Then what?

After the coaching training course, I landed upon a sort of career change leadership program called “on purpose”. That took predominantly people who were working in the corporate sector, to train them up and help them transition into the purpose sector. I came from the other end, of already being in the purpose sector but being quite interested in social enterprises.

I needed to be skilled a bit more in that strategic thinking because often where there is passion, there is less structural rigor in the training and the support. So I joined that program and lucked out in landing myself in two youth-based programs. I could be involved in anything from impact investing to community transport programs. My first program was actually with King's College London, in their widening participation, looking at behavioral insights to increase the engagement of underrepresented groups at university. Once again it got me looking at education and higher education. On how to start shifting it and make it more people-centric.

The other one was looking at National Citizen Service, which was a huge national program for 15 and 16-year-olds trying to develop social responsibility, social integration, and social cohesion. There I was, again, looking at the curriculum. What were some of the programs we were implementing? How are they designing some of the workshops to make it impactful? And this was anything from first aid to money management. It was great to see what goes on around education. About how these vital life skills are being taught.

I ended up working on a number of youth programs, different education organizations, and one small summer program. I managed to date crash the big Congress gathering for a set of schools, the United World colleges. I was always interested in their mission of using education for peace and sustainability. So I just showed up and weaseled my way in, which opened a lot of doors in terms of working with youth in very innovative creative ways.

Looking at experiential learning, looking at that final step of personal development for youth around big topics and creating those safe spaces. I also started looking at different education trainings, training with chaos pilots that brought more structure into creating experiential experience, learning experiences and learning journeys, which was fascinating.

What is the reason that you're doing what you're doing right now?

Throughout it all, it's been around helping people reach their potential, open up their doors, help them become their fullest self. It was probably always there. But now in particular, it's really about how we help people. And most particularly for me, the end goal is for young people to become their fullest self for the benefit of the world.

I believe the way that we educate, the way that we develop has been in ways that have led to a lot of challenges. Both mental, societal and environmental challenges that we see in the world today. So by empowering people to become their fullest selves and reconnect with themselves, we can actually help create a better, more sustainable, more fulfilling world.

What is education innovation for you? Is that such a thing? Does this even exist?

A lot is about bringing technology, education, and innovation into the classroom. And yet, the focus has always been on these cool tools, not how we use them. What would be most innovative in education right now is really to sit in and question. What is the purpose of education? Do we need innovation in education? We need change in education.

One of the challenges I have with the concept of innovation is that it's always around something new. And it doesn't let you even settle on this new thing. Because as soon as you've used it, it becomes old and constantly needs to change. Many things we need to bring into education are actually going back pre Industrial Revolution. How to do the innate, learn and understand.

Not so much new innovation and technology, those can be enhancers. But let's go back to actually how all schools learn and connect with each other and bring that into education.


What is your enough? Where will you be at peace and the happiest and educated as you can be?

Growth is one of those very toxic words, I find we're at a workshop around what the future of business learning is going to be there. There's an aspect of it being around their growth. Thinking of limitless growth. It's never enough.

But if you look at Nature's systems, that's not true. And we're really hitting actually the peak of this growth and feeling the impact of that. So if we don't lean into this and allow ourselves to actually ease into those flows, this growth leads to burnout and will collapse. It leads to never actually being satisfied with where you're at right now.

This year, for me, has also been around embracing what is enough. And you can develop. In some ways development versus growth, allows for that easing and accepting for things to change. But it's not necessarily just about growth, growth in numbers, growth in impact, growth in reach. No, how about developing to the needs that are there? And that's not growth.


what's the change that you would like to see in the future of education? If you had a magic wand?

There's the standard in terms of access. But I think in terms of education, an appreciation of the whole person. We think of education as cognitive knowledge. Transfer knowledge, development, even wisdom at that cognitive brain level. But so much of how we move in the world, how we act in the world, how we even process the world actually happens in the whole body.

Hence the true impact of experiential learning. We learn so much from the way that we are and we learn so much from the unspoken. You're sitting in school. You're teaching them, we look a lot around wellbeing in that you can be standing there and teaching them about being well, and how to look after yourself. And yet those teachers are stressed out, they are exhausted.

Their body tells a completely different story. And the students are going to learn so much more from that, than the words being said. So the more that we can actually realize that learning happens through the whole self, and incorporate that into the planning. We're missing and negatively impacting everything that we're learning in education, and therefore, as a result, the way that the world is going.


How would you explain experiential learning? How is that different to other types of learning?

I think in part experiential learning is learning through an experience. But a whole body of experience. And it can be anything from getting an activity where you're standing up, moving around. Putting yourself into positions and learning from the wisdom of the body. To a certain extent where you're recreating and allowing for different ideas and different narratives to come up.

It's not so much practical education. It's really getting up and understanding what are the values. And how does it feel to embody the things that we're trying to teach? So we talk about well-being. How do you create a space where they feel that? You talk about creating safety, those people who are learning have to experience it themselves. To know and be able to recreate it and put the value on it that it needs. Going back to the challenges we see in teaching kids about wellbeing, is that staff are not able to experience it.

You can't truly educate people in that. And I think one of the biggest blocks in leading to this change is that we don't have enough experiential learning as it is. The people making those decisions leading this change, are able to experience the change that they want themselves and don't have the confidence to push it forwards either.


You say that you're a facilitator, not a teacher. Can you talk about that nuance for yourself?

I think the biggest difference between teaching and facilitating is where the source of that information is coming from. In teaching, there is a transfer of information from the teacher, to the student. I have the knowledge and I'm giving it to you. Now you have knowledge. Sometimes within that there is also a bit of: what do you do with this knowledge? But at its simplest, that's what teaching is.

In facilitation, the knowledge, the information and the learning is coming from within the participants. All facilitators do is to create the environment and support the process for that to come out. The participants equip themselves with that knowledge and wisdom. Of course, there's always going to be certain things that need to be taught. In facilitation the wisdom isn't with the person at the front, It's within you. How do you get that out?


I always ask my participants, please, if you need to ask something, ask me. I'm always here for you. But don't forget to ask people around you. And don't forget to ask yourself because you are your best resource.

It speaks to one of those mindsets you learn in school and education. The other person in front, the teacher, is above me. There is a different hierarchy. That's the only place I can learn from versus myself. And teaching and learning only happen in a school setting, not outside it.

I think the idea of facilitation, experiential, getting out of the classroom is that it actually better equips people for the world. As you said, ask yourself, learn from yourself, learn for yourself, and in any context in the world.


Let me ask you like this, if this is what you do, and this is why you're doing it to bring the best out of young people and help them be their best selves. What is the leadership that you had to step into to be able to do this work? What's the growth that you needed to do to be able to do this work?

I'm going to change it from “that I have” to “what I'm still doing”. It is a constant process. One that I'm not particularly good at doing is practising what I preach to a certain extent. How can I learn to learn and trust myself? How can I tune into my intuition, my whole body experience and move away from the cognitive side of it? How can I learn to lead in a way that is more than just that old, traditional way of thinking?

How do you start to unlearn these ideas to allow your fullest potential to come through? I think that's the growth that I need to do. I need to trust as well in the unknown. In the uncertainty of what it is to lead. What it is to live in this world when we crave certainty, which I think is what old school education gives you. Question? Answer.

One of the reasons I loved math and science was that there's a clear answer. Get it right, or you get it wrong, and there's no question about it. None of this English interpretation. Learning to allow myself to sit in that uncertainty. Be safe in that and to allow others to as well.


So why do you think it's so difficult to sit in this uncertainty? Not only for yourself, but for everyone?

I think it is natural. To a certain extent we want certainty. But how much is natural? How much is that already trained in us? How much is it already in our systems? Our systems want to have an answer. Our brain does make shortcuts, such as biases. It's pocketing people into certain things just to make it simpler. Otherwise, it's constant overwhelm.

You look back at the way that we're educated from a younger age. And it is this idea that there is a right or wrong answer to everything. We're trained that it isn't the place to be. Whereas much of the world, especially at the rate of change that we are now up to is uncertain and unknown. How can we learn to sit within that?

The other angle is then to trust our inner wisdom that might be coming up. Because within this unknowing, there is that chance to create. We all know the world that we want to create. But sometimes that is very much at odds with the world that we are told we are living in. So where do we go? It's what we're told, not what we want. One of the key skills in terms of navigating that uncertainty is the ability to look partly inwards and trust, that inner wisdom, that inner knowing.

How did the traditional education trajectory before help or not help you, to really be able to do this leadership, development and growth that you're talking about.

It has potentially done more damage than good. When I realized, I was tasked with setting up an innovation hub in a school. It would be the space where students are allowed to be creative, to look into the unknown, to try what they think might be possible, to design their own project. I had to create this whole new approach to something.

I remember standing in the space, struggling with it, struggling with the uncertainty. Struggling with a need to prosper, and what I not just innately knew. It is not mainstream. I'm pushing against what I have experienced, but what I know is true. And failing, because that was the way that I was educated. I thrived in that education. I did very well, I got good grades, I went on to prestigious universities.

That taught me to find the right answer. And as we just said, in this world or in this uncertainty, there is no set goal. When you're trying to recreate something new, you have to be able to trust that. That's where experiential learning comes in. You learn and you can do the theory or the understanding of the cognitive side afterwards, once you feel the impact of that learning.

What experience can you share with us women who are Listening to this, and can recognize themselves as good student. How can we help them break out of that mould?

Women are even closer to intuitively knowing that natural wisdom and have a stronger grasp of it. Yet, we're also the ones who are strongly conditioned to ignore that. We've grown up very much in a man's world. Growing into the structure and have learned to disconnect from that.

For me, what has been the greatest is finding like-minded women who are maybe a couple of steps along that journey. To help reassure, guide and comfort. If you can't find anyone else who is further along than even someone who's at the same point as you. To question, explore and to rebuild that cross. There are many men I know who are also on this journey. And if you can find them, bring them along as well.

I have learned and I'm very fortunate now to be working in an organization of founders who very much eat, sleep and practice the values around self care, people care and care. That is the guide for me, she calls it out in me to go take that break, when things are overwhelming. Have those role models around you to work through it. The results will speak for themselves if you can give yourself the space to do that.


Can you tell us a little bit about triple disconnect work within your organization?

You look at social media, you look at the world and we become very disconnected from ourselves. We don't hear our internal wisdom and full body learning experience. We've disconnected ourselves from that. That has led to all of the mental health challenges that we see today.

In many ways, the stress, the anxiety, the depression, which is just on the rise. It is heartbreaking to see we have become disconnected from each other. There is more and more a need to make further divisions in the world or the sense to make further divisions in the world. That is leading to greater racism, greater sort of social inequality. This separation is coming from a lot of fear.

Take a step back for your mental health. Then from the societal lens, that social disconnection, we then look at the world that we live in. The way that we look at the rest of the natural planet, as a resource for us to extract for that continual growth that we talked about. Because we are disconnected from the idea of how much we are connected to a part of that system.

So it's these triple disconnects that all reinforce each other. If we're more connected to nature, we have much better wellbeing. I live by a beautiful park. If things are overwhelming, just going and sitting down and reconnecting with nature helps my own well-being. Similarly connecting human needs to each other, because it is natural to need help. They're all interconnected.

Yet, currently, we're in a cycle of reinforcing the disconnects between them. You can pin most of the issues that we see in the world towards that concept. So a lot of what we do, is how do you bring in connection. Through building healthy relationships with yourself, learning to better understand yourself, listening to your needs and boundaries, how do you communicate that in a way? How do you learn to better listen, understand and overcome some of those fears around other people? But how do you start to reconnect with nature and build a healthier, more sustaining relationship? On all those three levels?

If we look at these triple disconnects, could you give the readers who really want to reconnect on all of these levels? Can you give either a tip or a question that can help them to start weaving that connection back?

Learning how to answer the question, how am I? Even if we learnt to start with that, you'd open a lot. How do you listen to yourself? How do I feel in certain situations? And then once you've learned how to answer that for yourself, you can learn how to ask and listen to that from someone else. How is the person next to you? What are their needs?

Just learning to develop that empathy and that ability to sit with that. And then again, similarly, with the world audit, what is going on? How do I learn to listen to the world and look back at what that is giving me as well? Just start with, how are you trying to really create? Honestly, how are you? How am I?

What is the project that most excites you right now? And would you like to invite us to either check it out or somehow get involved? So what excites you?

What excites me right now is the project that we are working on. I work for an organization called Foot Box Education. We are now developing this leadership course around regenerative leadership that is bringing head teachers, and senior leaders, into a space where they can start that journey. If we connect with ourselves and really start with that, before we look at school, before we look at the teaching. Helping them to reconnect with themselves and feel that at that level.

How can we start developing a much healthier ecosystem within the school? To then support the younger people to reach their potential. It's new and exciting. Also terrifying for everything that I've said about sitting in uncertainty and sitting in the wisdom that it is unfounded. Though there is a lot of science and wisdom. We work with nature's wisdom and neuroscience, tying those two together.

There is a lot of knowledge underpinning this. But it's not currently the mainstream and it's not what's known. Working with that resistance in ourselves to trust this process. We are very grateful for those who've already signed on to this, and those who will go down this journey. Because it's truly in tune with these spaces, and changing education that I think will lead to the change in the world that we see.

For me, it is fundamentally to always believe in education as one of the strongest ways to change the world. It's what you teach and what you learn, that sets the groundwork for where we are going.


Links to resources mentioned and ways to connect

Thoughtbox Education - ​​https://www.thoughtboxeducation.com/

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