How do we teach and learn?
Published on
November 13, 2023

How do we teach and learn?

In the first episode of Season 2, Tyson sits down with his supervisor and mentor, Rachel Newcombe, to discuss how people teach and learn. They talk about disruptions, the similarities between psychoanalysis and teaching, and what this podcast is trying to do.
Hosted by 
Tyson Conner, MA

Tyson Conner  00:11

Do you want to learn about psychological growth without sorting through the jargon? You're in the right place. This is the Relational Psych podcast. I'm your host licensed therapist, Tyson Conner. On this show, we learn about the processes and theories behind personal growth and experience a little bit of it ourselves. This is season two, where we'll focus on the practice of relational psychotherapy, and explore concepts and theories that consider psychology from a relational lens. And please keep in mind that this podcast does not constitute therapeutic advice, but we might help you find some. And today, my guest on the podcast is Rachel Newcombe, formerly of New York City, is currently a psychoanalyst, supervisor and teacher in the San Juan Islands, Seattle, Washington and New York City. As a teacher she practices a radical pedagogy and thrives in a room of the disobedient, who refuse indoctrination. She learns with and from students who dare to question and make learning their own. She began her teaching career at age six. Her first class consisted of approximately seven stuffed animals gathered on her bed for a make believe story. Her writing has appeared in Contemporary Psychoanalysis, The Psychoanalytic Review, The Tumpus, 7x7 LA, Anti-Heroine Chic,  #Elipsis. zine and elsewhere. Rachel, welcome to the podcast. 

Rachel Newcombe  01:34

Thank you, round two. So we were talking for a good 20 minutes about very interesting stuff. And then you realized the - whatever you call it - wan't on 

Tyson Conner  01:45


Rachel Newcombe  01:46

So let's just pick up or do you want to give a synopsis? We don't have to start all over.

Tyson Conner  01:52

Our conversation today is about this question of "how do people learn? And what does it mean to teach?"

Rachel Newcombe  02:00

And what about disruptions? Right? 

Tyson Conner  02:04

And they come up a lot. And one came up for us today. And we were talking about this, Listener, largely in the context of like, how does a psychotherapist continue to stay sharp, really, and to improve and to grow and develop? The practice of psychotherapy isn't a skill that you like, learn and then have, and then it's set. It's more of an art. It's something that requires regular practice, and regular upkeep and regular discipline to like, stay on top of it. Especially when you practice from this psychoanalytic lens and approach. We don't use manuals in psychoanalysis. And so our learning is not based off of reading a manual and figuring out how it works. And so our conversation was around just how we think about teaching, and how we think about how we learn. We talked about how there was some research that Fred Bush, who wrote a book that you brought,

Rachel Newcombe  03:09

The Psychoanalysis at the Crossroads, and how when he asked people, "when you think about your own psychoanalytic training, what are the things that are most memorable?"And the majority the time people say, 1. their own analysis, 2. supervision, And the last one is always 3. the classroom. Which made me interested and we started talking about why do we think it's that way? And I said, I think the teaching needs to resemble more of the psychoanalytic process that we're actually doing. And that that maybe will change why it's always third.

Tyson Conner  03:53

Right? And we were talking about the idea that in any situation of learning, the teacher and student are, ideally ought to be learning together. That's sort of what you're putting forward. In contrast to this model of like, the teacher has all the data that they just like, dump into the students mind. It's more of an experience where both people learn together. Right? And you just talked about this idea of submitting to learning together-- 

Rachel Newcombe  04:27

Submitting in a good way. 

Tyson Conner  04:28

Yes, yes. Submitting too -- We talked about regression. And the idea that people regress when they learn, and Listener, regression means going backwards is what it means. And in this context, people regress when learning because when you learn, you have to start from a place of not knowing something.

Rachel Newcombe  04:53

Exactly. And not knowing inevitably brings up anxiety.

Tyson Conner  04:58

Mm hmm and there's lots of ways that people try to protect themselves from that anxiety. 

Rachel Newcombe  05:02

So to understand, people are going to protect themselves all different ways. Defend what they don't know, even if they're not conscious, they're doing it. They could be constantly questioning the teacher who they experienced as the authority figure. They could write down everything the teacher says and just assume everything is right. They could -- anything from our very first experiences with learning arise every time we are in the classroom, which is why if we think about the classroom, it's really a psychoanalytic classroom. There are going to be transferences to the teacher, the teacher is going to have transferences to the student. And all of that makes for a big complicated situation. Which is why when things are disruptive, it doesn't mean something bad's happening. It means that's education.

Tyson Conner  05:57

Right. Yeah, I'm seeing the parallels as you're talking between like a therapeutic context and an educational context 

Rachel Newcombe  06:06


Tyson Conner  06:07

For the Listener, to define transference briefly, the idea of transference is anytime you enter into a new relationship, you're bringing in your experiences and memories of previous relationships. And that can get kind of complicated, especially as those relationships start to become more significant. So if a good example of it that's like, really simple, is if you had a teacher who in your elementary school, who was mean, and very strict and very harsh, and this teacher was a man with gray hair, and a big bushy mustache. And if you then go to see your therapist, and you talk to him on the phone, and then you walk into his office. And you see he's a man with a big, bushy mustache and gray hair. And he reminds you of your teacher from elementary school, then you might expect this person to be harsh and mean with you, just based off of how they look. Most transference - well, I don't know if it's fair to say most - a good deal of transference isn't based off of how people look, but rather what they mean to you. 

Rachel Newcombe  07:29

How they look might evoke something.

Tyson Conner  07:32

Yes. And when Rachel's talking about how students will have transference to the teacher, and the teacher will have transference to the students, that transference can help kind of set us up - not consciously, we're not thinking about it - but it sets us up to treat one another in a certain way. And that way might not be the best way for everyone --

Rachel Newcombe  07:52

Or for the teacher to ignore what might be going on that's disruptive, and not use it as an opportunity for further learning, I think is a disservice to everybody. As opposed to maybe "Oh, this is the acting up student or this student always says blah, blah, blah." That can be addressed, that can be incorporated into whatever a teacher is teaching. I mean, if we're psychoanalytic teachers, why would we ignore the process in the classroom?

Tyson Conner  08:25

Right? Yeah. So here's a question. This is a very, like, high level question. But like -- Okay, I'm gonna frame it a little bit -- in therapy, we have this idea of like, psychoeducation; that sometimes when you're working with a client, you will teach them a psychological concept, or you will teach them about how certain things about a person's mind works. And that that's like a part of therapy. But most of therapy isn't teaching. At least that's how we talk about it and think about it. But what I'm hearing you describe is that maybe all therapy is psychoeducation, and maybe all education is kind of therapeutic.

Rachel Newcombe  09:15

I like that. Anna Freud, you know, these two - Freud and Melanie Klein - both interested in how children learn. I would hope that all learning can have a psychoanalytic element to it. You know, when I was in graduate school for teaching and curriculum, I read this book by Arthur Jersild "When Teachers Face Themselves," and then I wrote my end paper on that. And then not even knowing how many years later, I would go to psychoanalytic training, his name came up, and I thought, "so for decades, I have been interested in the same topic. When teachers face themselves, and when analysts face themselves." So our themes follow us. So rather than fight them just go with it.

Tyson Conner  10:09

Right. And it sounds like you're recommending that that mindset is the one that we approach to classrooms, therapy. And people for a long time have talked about that idea in therapy, right? There's that old saying, "it's all grist for the mill." The first time I heard that I was sleep deprived in a classroom, and I raised my hand and I said, "I don't know what that means." And the teacher said., uhhhhhh, and he didn't have an answer, so then I went and Googled it later.

Rachel Newcombe  10:37

So the teacher used the phrase, but didn't know what it meant?

Tyson Conner  10:40

Apparently. I think it threw him off that I raised my hand and said, "Please define that for me."

Rachel Newcombe  10:44

So just using that, what do you make of the teacher going, "uhhhhh?" What was that like for you in that moment?

Tyson Conner  10:53

I kind of felt like I was being a little silly. I felt like I was asking a question that like, wasn't what we were here to answer.

Rachel Newcombe  11:05

Alright, just go with that. What may you have been picking up on that you asked that question. You're the student. And you did ask the question. What are the questions in the classroom? So not to put you on the spot, but I don't think it's just being silly. What may you have been responding to? Because isn't that considered a cliche?

Tyson Conner  11:28

Yeah, grist for the mill. Yeah, kind of a cliche. And also, like, there was an assumption that we all knew what that meant. And I was like, but I don't.

Rachel Newcombe  11:37

Alright, so what? So there's the assumption everybody would know what that meant. You didn't. You raised your hand and asked, and it wasn't addressed. And then you didn't feel comfortable - not right or wrong - to wonder why the teacher was using a phrase that they couldn't explain. Now, so what do you - as you and I are talking about it - what do you make of that?

Tyson Conner  12:04

I find it interesting that that's the example that came up. Because there's an echo of that in what I do on this podcast, right? Where like, even in this recording, you've used phrases like regression and transference. And then I've made sure to go back and define them. Because in my head, there's a version of a Listener who isn't familiar with the language, who doesn't know the cliches, right? 

Rachel Newcombe  12:31

I know that your thing is anti-jargon. So do you feel my using regression or transference; do you think maybe I wasent being sensitive, or just assuming everybody would know what theIy meant?

Tyson Conner  12:47

I don't because you're just in a room with me. I think. And I have the Listener in my mind. And I don't expect you to have the listener in your mind. That's why I want to define these things. 

Rachel Newcombe  12:59

No, I appreciate that. 

Tyson Conner  13:03

I'm in a lot of contexts. And like, part of the reason I do this podcast, is because I'm in a lot of contexts, having a lot of conversations with people about stuff that I find really interesting and important. And because we all have this shared language, and the shared culture, and the shared understanding of what these things mean, we can have these really interesting conversations, that if someone who wasn't familiar with this stuff were overhearing us, it would sound like an episode of Star Trek.

Rachel Newcombe  13:32

So it's a reminder. And that's a reminder for me, too, sometimes, to be aware if I use a word - because we are doing a podcast - you stop me if that comes up.

Tyson Conner  13:44

Yeah. And that's part of my role as the host. And I think part of part of why that memory feels relevant to this is that in that moment, I was being a little playful, right? Like I was being a little impish, a little bit like, "Hey, slow down. I want to catch up here." And I think that my teacher was a little thrown off. And there was something of a conflict there that put us kind of like, against one another a little bit. I had slowed him down, I'd stopped him and stumped him and asked him a question he couldn't answer. And it kind of threw off his groove in his rhythm. And one of my hopes for this podcast is that it could be a situation where if I slow someone down and ask them a question, and get them to redefine something, or go back over something, it's not throwing off the rhythm, it is the rhythm. 

Rachel Newcombe  14:37

But you said you kind of stumped the teacher. So in a way you entered the classroom, the teacher uses a cliche, you basically call the teacher out on using a cliche, because even that word "to stump." So you're having a reaction to the teacher, the one who's in authority. And you're--

Tyson Conner  15:05

We've had many conversations about my relationship with authority. Oh, I didn't say it on this recording, Listener. I see Rachel every week for individual supervision. 

Rachel Newcombe  15:16

Even though you're licensed 

Tyson Conner  15:17

Even though I'm licensed. 

Rachel Newcombe  15:19

We agreed to call it supervision.

Tyson Conner  15:21

We did. And in our conversations, my relationship to authority comes up a lot. And I haven't thought about the ways that this podcast is actually, I think, a creative way for me to play with my relationship to authority; my own as well. Because authority can often mean inaccessibility. And one of my hopes is that these conversations that we have on the show would be accessible to people, maybe helpful. Well, that was fun.

Rachel Newcombe  15:55

So I was just pointing out that even though it sounds like that was a teaching moment, a learning moment that you use, what happens when the teacher is stumped? Is the teacher curious about a student's question? That is an interaction and that I - you know, I fixated on the word stump - you know, you stump the teacher. So does that mean maybe the student knows more, if not as much as the teacher? And or what is even that dynamic? Who knows more? Like what is knowledge?

Tyson Conner  16:33

Yeah. So any psychotherapist, anyone practicing psychotherapy is required by the state to continue their education. And the state has ways that they set that up and evaluate that and things like that. And within the world of psychotherapy, especially psychoanalytic psychotherapy, or psychoanalysis, there is a long tradition of continuing to study and learn and grow.

Rachel Newcombe  16:59

Because one wants to, because a person wants to, because is it's exciting. 

Tyson Conner  17:07

Yeah, it's exciting. And it's fun. And human beings appear to me to be pretty infinitely complex. And so, it seems like the sort of thing, interacting with other human beings and trying to help one another - whatever that means - is, I think something that you would never exhaust learning about; that totally infinite well of learning. And the questions coming to my mind are, "why do people choose to learn the things they choose to learn? And how do people pick good places and people to learn from? What does a good teacher look like?" I feel like most of the folks who would be listening to this podcast are probably more in positions of seeking out teachers, they're more students than they are teachers. Maybe we can talk about how a teacher picks good students too

Rachel Newcombe  18:05

Oh boy, what's the so called good student?

Tyson Conner  18:09

I have no idea

Rachel Newcombe  18:12

How teachers and students sometimes are just thrown together. As you know, more years in, there might be study groups. So we might pick somebody because they're interested -- Well, you're reading a really interesting book now. Right? Karen Maroda's book. 

Tyson Conner  18:30

Yeah, The Analysts Vulnerability, 

Rachel Newcombe  18:32

So people might gravitate towards somebody who has literature they want to learn or wants to learn a theory. But in the classroom, or traditional schooling or psychoanalytic training, we're kind of thrown together.

Tyson Conner  18:46

Yeah, we are kind of tossed together, right. There's not a lot of picking and choosing that happens in those contexts.

Rachel Newcombe  18:53

And my  d I don't know if it, I think maybe it was the part where Tyson and I talked before we realized the recording wasn't working -- But my real interest is in what happens in a classroom that's disruptive, that I feel is an inevitable part of learning. And can the teacher understand it that way? And can students understand it that way? So it doesn't have to be seen as separate from whatever it is they're learning. That is an aspect of what it means to learn and what it means to teach.

Tyson Conner  19:31

Hmm. Yeah, and that sounds like a very, very different way of approaching teaching and learning. When I think about the, you know, the schools that I went to, if there was something that was disruptive to class, then it was something that we tried to get past as quick as possible. If there was a student who was being disruptive in class then that student was asked to leave. It was considered a distract from what we were trying to get up to.

Rachel Newcombe  20:02

it technically is a distraction. And there are levels of how distracting it can be. But it's also a distraction that can be addressed. First with the teacher wondering, why might this be happening now? What is the distracted student wanting? See, again, we teacher and student bring their unconscious process to the classroom. They don't check it at the door. So we have a classroom full of how many students there are, all those transferences. We have the teacher's transferences. So it's a big, exciting soup going on.

Tyson Conner  20:43

Yeah. So what makes a good teacher?

Rachel Newcombe  20:51

It depends what the student needs. It depends, because you and I could be in the same classroom together and afterwards, we say, "Oh, we love that teacher." We might love the teacher for different reasons. Two other students could walk out and say, "Oh, my God, can you believe that teacher? They didn't even ask any questions." So it's whatever the student's learning needs are. Sometimes a student doesn't know what they want to learn until they're exposed to it. So the first thing that comes to mind is a good teacher knows their subject matter. But it's also open to possibilities of what might happen in the classroom. Because when you enter a classroom, anything is possible.

Tyson Conner  21:45

And it feels complicated, if only because in a classroom, there are so many other people involved. Thinking about teaching with a psychoanalytical mind is tricky for me, in part because all of my training and study and experience really in psychoanalytic settings, with some exemptions, have been one on one. Most of my experience where someone was being psychoanalytic was either with a therapist or with a supervisor, or with a colleague.

Rachel Newcombe  22:25

But grad school, did you touch on some of that? Did you have teachers who touched on some of it?

Tyson Conner  22:30

Absolutely. Yeah. And I don't know if I experienced someone teaching this content in a psychoanalytical way. If you're in a classroom of 70 students, is it even possible to keep all of these unconscious elements in mind at the same time? Is that doable?

Rachel Newcombe  22:54

I don't even know. To know they all exist, I think is important. Because some students won't say anything. I mean, who knows? It seems like like an impossible task. But just to be aware that they all enter the classroom that way. That's why I taught that course and love to teach it. The Unconscious Goes to \School. Because it's not separate from a student. It's within a student. And often, a teacher will teach. And they love the so called, for lack of a better word, the "smart students." "Oh, wow, they know so many ideas." But that's just one type of student. What about maybe the struggling student? What about the student that doesn't know? What about the student who's afraid to ask questions? So learning happens all over the place.

Tyson Conner  23:52

So I'm curious to shift the conversation a little bit to talking about supervision. In part because, my guess is most of our listeners will find themselves in situations where they are learning and teaching that look a lot more like supervision than like a standard classroom. Supervision, Listener, is when you have a usually newer, less experienced or less expert therapist who goes to someone with more experience or expertise or specialty in a certain way of practicing or dealing with a certain population, and they meet one on one and they talk about the work. They talk about what the supervisee is doing with their clients or patients and the supervisor helps facilitate the supervisees professional development. That's a very, very vague way of speaking about it, but I think that there are a lot of situations in the world where people find themselves in these kinds of dynamics, especially in workplaces, but also within families. And, you know, within religious communities, there's this kind of mentoring dynamic that seems common to allow.

Rachel Newcombe  25:16

And tricky in our profession is what happens when the supervisee is also going to be evaluated. Whether it's psychoanalytic training or two year program or whatever. How does that affect the dynamic?

Tyson Conner  25:34

And that's really common in workplaces. Like most managers who are mentoring their direct reports, are also in charge of filling out their annual review and saying, "Does this person deserve a raise or not?" Which makes that mentoring relationship complicated.

Rachel Newcombe  25:55

Well, let's use us. Let's talk about our process. So you were already licensed. So somehow we found each other,  unconsciously. And do you remember the first or second session, what you felt?

Tyson Conner  26:19

Yeah. So I - we spoke on the phone first. And I remember immediately afterwards, feeling like, "oh, this will be very interesting." I remember my worry. Because I did have a worry going into it.

Rachel Newcombe  26:37

What was your worry? 

Tyson Conner  26:38

My worry was that I would leave the conversation, feeling like, either, you hadn't shown up b had just like, asked me a bunch of questions. And like, let me talk and then just kind of like, been kind of a blank slate. Which is an experience that I've had with other psychoanalytic mentors in the past, especially in that first encounter, just kind of feeling like they're trying to stay, like really neutral; which is a technique and is a thing that some people respond really positively to, but freaks me out. So I don't like it. So I was a little worried you'd do that, you didn't do that. And the other thing I was worried about is that, from the beginning, you would have a very clear agenda of what a good therapist look like, and that you would try to turn me into that thing. Because I've had that experience.

Rachel Newcombe  27:32

That somebody else's agenda - what it means to be a good therapist, and that they were going to turn you into that?

Tyson Conner  27:41

And I think part of why that one freaks me out so much -- the first one that like blank slate, no engagement, that is just a style that I don't respond well to. And that's a very common analytic style. And some people find it very helpful. And I don't for me. The other though, I think that scared me as a concept. Because I think that's how we approach a lot of training and education. I think a lot of training and education does have this unspoken, unconscious, largely an assumption that there's a there's a good, whatever, good therapist, good soldier, a good doctor, a good student, and we're trying to turn you into that thing.

Rachel Newcombe  28:28

I'm aware, as you're talking now that I never quite articulated it like this. I think my agenda, if there is one is to turn the student or the supervisee into a rigorous learner. 

Tyson Conner  28:45

How do you do that?

Rachel Newcombe  28:46

Well, how have -- well you're certainly a rigorous learner. How have you... How is that?

Tyson Conner  28:48

Yeah, well, it's interesting, because so when I first reached out to you, and said, "Do you have room for another supervisee right now, I was just practicing psychotherapy part time, and I wasn't working in this clinic yet. And that's what we talked about was the psychotherapy I was practicing. And then a little over a year ago, actually, I said to you at one point, "how do you even supervise? How do you do this? This seems impossible. This seems so complicated." And then two weeks later, my life had changed very rapidly. And I was in conversation with Dr. Claney at this clinic, to come on staff here as a supervisor. And so our relationship kind of shifted in what we talked about. We were talking about the practice of psychotherapy, and a lot of the ways that you engage got me to wonder, why do I do what I do? And to be curious about what other people have said about why they do what they do. And then around the time that I was preparing to be in supervision, supervising people, our conversations shifted to "Okay. So now, how do you teach? How do you supervise this intimate relationship of an analytic therapy? It's deep and it's intense. And the way that you choose to interact with your client is like, for a reason, and it's important to think about it." How is supervising any different? That's kind of the first question that we started with?

Rachel Newcombe  30:47

Like even you developing this podcast, so I'm sitting here, I'm in the process with you? And then I'm thinking, "Uh-Oh, what if there's that listener that's thinking, 'oh, what does this have to do with teaching or something?'" Then I realized, just as I say that, that somebody listening to how you and I engage will get a sense of why we do what we do. Because we're doing it. And it's not always pin-pointable. We're open to each other. You asked me questions, I asked you questions. You do something, sometimes when I ask why that choice at that moment, you share things with how you supervise, and I asked the same kind of questions. Do you feel comfortable if --Well, have you confronted me? Not in an obnoxious way?

Tyson Conner  31:41

Yeah. There was that one time about the gender and sexuality thing.

Rachel Newcombe  31:49

Oh, boy. Totally called me out, which is good. Actually an important point.

Tyson Conner  31:55

Yeah. So to frame this, we're talking about, like, how conflict comes into learning? And especially learning in relationships that are active and close. This isn't the kind of -- I don't know how you can apply this to learning from reading a book. But maybe you could? I don't know. So Rachel, and I had been working together for about a year at that point. And I was talking about a situation where I made some comment about somebody who maybe wanted a therapist who was of a political affiliation, who was --

Rachel Newcombe  32:42

A sexual orientation and a gender orientation. And you presented the case. And -- I'm blacking out. So what did I say?

Tyson Conner  32:53

I said, Well, I think that this person is looking for a therapist who's like this, this and this. And I listed three things. And your response was, "and you are none of those things." And my immediate thought was, "well, actually, I'm two of those things."

Rachel Newcombe  33:08

Right. And you told me. So what let you know that you could tell me that?

Tyson Conner  33:16

I think it's this theme that's been coming up in this conversation, the whole time of teaching environments, requiring this surrender to learning, which is an openness to being wrong, an openness to not knowing, which is an open --

Rachel Newcombe  33:36

And assumptions. And we bring assumptions to learning; our own framework, or --

Tyson Conner  33:42

I think part of the reason I felt comfortable enough in that moment, saying, like, "actually, you're wrong, I have two have these identities," was because throughout our process together, you'd asked me, "Well, how do you know that about somebody? Did you ask them? You're making an assumption there." 

Rachel Newcombe  33:59

And I was doing the same damn thing.

Tyson Conner  34:01

Right. And that experience, and our previous conversations helped me to get this sense that 'oh, you're not saying you've made an assumption there. tisk tisk bad job, Tyson.' You're saying, 'Oh, look, you've made an assumption there, human beings certainly make an awful lot of assumptions, don't we? And if we put in a lot of effort, we can try to make fewer, and then we might learn some more.'

Rachel Newcombe  34:25

And you being able to say that, to me, totally opened up I make assumptions. Not that I thought I was above it, but that's the unconscious piece. Why the heck did I make that assumption? And again, you say what is learning? You and I both had learning in that moment. You brought it to me. And how interesting, then you and I went on to teach a seminar about it? We used that as a teaching moment. You and I didn't plan for that.

Tyson Conner  35:02

Mm hmm. Yeah. 

Rachel Newcombe  35:05

So the unexpected encounters; you say what makes a good teacher? Being open to the unexpected encounters.

Tyson Conner  35:13

Right. Being open to the unexpected encounters. The thing I can imagine a listener who's hearing this thinking, like, I'm imagining a listener who is maybe a middle manager, right? Someone who is in a position where they have people who report to them, people who they're in charge of mentoring, of helping to train and to develop, but also has people that they are mentored by and that they report to and are beholden to, in some way. Imagining someone in that position. And I'm imagining that kind of person wondering, "okay, this stuff sounds really interesting." Being open to what happens, learning from and learning with and learning together. This sounds like, to do this means you have to be really comfortable with not having answers. How do you do that? Because not having answers is really scary.

Rachel Newcombe  36:23

Well, not having answers or being open to new questions. Because I have some answers. Like, you could ask me what my favorite books are. I can give you an answer. You can ask me questions. So you're talking about a specific not having an answer. Like, so what do you do? What does the teacher do when asked a question they don't have the answer for? I would hope I say "I don't know." And I would be curious about the students question. "How did you even think of that question, because now I'm thinking of that question." So the teacher to be open to questions that they didn't anticipate, which is again, anything when you walk in a classroom.

Tyson Conner  37:15

Yeah. It feels like this way of teaching requires a kind of security in the teacher.

Rachel Newcombe  37:25

And tolerance for anxiety. Because if you go in knowing anything can happen, it's both terrifying. And it's also quite freakin thrilling. Something's always had been made. And that's the site of learning. That's what I feel is the site of learning.

Tyson Conner  37:48

This space where things are being made?  Mm hmm. I'm thinking about -- we've made this connection between psychoanalysis and teaching. And you've made the argument that like, at the end of the day, these two processes are built on the same foundation--

Rachel Newcombe  37:49

Yes. Because there's knowledge, I'd love to teach any one of these books that I brought. So there's knowledge when we read a book together. But the reason we're in a classroom is because knowledge is also created. What if ideas that you didn't think of, I didn't think of the, other students didin't think of, then come together from us sharing our minds together? Well, with one exception, not at the end of the day, all day long.

Tyson Conner  38:38

All day long, right. That the process is the same. 

Rachel Newcombe  38:47

I just have to say, and you know, me, I don't -- Freud said that three impossible professions are psychoanalysis, government, and education. People often remember the first one psychoanalysis "the impossible profession," but he also included education.

Tyson Conner  39:06

Yeah, it's impossible.

Rachel Newcombe  39:09

And necessarily so, but that's the thrilling part two, it's the ongoingness of it, the excitement of it.

Tyson Conner  39:17

And I imagine that part of what was meant by impossible there, is that you can't be given a list of instructions of how to teach and then teach perfectly every time.

Rachel Newcombe  39:31

Nor is that the goal, same as that's not the goal with being a therapist or an analyst. It's showing up with the unexpected. And that doesn't mean -- and you know, my bias -- I think, to teach you have to be a rigorous learner always ongoing. You know, for me, a pet peeve is taking a course, reading materials aside, and the teacher standing up there and asking for me the dreaded question, "what did you think of reading?" Of all questions, which is why when I teach, I often like to talk about how to read an article, how to engage with an article, how to engage with ideas that you don't know. You know, it's like getting in there. What do you do when you don't know something? Do you say, "Oh, this is too hard?" What do you do when something's too hard? Those are all elements of reading. What do you do with a student who shows up to class, and you have a sense that they're not doing the reading? I mean, again, there are so many different things to manage. And when you think about our profession, there are no guidelines. And I don't know if I think there should be, but I think it's worth considering that nobody's required to take a class on teaching in order to teach. It feels disrespectful to teachers; that 'anybody could teach' as if it's not a profession or not an art.

Tyson Conner  40:57

Yeah. And I noticed one of the books you brought, I believe The Pedagogy of the Oppressed?


 love a chain gallop? 

Tyson Conner  41:06

And is that the book where it talks about the traditional model of teaching where it's, the teacher has the content, and just like puts it--

Rachel Newcombe  41:18

That's the Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire. That he calls the banking system of education, right?

Tyson Conner  41:25

The banking system requirement to study how to teach, is because if you have that banking system in mind, it's just a transfer. Like, "what do you mean, I have to learn how to do it? I have the information, I'm just gonna give it to you. And then you'll have it." And that's how you teach.

Rachel Newcombe  41:44

Even with something like math, which is more formulaic. Doesn't have to be the banking system, because not everybody will come to a classroom with the same math skills, right? 

Tyson Conner  41:56

So part of what I'm hearing you say is for a Listener who's hearing this, or might be wondering, "okay, how do I be a better teacher?" There's a lot of these ideas about openness to not knowing and openness to learning with, and allowing things that you might consider as a disruption to actually be a part of the learning process. To pay attention to the unconscious that you bring as a teacher as well as what your students might be bringing.

Rachel Newcombe  42:22

Well, what I could do is, I can certainly, after the podcast, send you some of my favorite books that address this topic. Because some place to start is to read about people who are loving this topic, who have encountered this topic, who have spent their life, you know, feeling passionate about this topic. And that's a place to start. When I was a fourth grade teacher in New York at a private school, I spent one summer - there was like a six week course, with this teacher, her name is Lucy Calkins - and she wrote a book called something like, Lessons From My Students. And she was teaching writing - this as a Teacher's College, Columbia - she said, "We can teach students writing and grammar and everything from their own creative writing." Like you don't have to take out a grammar book and say, "Okay, now we're going to learn about action verbs." You can take out your own creative writing to the student. "Okay, look, what are the action words?" Everything's integrated. So I see that as being the psychoanalyst job as a teacher too; everything is in there in the classroom.

Tyson Conner  43:43

Yeah, but the thing that Listeners will most recognize your name from is how often I referenced the idea that all theory is autobiography. Because that's an idea that I first heard from you. And it sounds like. part of what I'm hearing you say is, you know, learning is building theory. And so use the students autobiography to do it--

Rachel Newcombe  44:09

Absolutely. And that all of us, you know, if you put 10 analysts in the room, the most fascinating question might be, why do you love the theory that you love, right? And inevitably, we all have very personal attachments to how we wind up with what we love.

Tyson Conner  44:30

Part of what I love about that idea, is how it leaves room for us all to be very deeply human. And one of the sticky points of the idea is that it doesn't let us say, "my theory is just inherently better." And there's a tendency to, I think that we want to be able to do that sometimes. Because if it's just a better the we're safe. If it's just better then we know, and we're okay. And "look, this is the right way to do it because it's best."

Rachel Newcombe  45:07

And after - speaking of autobiography, - after almost three decades in the field, practicing a certain way, interpersonal psychoanalysis, I am being supervised by a client. And how humbling to really understand comparative theory. And I feel so happy that I'm not learning from somebody who is saying "My way's the right way." Like sharing "this is the way I organize my thinking," and it's almost like I wish everybody in the field after a certain point, could try learning a different theory.

Tyson Conner  45:49

This is making me think about one of my teachers in grad school. I went to grad school that was also a seminary. And so I was required to take these theology classes. And at the time, I had just gotten into a new spiritual tradition and changed churches, I like fully joined it and like, did a whole ceremony and everything. And we were encouraged in this theology class, to join a reading group where they were studying a theology different from our tradition. And I went, and I talked to the teacher, and I said, "Listen, I know we've been encouraged to study something outside of our tradition. But I just joined this one, like I am less than a year into practicing this kind of religion." And what she said was, "she thinks about someone's theology like a garden. And when you first plant your garden, you want high walls around it, so that things don't get in and trample over it so that seeds don't blow in and get planted in your soil. But once your garden's grown up a little bit, and your plants are sturdy, you tear down those walls, so that you can cross pollinate with the other gardens. That like there's a developmental process to it, and that it's okay to find something that you identify with. And you say, ' like this, this works for me.' And to dive into it." And what I'm hearing you say is, you hope that at some point, you're also able to dive out of it into those other traditions.

Rachel Newcombe  47:22

To see why this garden is so pretty, or that gardenis so pretty even, you know, if it's different than mine. And, Hmm, maybe I do want to plant a petunia in my tulip garden. Maybe there's room for that.

Tyson Conner  47:37


Rachel Newcombe  47:39

Well, you have certainly turned me on to books and podcasts that you love. And the one that stands out the most. And I told you, I then referred it to my colleagues. Can the Monster Speak? I never even heard of it. But that's kind of cool. Is that a cross pollination? Yeah, I think so. I mean, and then I pollinated my colleagues. 

Tyson Conner  48:05

So there's one thing we haven't talked about that I want us to if we have time is the role of independent learning in all of this. Because we've been talking about learning and teaching in group settings, in individual settings. But again, thinking about the Listener, realistically, like this podcast is an individual learning experience. It's a little experiential, because you get to listen in on the conversation --

Rachel Newcombe  48:34

But somebody who finds this, maybe on purpose or accidentally, hopefully, it'll spark something, or, 'Oh, what are those books Rachel mentioned? Or what's that book, Tyson? Can The Monster Speak?' They might go and look. And that will take them down, you know, into their own huge Botanical Gardens, right. But so independent learning, you asked what makes a good teacher - I always had this fantasy, psychoanalytic training is usually four year., I always had this fantasy that somewhere in there, there would be a fifth year. And a teacher and advisor would say, "you are to spend one year in the library. Any library or several libraries of your choice. Don't go with a plan. Just begin reading. You could start with Anna Freud. You could start with Florenzi, anybody. You could go to the fiction section." I think to encourage the rigor of what it means to read. So I think that helps an independent learner or podcast but that you have to constantly be saying, "What am I doing to learn?" And not be a chore.

Tyson Conner  49:52

That's where my mind was. I've spoken to a lot of people who will have books that they read that are like work That's like, 'I'm reading this because it's good for me to learn it. So I will read it.' And there's something about that, that choreness of it, that feels -- I don't know, I don't have many words for it, but it feels like it doesn't quite fit the theory that we're working with right now.

Rachel Newcombe  50:20

Well, my colleague, Larry Green, we're co presidents of IFPE, or international forum for psychoanalytic education. And just a few days ago, he said to me, "Oh, Rachel, you have to read her chapter on empathy." And I said, "Oh, I know somebody who's reading that book right now. You!" So how interesting, two people who I like are reading the same book. And just being open to that also. I like her earlier writings, haven't read - but now the two of you have read it, and I absolutely am going to read it or listen to it.

Tyson Conner  50:55

Yeah. Karen Morada's The Analyst Vulnerability

Rachel Newcombe  50:59

And knowing you and I were going to do a podcast. I read her article, I think from 1998. 'Is Psychoanalysis Unteachable?'

Tyson Conner  51:10

Oh, shoot is it?

Rachel Newcombe  51:15

Who knows? But I loved the article. I read hers and Thomas Augden's 'On Teaching Psychoanalysis.' They were good companion pieces. But what did you mean by independent learning?

Tyson Conner  51:30

I'm thinking about how, for many people, the idea of learning on your own is something that's taken on as a chore, or as an assignment. Or there's the sense that, 'well, if I'm going to be an intellectual person in the world, then I need to read this book that they talked about on NPR,' or something. And I imagine you might have thoughts about other compasses, other ways of guiding you through your independent learning.

Rachel Newcombe  51:55

One question, what interests you? 

Tyson Conner  51:58

Oh, there you go. 

Rachel Newcombe  51:59

Yeah. What interests you?

Tyson Conner  52:01

What if the answer is young adult fiction?

Rachel Newcombe  52:02

Then go there. After this, you know, Elliott Bay bookstore, it was their 50th anniversary yesterday. So I'm going up there and the most exciting thing is I don't have a plan. Sometimes I go looking for a book. And just to go and see what draws you. You know, that's why that whole fantasy of a year in the library - See what draws you, you know, see where you unconsciously follow your interests. There are certain things you must read, like if you go to a formal psychotherapy, but after that, there's the whole thing that Deborah Britain calls 'after education.' And there's a German word, which I couldn't even begin to pronounce, means 'after education,' the education after one's formal education, and she feels that education inevitably fails us. Not because it's bad, the impossibilities of learning. So there's always the ongoing education.

Tyson Conner  53:04

Yeah. So for a Listener who's feeling like 'okay, this is all very interesting. And it sounds like it's important to do this independent learning, this independent reading and studying,' what I'm hearing you say is follow what interests you. So then, how do I know - if I'm a listener - how do I know if what I'm reading is just entertainment?

Rachel Newcombe  53:27

Do they have to be separate? I told you when we were outside last night, I went to see Hedwig and the Angry Inch. You take your interest in learning and it could happen anywhere. Like why do they have to be separate? I don't know if that's an answer. I found myself being curious about the playwright, about Berlin, about everything.

Tyson Conner  53:53

So then learning is an experience that's defined by curiosity.

Rachel Newcombe  54:01

The individual's curiosity. 

Tyson Conner  54:03

So if you're reading a book, and you find yourself curious about it, then there's learning. And it doesn't matter if that book is Winnie the Pooh, or Michael Pollan's most recent book, or whatever else people are talking about around the watercooler.

Rachel Newcombe  54:24

this year at the IFPE conference, the theme of the conference is -but is it psychoanalytic? And one of the people who's getting the Distinguished Educator Award is not an analyst, but a podcaster named David Naiman, who has this wonderful literary podcast called Between the Covers. David prepares and asks people he interviews some of the most psychoanalytic questions I have ever heard. So then there's the question is, could something be psychoanalytic and not be in a psychoanalytic classroom? So then it, you know, following your thing, ifsomething is entertaining, of course, you're learning from it. You learn from everything. So what haven't we addressed?

Tyson Conner  55:21

I think the only thing on my mind -- so in terms of further learning from this, you have a stack of books. Links will be in the show notes Listener, go to the show notes. And you can find links to these books. Also, you know, whatever else, podcasts, YouTube videos...

Rachel Newcombe  55:42

Then I'll mention the ones that I mentioned, IFPE, David Naimens. podcast, John Totten here in Seattle has a wonderful podcast... What was I going to say? Oh, so when you thought about the podcast, you were interviewing me, did you have ideas what it would come out? Like what it would look like? Or how do you feel now as we're winding towards the end?

Tyson Conner  56:05

I've been thinking a lot about what this podcast is recently, and what its gonna be because this is going to be part of our second season. Our first season, we really just trying to find our feet. Our second season, we're trying to be more intentional. And this is about what I expected. There's a part of me that feels anxious that this isn't accessible enough. And when I listened back to it, I imagine I might feel differently. I think that's just an anxiety that's with me in this podcast for this season, especially. My hope is that people are surprised by this conversation. Because I think people are used to conversations about learning and education and development, personal, professional, intellectual development as being kind of like, "well, first this and then this, and then this and then this." 

Rachel Newcombe  57:04

Like linear. You mean?

Tyson Conner  57:05

Yeah. And my hope is that people's experience of listening to this conversation might be one where there was kind of a real refusal to lean into the linearity of it, and an openness to what came up and to the disruptions that we dealt with with the recording.

Rachel Newcombe  57:26

And I told you, I was thinking, "I'm going to be asked about education. I don't know anything about education. What if he asked me a question I don't know the answer to? What if, what if the listener says, 'well, she got transference wrong?'" So anxieties never end. It's just living with them. But anxieties for me come up when somebody goes, "Oh is she an expert?" No I'm just somebody who loves this topic.

Tyson Conner  57:56

And selfishly, one of the reasons why I love podcasts as a genre, is because it's a chance for people who love a topic to just talk about it, and you can just listen, and I love that. So I hope that listeners feel that way about this episode. 

Rachel Newcombe  58:11

And I like how present you are --

Tyson Conner  58:13

I love--

Rachel Newcombe  58:15

as a podcaster.

Tyson Conner  58:17

Thank you. I try to be. I have been fortunate in that every episode we've done I've been very interested in. I think the one thing that I'd be curious to hear - we try to talk to people about further learning options. But also, when we can we try to offer an experiment, which is just the word that we use for 'something that a listener could do to try to get some experience of whatever we've talked about.'

Rachel Newcombe  58:50

Okay, so you're wanting me to have an experiment? No matter what town you are in, please go to an independent bookstore. Without a book in mind, let yourself wander for an hour, whether it's the cooking section, the zine, section, the biography, and just let yourself wander. And if you can afford it, buy a book.

Tyson Conner  59:25

That is a great experiment. Well, it helps that that's what you're up to later today. 

Rachel Newcombe  59:31

Not looking for a specific book, and if you can't make it to an independent bookstore, do the same thing in a library.

Tyson Conner  59:38

Right? Yeah. I love that. And I think part of why I love it is because I think if there's an oversimplification of our conversation today, it would probably boil down to something like, "let your interest and your ability to be curious and not know guide the process."And like, that's what you're recommending.

Rachel Newcombe  1:00:03

And that's what you just synopsized perfectly.

Tyson Conner  1:00:06

Well, let's wrap it up. Thank you so much for coming in and for your extra time, especially with the disruption. 

Rachel Newcombe  1:00:12

No worries.

Tyson Conner  1:00:13

Special thanks to Rachel Newcombe for coming on the podcast today, Rachel's twitter and instagram handle is @RachelNewcombe8, link in the show notes. An example of some of her hybrid writing can be found at the ellipsis zine online. A link to that is also in the show notes. If this conversation interested you or engaged you in any way, hopefully, it won't surprise you to hear that there are an awful lot of options for further learning. Also in the show notes today. The one thing I would love to highlight is the International Forum for Psychoanalytic Education, an organization which Rachel is currently the copresident for. As of the time of this episode's release, IFPE's 2023 annual conference is about a month away, it'll be held in Pasadena, California this year, and registration is still open. Links to many of the books we talked about, as well as the podcasts that Rachel mentioned, are also in the show notes. The Relational Psych Podcast is a production of Relational Psych, a mental health clinic providing depth oriented psychotherapy and psychological testing in person in Seattle and virtually throughout Washington state. If you're interested in psychotherapy or psychological testing for yourself or a family member, links to our contact information are in the show notes. If you are a psychotherapist and would like to be a guest on the show or a listener with a suggestion for someone you'd like us to interview, you can contact me at podcast@Relational The Relational Psych podcast is hosted and produced by me, Tyson Conner. Sam Claney is our executive producer with technical support by Ally Raye and the team at Virtual Ally. Carly Claney is our CEO. Our music is by Ben Lewis. We love you, buddy.

Further Learning: 

The International Forum for Psychoanalytic Education:

Between the Covers Podcast:

Between Us: a Psychotherapy Podcast:

Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire:

Psychoanalysis at the Crossroads by Fred Busch:

When Teachers Face Themselves by Arthur Jersild: 

Can the Monster Speak? By Paul Preciado: