7 Conversations About Dialogue Education
It was a day rich in conversations….
Conversation #1: The School Bus Driver
“You should call your MPP and ask them to change the school bus stop….” said the school bus driver. I was dropping the Ruffians off and I was late to meet the participants at the workshop. I didn’t have time for a lesson in civic engagement. I really had to go!
I threw my leg over my bike, hoping he’d take the hint, but he continued in halting English, “You call them. Tell them four things….One!...”
Sigh….doesn’t he realize that I have to go teach a course on Dialogue Education…..
Then I caught myself: walk the talk, man. He was trying to help me, after all, and doing his best to communicate in what is likely his second or even third language. I’m also guessing he came from a country where civic engagement was a lot more dangerous than it is here.
I also realized that my kids were on the bus watching how I’d handle this interaction: Respect, I reminded myself. Affirmation. Honour him as a Subject….. 10 minutes later I thanked him and rode off….
Conversation #2: The Cyclist
He buzzed by me on at the intersection: a blur of reflective tape, and wrap around sunglasses on a speedy mountain bike. Stuck in the present moment-of-inertia on my much heavier bike, I slowly pedaled the Mighty Ute along First Avenue as he became a distant speck.
But ah! red lights are the great equalizer! “Just like the tortoise and the hare,” I quipped as I caught up with him three blocks later at Bank Street.
“How do you like that bike?” he asked, nodding at my longtail cargo bike.
Our bike-geek conversation ran for the next four blocks through the Glebe, along the Canal, and over Pretoria Bridge. He also had young kids and was looking for a bike that they could ride together.
I was reminded again about Ivan Illich’s argument about bicycles and conviviality. About how riding on a bike is more human-scaled and sane. It also permits more social interaction with other cyclists and pedestrians and helps to build community. A journey of interaction and discovery together au velo. We parted company a block before the church.
Conversation #3: The Learners
Day 4 of the Learning to Listen, Learning to Teach: The Principles and Practices of Dialogue Education workshop.
The eight participants were doing their second, 30-minute practice teaching using the steps of design framework. I hung back as an observer, taking “I Liked…./How About…” notes for our feedback session, as they actively engaged with topics like human trafficking, cross-cultural interaction when traveling, promoting sustainability, and sustaining yourself as a change agent….Heavy topics, but approached through small group tasks, drawing, floor diagrams, drawing, sculptures, craft, deep pair conversations….They were brilliantly applying many of the concepts that we had discussed.
But then at one point, I realized that one of the conversations had taken on a transcendent tone: they were so thoroughly engaged in the conversation that they were no longer even aware that this was a practice teaching session. The Safety created by the design and the welcoming tone set by the facilitators had taken their conversation to a much deeper level.
30…29….28 seconds…the timer clicked down the remaining seconds while they continued oblivious to my presence or the outside world. I switched the clock off and sat back in awe. This was what Jane might call “sacred space”.
Conversation #4: The Bread
I took advantage of our WHERE and baked that morning in the adjacent kitchen. One loaf went upstairs to the Lectio Divina group we had bumped. The other was munched during one feedback sesssion as we reflected on what worked and what we might do better another time.
You don’t make bread so much as facilitate its growth: Create the right conditions: a bounded space, warmth, time… add in the right ingredients: sugar, leaven, flour, salt…mix them up and let them interact, nurture the living dough by kneading it occasionally to release the gluten, fold it over and recombine it, leave it alone to do its thing and rise….bake at 375 for 35 minutes and let cool. Serves multitudes.
Conversation # 5: The Teacher
“There you are, dear!” Jane beamed over my laptop. The Skype connection to her backporch was working brilliantly. “Can you see the dogwoods blooming behind me? Did you hear those birds? I brought the choir with me!”
Each participant bent down in front of my webcam and said hello. Jane carefully wrote down the correct spelling of their names, making a connection with each of them, and lavishing affirmation.
She then led us through a synthesis task on Axioms of Dialogue Education. It was fitting given that they were, after all, her axioms.
Across the airwaves, across the wires, borders, and miles, we “wrastled” with the paradoxes, holding the tension: “Don’t ask what you can tell; don’t tell what you can ask; tell in dialogue”, “let the design take the burden”, “the learning is in the doing and deciding”, “pray for doubt”….. Lots of stories, great questions, laughter, an appreciation of how to honour differences, deepen learning and work for peace.
Conversation #6: The Daughter
“How was your course, Daddy?” An Open Question! I love it!
Then again, Zoe has grown up immersed in the world of Dialogue Education. I remember laughing the first time she said, “How about….”.
Or the time when she was three and she bit Trish for no reason. Standing in front of the television and searching for an appropriately serious consequence, I seized on the first thing that came to mind. “That’s it!” I roared, “No video-time for a week!”.
Knowing that she had crossed the line, she didn't argue about the video. After all, she had seen the cartoon 20 times already. But what really upset her was that she hadn’t had any prior warning of what the punishment was going to be.
“I didn’t agree to that consequence!” she screamed. It was the principle that really upset her.
She was already the Subject of her own learning. She’ll be a lawyer, I just know it.
Conversation #7: The Neighbour
Our neighbour, Lois dropped by to talk bicycles and explain her latest wrist injury. She’s 12-years-old but already completes 160 km ski marathons and races cyclocross. She’s fearless and consequently is always sporting some sort of injury. She’s my hero.
The conversation switches to school, homework and learning theory. “I’m a very kinesthetic learner”, she offers. Go figure. “Sometimes in class, I just have to get up an jump around to be able to learn. My teacher understand this….”
Ahh, the next generation will just know this stuff. There is hope.