Going with the flow…

‘When people are aligned to their purpose, when the gap between values and behaviours closes, what people experience is a stream of ease’ (Lewin 2000)

I first heard this Roger Lewin quote about 10 years ago. It was in a workshop for teachers about leadership in ELT and it was led by my friend and colleague Adrian Underhill. It really struck a chord with me – so much so that the very next day I quit my job at a UK University and decided I would try to do something which was more aligned to my purpose.

At the time I was teaching English as a foreign language to students who were being pushed through courses to get them ready to do a degree in the UK. The materials imposed on us were very dull and dry, the students didn’t seem to want to be there (and neither did the teachers!) and the whole process of language teaching just felt like a series of hoops to jump through – no creativity, no fun, no flow..

For me what Lewin is saying here is that when people really believe in what they’re doing, everything just seems to flow and they are capable of achieving almost anything. It doesn’t feel like work – it just feels like ‘a stream of ease’.

When I started doing online sessions under the Hands Up umbrella that was the feeling I had and I think it’s the feeling that so many of our volunteers have when they connect to young people in Palestine for their own online sessions for the Hands Up Project. It’s also the feeling I still have when I do sessions these days. Much has been written about the importance of motivating learners but I think teacher motivation is also something we need to emphasise, to nurture and to celebrate. And if the teacher’s experiencing flow because they are fully committed to what they’re doing then I think there’s a very good chance that the learners are too.

Schools in Palestine have been closed since March but this hasn’t stopped us from enjoying ourselves doing Facebook live sessions and zoom sessions for kids at home. And we’re really pleased to announce that after our two week break everything will be starting again from Monday.

Now, I got a real kick out of the performance aspects of the session below – playing the role of the Kamishibai storyteller with a bicycle and trying to speak Japanese, as well as playing back the stories of the participants as they came in.  What motivates you as a volunteer with HUP, or as a teacher in any other context, may be entirely different of course. So when do you experience flow as a teacher? Please write a comment below.


Lewin, R (2000) Complexity; Life at the edge of Chaos ; University of Chicago Press

2 thoughts on “Going with the flow…

  1. what a flow of thoughts!
    thank you Nick for sharing this amazing piece.
    As a teacher , I think that being motivated is the crucial key towards to help the students learn. The students can feel it in our hearts , live it in our minds and take it to theirs .
    One day , I announced that we are going to do the play of “Jbena”. I started narrating the story to the kids and they were totally engaged , then I started perform.it and they were getting under the umbrella with me performing all the things and started to expect what’s next , and finally we sang the chants togethet . It was just the harmony between me and the learners that helped to achieve the outcome.
    ” If you.believe in them , they believe in you ” and I think that’s the main principal in teaching. so , do what you love , love what you do .


    1. Thanks for your lovely comment Haneen. I think you’re completely right about our enthusiasm rubbing off on the students and yes I totally agree that stories are a wonderful way to enter into a shared motivating learning experience with the learners.


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