Building the Talk

Man, my students talk ALL day long.  Many times I find myself thinking, “what do they even have to talk about?”  The act of talking is not an issues.  Kids want to talk and, maybe more importantly, they want to be heard.  My job is steering that talk, guiding it, modeling what dialogue looks like.  Often times I try to listen, figure out what they are talking about, and sometimes I am shocked.  Two days ago I overheard one little girl tell another “maybe I will see you in heaven.”  So sweet, so innocent, so off the wall 🙂  That’s about how seven-year old conversation goes, unless it’s something totally gross and disgusting which is neither sweet nor innocent.

I’m at the point in my career, five years in, where I feel so good about so many things and feel so inadequate about the rest.  I am still trying to figure out how to get kids to talk deeply together without me hovering.  They are seven…but they are capable!  I truly want a critical classroom where we are talking about whose voice is heard and who is being left out.

One time, we read an article about Martin Luther King Jr. and at the end of the lesson I simply asked the class, what do you think this author things about MLK?  Immediately hands went up and one little girl said “the author thinks MLK is an important man and the author wants us to carry on his work in our hearts!”  WHAT?!?! A seven-year old thought of that?  Now do you understand what I mean about capable?

I know I need to work on the all-powerful feedback of “good.”  Why am I constantly giving that feedback?  I need to replace good with something.  One suggestion is to replace it with “What do the rest of you think?”  I also never ask the kids if they want my opinion.  After I ask for other opinions, I could ask, “would you like to know what I think?”  At least then I am modeling that a) I have an opinion and b) it’s my opinion, not a fact.

My book selection can be so important!  It’s really hard to have deep conversation about a book with no depth.  Another goal of mine is to find new books, really become an expert in that area.  I’m a reader, I love to read, I love being in the library and the book store.  The way I look for new books to read myself, I want to put that energy into finding new books for my classroom.  Summer goals….

This dialogue, conversation, digging in, promotes two things that I believe so deeply in.  Number one, I am not the gate-keeper or the keeper of knowledge.  Kids can construct knowledge themselves and with each other in deep and meaningful ways.  Number 2, we are becoming citizens, who we want to be when we grow up, right now in second grade.  If we want to be thoughtful, critical, justice seekers when we grow up, no need to wait until then.

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One Response to Building the Talk

  1. tmckee219 says:

    Your last paragraph struck me the most out of this whole blog post – all good thoughts of course, but that one was particularly insightful 🙂 I have to remember that I’m not the keeper of knowledge as well – the kids, as you said, are extremely capable. I get frustrated when I hear deeper level conversations during recess or bathroom breaks (instead of in a whole group or small group on the carpet) when really I should be celebrating these things! I should be promoting insightful conversation (even when it is ‘out there’ sometimes) whenever it occurs.

    I’ve definitely enjoyed reading your blog and what you’ve learned over the course of the semester – though I’ve never been to your classroom, it sounds like you are a very powerful and purposeful teacher who is doing a great job! 🙂


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