Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Sages: Conversational learning for meaning and relationship

Put your students in a circle for discussion time. Watch each person raise a hand. They take turns. The teacher is in the center, affirming, synthesizing, saying what's good and right. Okay worthwhile.

But don't pass that off as a conversation.

A conversation is more personal, more intimate. A conversation has the learner at the center. A teacher/educator might be listening, might be facilitating at times, but certainly not at the center. Conversation honors that wisdom is in the room. Don't doubt for a minute that the intimacy and connection forged in conversation will strengthen everything else you do.

Valuable conversation are social and spontaneous AND

are facilitated and functional.

Both are needed. Make the time.

The Sages say conversational learning matters.

Conversations that Matter

Sometimes we have conversations that are deeper (than hi), where we don’t know the answers…about life, the universe and everything. People come to the synagogue knowing this is a place to have those conversations. A good educator is someone who knows how to keep those conversations going. (Rabbi Larry Hoffman)

Setting the Table: Make room for silence.

Rabbi Mendel’s Hasidim once sat at his table in silence. The silence was so profound that one could hear the fly on the wall. After grace the Rabbi of Biala said to his neighbor: “What a table we had today! I was probed so deeply that I thought my veins would burst, but I managed to hold out and answer every question I was asked.”(Martin Buber, Tales of Hasidim: the Later Masters, p.301)

Conversational Skills

Wise people do not speak in the presence of those who are wiser than they are;

They do not interrupt their friends’ words;

They do not reply in haste;

They ask what is relevant, they answer to the point

They reply to questions in orderly sequence;

Of what they have not heard, they say: “I have not heard,”

They admit to the truth. (Pirke Avot)

Truth is found in Conversation

…Truth [is] being involved in an eternal conversation about things that matter, conducted with passion and discipline…truth is not in the conclusions so much as in the process of conversation itself…if you want to be in truth you must be in conversation. (Parker Palmer)

Conversation about the Big Issues

People want/need depth of Jewish conversation…conversation that speaks to people’s lives. An educator is someone who is always looking for a bigger question. The more we attend to big issues the more people will respond to what we do. (Rabbi Larry Hoffman)

Conversations reveal In one-on-one conversation there are two subconscious aims:

To get to know the other person

To reveal yourself (The Art of Conversation, Wright, 1936)


Conversation enables children to:

Speak well and with confidence

Listen with interest and understanding

o Share ideas and feelings in a safe, non-judgmental setting

o Learn about living and gain insights from others

o Put complex and developing ideas into words

o Get to know families and friends, old and new

o Discuss effectively and respect the views of others

o Develop compassion for and interest in others

Accept that differences need not create conflict

· (The Art of Children's Conversation, TAOC)

Conversations that teach how to live

The music of our lives was the voices. The conversations, the constant conversation….Thanks for teachings us to talk. Thanks for teaching us to be of the world and in the world and to make our way. Thanks for teaching us to be alive. And thanks for staying inside of us. (Listening is An Act of Love, Rebecca K. and Carolyn S. p. 50-51)

Conversation is more than talking and listening

Conversation is typically thought of as speaking and listening…conversation is conceiving and perceiving that involves all the senses including emotions and feelings, touch, taste and smell. (Conversational Learning: An experiential approach to knowledge creation. Baker, Jensen, and Kolb)

Conversation for meaning

Learning is like breathing: it follows a rhythm of taking in and putting out, of incorporating ideas and experiences to find meaning and expressing that meaning in thought, speech and action. (Conversational Learning: An experiential approach to knowledge creation. Baker, Jensen, and Kolb)