Being the Change #cyberPD 2018 Week One

This summer I’m reading Being the Change: Lessons and Strategies to Teach Social Comprehension by Sara K. Ahmed with the #CyberPD community on Google+. Many thanks to @CathyMere and Michelle Nero at @litlearningzone for facilitating this conversation!

This week we’re discussing “A Letter to Readers” in the foreword, the introduction, and chapters one and two. As an added bonus, in this episode of The Heinemann Podcast, Sara Ahmed tells the “A Letter to Readers” story, and here is a great follow-up conversation that provides an overview of the book. If you think you might be interested in joining us, these podcasts would be a great place to start.

As the new school year approaches, it is with expectant curiosity that I think about entering into our most important and tone-setting conversations with a new teaching partner by my side in Sara Ahmed. Despite all of my best intentions, in the past I’ve often felt like I was stumbling through critical conversations, the very conversations that mean the most out in the world, but with Sara’s encouragement, I’m excited at the thought of how those conversations can grow and evolve this year. I know I’m not alone in my belief that, as a society, our dialogue about the most important topics desperately needs to be different. Events of the world weigh heavily on my heart. It’s more important than ever that we find a way to welcome the stranger and celebrate the richness born of our diversity.

Sara writes, “If we can commit to approaching this work as the lead learner, teaching with curiosity and modeling vulnerability rather than rigid certainty, we can build habitats of trust where kids (and adults) participate in a learning discussion, and where expression, identity, and social literacy matter.”

To begin, Sara offers guiding principles that center our work:

  • Do the Work Yourself First–and Often
  • Keep the Focus on the Kids, Not on You
  • Consider How You See Your Kids
  • Be OK with Silence and Discomfort (aka, Don’t “Save” Every Moment)
  • Decenter Your Normal

“We need to pay attention to the language we use and how it can position people, customs, food, or traditions, outside of what we view to be normal…We don’t have license to certify normal. That is a basic tenant in the work of social comprehension. While diversity is the word of the day, when we decenter the dominant, normative narratives in society we make way for not only diversity, but also inclusion.

  • Enter with Humility
  • Remember That Progress Takes Time, Effort, and Heart Work

5BD11E19-BA82-46C7-A83E-71BEEF0007EE.pngChapter one is titled Exploring Our Identities. In itSara encourages us: “We can help students shine a light on who they are: their hopes and dreams, talents, family histories, how they identify culturally, the languages they speak, how they learn best, the story of their names, what they can teach us.”

When students can appreciate their own identities, and come to understand the identities of their classmates and teacher, it is more likely that they will find it within themselves to be fascinated and curious, to celebrate the identities they encounter in the world.

I’m eager to do this work with my students. This year we explored our individual “Learner Profiles” throughout the year, looking at various facets of their preferences like the introversion/extroversion continuum, auditory/visual/kinesthetic preferences, expressiveness, assertiveness, flexibility, and a host of other strengths-based attributes. With Sara’s help, I look forward to helping students construct a conception of their emerging identities beyond simply how they prefer to learn, to a more well-rounded picture that celebrates the whole child.

In chapter two, Listening With Love, Sara offers some concrete suggestions for mentoring students in active listening and for establishing a classroom culture to support quality listening. For me, this chapter brought to mind the experiences I’ve had over the years with Cognitive Coaching. I was reminded of how validating it is to be deeply listened to in a coaching conversation. But more than validating, it reminded me of how welcoming body language, skilled paraphrasing, pausing, and generative questions work to draw out my own thinking. I am committed to getting to a place where my students support one another by listening more deeply. I am comforted thinking of how students who have been closely listened to, how students who know how to listen to others with an open heart, will change the world.

Lest I drift too far into the unbounded optimism of summer, I’ll end with this sentence from Being the Change: “We will also carry the weight of the moments when we are not able to do all that we’d hoped.” This work is hard. No matter what I’m able to put in place, I’ve never been able to do all that I’d hoped. My hopes are so high. Yet, even when the conversations are difficult, awkward, and stilted, I think we need to remind ourselves that we are having the conversations. All of us. And by having the conversations, together we are Being the Change.

Author: Tamara Jaimes

Avid learner, NBCT of 5th graders. Mission: Manifest, nurture, and inspire a purpose and a passion for learning. Personal Twitter: @Tamara_Jaimes My classroom Twitter: @msjaimes Instagram: @ms.jaimes

7 thoughts on “Being the Change #cyberPD 2018 Week One”

  1. This line from Being the Change that you highlighted is so important: “We need to pay attention to the language we use and how it can position people, customs, food, or traditions, outside of what we view to be normal…We don’t have license to certify normal.” If we can get ourselves and our students to look at the world through this lens, we will have created a community of inquiry rather than a community of judgment. “We don’t have license to certify normal” are words to remember.

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  2. I agree wholeheartedly. As Sara suggests, I’m starting with myself first. Inquiry, rather than judgement is a stance that I continue to intentionally practice. Thank you for connecting.

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  3. I loved thinking of Sara as my teaching partner this year. I think reading her book has helped to raise my awareness and has me thinking of scenarios and how I might handle them better in the future. These are hard conversations. Even in my own family, I know the hard conversations feel more frequent. I am learning to listen, but also learning to speak and not remain silent about things that matter. I appreciated your suggestion for thinking about the moves of cognitive coaching in these situations. One of the things I’ve already noticed is the way Sara steps back and lets students own these conversations. We can learn so much by listening – and waiting. Looking forward to continued conversation.

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  4. One of the things I’ve noticed over the #CyberPD years is that we all tend to feel that the authors are our friends, mentors, and partners. Because we read so deeply and think critically about the books, I think there is a level of personalization that doesn’t happen with other professional reads. Plus, I think Sara does have a conversational style that encourages us to read as if we’re sitting in a coffee shop listening to her talk.
    I appreciate your highlighting of quotes through the graphics. I especially like the last one – I want to make that a poster for my office to remind me of the importance of listening and being curious, but especially, the impact I have an all the people I encounter.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Tamara,
    Wow. Yes, a new teaching partner. Love that idea! These words spoke to me too: “Despite all of my best intentions, in the past I’ve often felt like I was stumbling through critical conversations, the very conversations that mean the most out in the world, but with Sara’s encouragement, I’m excited at the thought of how those conversations can grow and evolve this year. ” Me too!!! Sara supports us with lessons and language that help guide us in those conversations and reminds us that silence is crucial too!

    You highlighted many of the same quotes I did too. Love that you created the quotes! Great visual reminders of our hard work to come! Thank you for sharing your thoughts! So much to continue to think about ….
    ~Michelle

    Liked by 1 person

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