Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Conversation: An Exchange

You know what I love most about education?

Conversation.

I love the general exchange of ideas--sometimes with ulterior motives and sometimes just for the sake of discussion.  I think we learn so much from sharing thought processes or ideas about general concepts.

Tonight, as I had dinner with my former cooperating teacher, I remembered why I loved her classroom so much.  She was the type of person who could come up with really abstract ideas or thoughts and follow those concepts through to some seriously cool classroom activities/discussion topics.  She's an artist at heart, so the manifestations of creativity really shouldn't be shocking.

But they blow my mind.  Tonight we discussed the concept of "Into the Woods" and the way fairytales take people to that very place--literal or figurative.  We talked about food in movies and the way food is often portrayed in literature (specifically in reference to the Rossettis and "Goblin Market").

It was a stimulant for my poor, overloaded head.  I've spent too much time recently trying to figure out what grammar lessons I really need to address with my freshmen.  I'd forgotten the hidden jewel that is conversation.  I'd forgotten that the best conversation all year happened during my Genocide Unit.

The students and I were discussing the concept of objectification and I asked, "What does it look like?"  They came up with the general ideas of racism and sexism, but were completely shocked when I wrote "PORNOGRAPHY" on the board.

All of a sudden, twenty teenage boys look at the ground and refused to make eye contact.

It was awkward for all of 5 minutes.  Then we discussed why pornography fell under the idea of objectification.  We talked about letting small things into your head without analyzing them and how sometimes those small things manifest themselves into bigger ideologies.  They got the concept that pornography has the potential to grow into the something that cannot be contained or controlled.  Then, we find ourselves in a mess we never intended to experience.

It led to a brief conversation about the purpose of school, the practice of thinking and the need to become good citizens.  It led to a realization that the things they're doing now, the ideas they are cultivating, really matter.  Those things will affect who they are and who they become.

And all because of a simple conversation.

But I'm not content to stop there.  I want more conversation.  I want them to be willing to discuss concepts, ideas, movies, books, music and politics.  I want them to ask questions, listen to each other, provide feedback and address issues that affect high school or the world.

I want to throw out a topic and know that there's going to be such a whirlwind of involvement that I never get a word in edgewise.

But right now I'm kicking myself for forgetting that conversation is probably the best tool we have at our disposal as educators.  We have an obligation to engage these students in conversation and help them to understand that this type of communication is our best hope for education in America.

At least, I think that would be a good conversation starter.  Feel free to contribute.

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