Respectful Conversations

It’s the second week of school. I had to sub last week for an English teacher who had a family emergency. No problem! Except that I teach science, and the whole conversation-using-words-discussion-thing isn’t my forte. The teacher assured me that these sophomores had been trained last year in how to provoke and continue conversations. As freshmen? Yeah right! 

While I boggled at 15-year-olds rationally discussing (for 45 minutes!) the meaning of “human”, I kept track of what they did with each other. They carefully listened to every comment and question they generated as a class and as individuals. They respectfully agreed and disagreed with each other. They shared favorite or striking quotes from the articles they’d read. I even heard, “so I pose to the group,” more than once. These students were able to carefully consider their classmates’ opinions, yet keep their own thoughts and ideas without drama or smack downs, and with no particular ends to their conversations. 

To say I was (am!) impressed is an understatement. 
I’m posting this here, because it’s an important reminder (at least for me) that kids do need training and modeling in how to behave in academic settings. If we want more conversations, we, as teachers, need to show them how to do that. And we also have to show them how to respect answers from anyone, along with how to respond to those answers. And perhaps most importantly, we have to show them how we listen and further the conversations, rather than just finding particular answers and moving on (I definitely need more work here). 

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