During my time as a student, and now as a classroom practitioner, I am interested in what I have heard one of my Columbia University professors, Dr. Christopher Emdin, refer to ask a co-generative dialogue. Every week I have the wonderful opportunity of speaking with my students, learning about their goals, academic performance, families, and building a holistic view through a multipronged lens.
As I work on establishing multiple perspectives or understandings, the question becomes, how do I enact a co-generative dialogue in my classroom? How do I invite conversation that is beneficial to personal and professional development? In what ways am I safe? In what ways are certain people and places unsafe to establishing dialogue. Good pedagogy requires the mediation of many factors. In what ways have I experienced dialogue? In my experiences, how have dialogues been influenced by hierarchies, and other systems and structures of power? How are my students experiencing the discourse of education? How am I experiencing the multiple discourses that take place about education? What narrative have I constructed about my students? What narrative have they constructed about me? Do I construct what Nigerian author Chimamanda Adichie calls, “The single story”? These are all important questions.
What is it that students hear about themselves? What is it that I hear about myself: in the silence, in the noise, verbally, nonverbally, in the places, positions, and spaces I have come to occupy? What are students extricating from their interactions with me. In what ways can I help them and others, develop a perspective contrary to deficit-based narratives that may be circulating?
When students come to trust us they are able to speak their “truth”. Truth can be confrontational. As this is sometimes the character or nature of “truth,” I am of the belief that students learn where, when, and with whom they can share their truth. As an educator I hope to always be cognizant about the exchanges I have with students. A question I ask myself is, “How can I be intentional in this interaction?” It is not enough to have good intentions, one must also think holistically, “What biases am I bringing to this interaction? Will what I am trying to teach, or even get across in this conversation be beneficial to the listener?” Attempting to foresee this or be deliberate in answering these questions could have positive implications for truly engaging in a co-generative dialogue. Dialogue does not mean one speaks, and the other person answers questions, it’s about truly listening and seeing who you are, and who students are, and making sure we understand before we try to make ourselves understood. It has been my experience that an ability to dialogue with students premeditates the ability to teach them.
Teaching is leadership through language.
In my next post, i'll discuss establishing a dialogue when you don't feel heard.
Ms. St. Jean
Native New Yorker teaching and living the middle school life, using this site to keep it 100. My students are the embodiment of joy.