Tag Archives: listening

Words Have Power

Words have power.  They can hurt…and they can heal.

Our students have been learning about our local history.  They’ve studied the lives of the first settlers, learned about the homestead act, and are fascinated by the stories of those who lived here before us.  And they’ve taken these stories and invented their own playground game.  They call it history.  Essentially, they role-play the lives of these early settlers–some playing the adults, others the children.  (Our school is a part of that history–one of the early schools of the area)

But at lunch recess today, it all went wrong.  Things got rough, and mean words and hurtful actions happened.  We got a heads-up from one of the playground monitors, and expected to see tears as we headed out to our students.  But things were surprisingly calm…until we started to walk back to the classroom.  As the story unfolded, we got a glimpse at both our students’ creativity and imagination…and the escalation of energy, excitement, with some poor choices sprinkled on top of it all.  It became clear that this was not a scuffle between two students, it was a result of good intention, poor choices, swelling anger, and overreaction.

So instead of the plan we had in mind for the afternoon, we decided to address this incident with the entire class…to help our classroom community grow and hopefully give students more tools to use to resolve their own problems.

After talking through the pain and frustration and hearing a variety of perspectives, my teaching partner Margit pulled out a book she had bought a few weeks ago…one we were saving for a time when it seemed useful…and she began to read.  Grandfather Gandhi by Arun Gandhi and Bethany Hegedus tells the story of Gandhi’s grandson and his feelings of anger…and of not living up to his grandfather’s reputation and expectations.  The ultimate message is that anger is a normal emotion that we all experience–it’s how we deal with it that matters.  Gandhi explains to his grandson that anger is like electricity.  It can split a living tree in two.  Or, he explains, it can be channeled and transformed.  A switch can be flipped and it can shed light like a lamp.  We can all work to use our anger instead of letting anger use us.

IMG_4977

We talked about the difference between being a bystander–one who stands by and sees things escalating and chooses to do nothing.  Or we can be upstanders, people who make a positive difference and think about how they can help.  People who notice when things are escalating and make an effort to change the dynamic.  For our young students, that might mean summoning an adult or using kind, calm language to help their classmates remember to pay attention to the choices they are making.

Our students took some time to breathe out the pain of the negative lunch interaction and breathe in some warm light…and turned to a partner to talk about what they learned from Arun Gandhi’s story of his grandfather.  One student asked me, before heading out for afternoon recess, if they could still play the history game or if it was now off limits.  I responded by reminding that the game itself wasn’t bad…and that I believed they could play the game as long as they remembered what had gone wrong before, and made different choices.

Our students are wonderful.  They are inquisitive, imaginative, and caring.  And they are kids. They get excited, wound up…and sometimes they make choices that get them into trouble. The words we use as adults are powerful too.  We can use them to punish or we can use them teach.

As we sent our students off for spring break today, I could feel the caring and the healing in our community.  We all learned today.  Words hurt…and words healed…and we all learned.

A Conversation With a Duck

Sometimes a conversation with a duck takes a surprising turn.

mallard talking

This guy had a lot to say about my camera and the intrusion of his privacy.  He stood right up and let me know that my attention was not wanted.  Before I had walked toward him, he had been sitting in this spot, relaxing in the cool and sunny afternoon sun.  A couple of females swam nearby.  This little body of water sits next to a local community college…across the street from the local lagoon.

mallard swimming

As I walked back toward my car, this mallard continued his conversation as he stepped into the water and swam upstream, against the current.

I’ve been working to capture some of the sounds I hear on my photo walks these days.  And it’s hard.  When I am out walking and taking photos and noticing the world around me, I also hear amazing sounds…like the conversation with the duck.  Unfortunately, the microphone on my iPhone is simply not sensitive enough to capture these conversations with nature.

Today I headed out to a portion of the lagoon I had never explored before.  It was strangely desolate…dry, smelly…not the lush environment I experienced closer to the shore.  I could hear so much more than I could see in this setting.  Birds called, dragonflies and bees buzzed, the rushes whispered, and I could hear the white noise of the traffic from the freeway not far in the distance.  I came across this sign…and it made me wonder if the birds take note of information like this!

bird sign

As I explored this dry and deserted environment, I noticed these strangely unique plants…I don’t know what they are called and haven’t seen them before…but was immediately drawn to them.  My husband called them alien flowers and immediately began a narrative about visitations from aliens (he is a big sci-fi aficionado).  Personally, I think these thistle-looking flowers are beautiful!

alien flowers

As I walked along the road away from the lagoon toward my car, I found myself thinking about the distinctions between weeds and native species…and in many cases, I think they may be one in the same!  I doubt that anyone planted these flowers, but I recognize them as native.  I have seen them often in and around the lagoon…and they are lovely…especially as they blow in the sea breezes.  They are like miniature sunflowers or daisies…brilliant yellow…the definition of spring!

flowers near lagoon

I walked through many patches of these flowers growing wild along the side of the road, attracting bees and other pollinators, and simply making the road more beautiful than ordinary dirt and asphalt ever thought of being.  And then I noticed this tree, large and stately…and likely home to many birds and bugs, and shade to many more.

tree near lagoon

I learn so much on my walks with my camera…even when I don’t capture it in images.  Today I was much more aware of sounds than images.  What looked like dried grasses and brush hinted at a richness of life within.  I could hear birds calling, the rustle of animals, and the wind singing in tune with the plant life.  I came across a hidden babbling brook and wondered if the water were fresh or brackish.  At one point a bee came to whisper in my ear and stayed with me longer than I really wanted.

And so I am reminded to not just look…but also to listen to the world around me.  There is so much to be learned from a conversation with a mallard or the whispers of a bee, if you just take the time to listen.

Listening: Becoming a Connected Educator

Earlier in the week I posted about being a Connected Educator.  Since then I’ve also been thinking about those educators who are connected but not yet putting their voices out in the digital space professionally.  Lurker is the term I’ve heard to describe people who read on social media but don’t comment or post themselves.  But lurker has such an evil sound to it–as though they lurk in order to gain information for underhanded reasons.  In some ways they seem to me to be listeners, like those students in my classroom who are soaking everything up like sponges but can’t yet bear to raise their hand and make a public comment.

Like the students in my classroom, I suspect that those digital listeners will at some point begin to comment and post for themselves, they just aren’t ready…yet.  And since I started this blog (almost three months ago), I have had many instances of people making comments about my content when I’ve had no evidence of their interaction.  It feels a bit odd at first.  Almost like someone is eavesdropping on a conversation that they are not participating in.  But then again, I am making a choice to put my writing and thinking out in the public sphere.  And whether people chose to comment or “like” my blog post is a decision for them to make.  It also reminds me as a reader of blogs and other social media that I read substantially more than I comment or otherwise indicate my presence.

And I also know that sometimes it just takes the right condition to get someone to dip their toe into the social media waters.  If you listen to the NWP radio show on being a Connected Educator you will hear Abby and Janis and Barb talk about getting started and how much it helps to have support, like when our SDAWP teachers take on the Twitter account as @SDAWP_Fellow for a week.  (We adapted that idea from Sweden’s practice of having a citizen take on the country’s Twitter account.)  It’s also like having Barb and Matt’s support when trying out blogging on our collaborative blog, SDAWP Voices.

Today for my #sdawpphotovoices photo-a-day I took a photo of what I thought was some kind of fungus making a silky white coating on the leaves of our hibiscus plant.  When I posted it to Instagram and Twitter, I got a response from one of my colleagues from my school site via Twitter telling me that this “fungus” was in fact white flies.  I knew my colleague had a Twitter account, but she seldom tweets.  I do try to nudge my colleagues when I see something that I think will interest them by “mentioning” them on Twitter.  (I know I’m more likely to respond when someone “elbows” me and points me to something that has been posted.)  I did this on Friday with my colleague when I saw an app I thought she might find interesting.  And she acknowledged that tweet by replying.  And then today, without a nudge, she shared valuable information with me about my plant.

photo

There are stages to being connected.  Most people start slow (I know I did) and then work up to more active participation.  For most of us that’s how we learn to do a lot of things.  We watch, we listen, we test, we get some feedback and then continue to increase our confidence and participation–or abandon that thing altogether.  As educators we can’t afford to abandon digital literacy or being connected educators, but it isn’t necessary to jump in the deep end. There are lots of support systems out there.

In what ways are you connected?  What is the one thing you will do in the next week to increase your connectedness?  Will you comment on a blog?  Respond to a tweet?  Tweet a link to an interesting article or blog post?  Start a Twitter account?  (You are welcome to follow me @kd0602)  I’d love to know if you are willing to post your goal as a comment!

Whose Voice? A Soundscape Ecology

A tweet crossed my feed this morning with the following message:

When a person dominates an event, the group shows less intelligence. #ADE13

Just those few characters in a tweet already had me thinking about voices…those that get heard and those that don’t.

And then I came across this TED talk by Bernie Krause talking about his study of wild soundscapes.  He introduced me to three new terms to understand his research:

1.  Geophony–the non biologic sounds in an environment like wind and water

2.  Biophony–sounds that living organisms make (not focused on the individual, but the sounds you hear all at the same time)

3.  Anthrophony–human sounds like airplanes, cars (things we think of as noise) or even music that is soothing or aesthetically pleasing

Bernie goes on to explain that the soundscape ecology can give us a great deal of information about the health of a habitat.  His point is that our eyes don’t give us all the information we need to assess the world.  Sometimes our ears can tell us things that our eyes cannot see.

Careful listening is also important in the classroom.  And I think, like Bernie, we need to listen to what sounds we hear…and what sounds are missing from our classroom soundscape.  The classroom soundscape includes the obvious sources: teachers and students.  We need to listen to not only who speaks, but also to what kind of speaking is going on.  Does the teacher dominate the talk time?  (Yes, instructional speech counts!)  What about the students?  Who talks?  Is the speech competitive or collaborative?  What role does silence play?  And what can we as adults do to shift the soundscape ecology?

What does it say about the group’s intelligence when some voices dominate?

What do you think?