A brief comment about adolescence feels relevant here.  Current research in developmental psychology has told us that adolescence, as a phase, extends at least through age twenty-five.  It is important to recognize that when we talk about adolescence, we’re not just referring to gawky teenagers, but to university students as well.  This research should be influencing, to a much greater extent than it is, how universities work with students.  Instead of being gate-keepers adhering to archaic notions of “rigor”, universities should be encouraging exploration and innovation.  Instead of a reliance on tests and grades, they should be trying to encourage creativity and risk taking.  I believe that the university of tomorrow will get rid of grades or completely alter evaluation processes and will focus, instead, on the positive psychological, emotional and spiritual development of students.  This, obviously, will be in addition to their being able to apply critical thinking and creativity to their work.

When we talk about creating playful learning communities with heartfelt communication as the norm, some people worry that we’re turning the classrooms in to some kind of therapy.  This worries teachers as they typically feel unprepared and unwilling, quite rightly, to take on any kind of therapeutic role as teachers.

O’Reilley, however, counters this fear by meeting the concern about “turning the classroom into some kind of ‘group therapy’. She observes that good teaching IS, in the classical sense, therapy.  Good teaching involves reweaving the spirit.  “Bad teaching, by contrast, is soul murder.” (p. 47).  When O’Reilley talks about reweaving the spirit she is referring to such nuances of teaching as asking questions when you actually care about the answers.  She is challenging us to cultivate genuine inquisitiveness about our students, their thoughts, their ideas, their struggles and their issues.  We are now talking about engaging with our students as fellow human beings and welcoming who they are and what their lives are like now in to our classrooms.

At the same time we also have to create ways for our students to interact with each other and themselves reflectively.  As O’Reilley asserts, “If we can get our students to listen to what they are doing (themselves) we will have taught them a great deal.  Yet I make these suggestions about classroom practice with great trepidation because we as teachers have so long evaluated ourselves on conscientiously ‘correcting’ every single student mistake.  Teaching English (for example) has become a branch of the police.” (p. 48).

Good teachers don’t want to “police” their students.  This is a given.  So.  What can teachers do to transform their practice?