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The Long Conversation

November 16, 2011

I’ll be brief.

Recently, I attended a conference around the topic of building safe and inclusive classrooms.  Some professional workshops are better than others, and frankly this one was not as dynamic as it could have been, but for me the take away was the value of the long conversation.

We live in a time of text messaging, fast food, and instant access.  It seems that it is always about the 4G, the latest and greatest gadget, and the 30-minute meal.  Most of us can now access information on our phones in less than 10 seconds, and the amount of email we all receive can be mind-boggling.

We all know and appreciate the benefits of instant access, but we must take care not to let that quick fix mentality creep into our approach with children.  There is nothing wrong with attempting to solve problems quickly, but when it comes to children the quick fix is short lived.

Even at this conference I attended, many attendees simply wanted to fold down the issues we were discussing and wrap them in nice bows.

Life is not about little boxes and neat wrapping paper.

As we search for greater understanding in a complex world, it is imperative – from teachers to parents to administrators – that we always keep in mind our true role as mentors and teachers.  All human being are complex, but this complexity is two-fold with children and adolescents because their brains and decision-making abilities are not fully developed.  It’s time to introduce ourselves once again to the long conversation.

Simply stated, there is no substitute for rolling up your sleeves and spending time talking with young people.  They need our guidance, they need our advice, and they need for us to impart wisdom and confidence.  We never know when these times may occur – in the middle of class or at 5:30 in the morning—and as adult role models it is up to us to hold off on the phones, get down at their level, and spend some real time processing and dialoging.

This is the shared work of schools and households, and this is the real work of teaching.  It is easy to shut down an issue or a problem with a quick ‘no’ or by simply taking away a valued possession from a child.  This approach is sometimes appropriate, but real change with children comes through shared problem solving.  Dialogue, deep thought, time, and collaboration must be present for relationships to develop and flourish.

Our students are the ones who will solve many of our global problems, and to give them a fighting chance at this we must be sure we are raising socially and emotionally healthy human beings. The best educators and parents are aware of what is happening with kids, and they know just when to strike up a conversation.  Embrace this cause, and remember that the real answer to conflict that arises among and within students is often found through a good ole’ fashion talk around the table.

We know these things as educators and parents.  As the craze of the holiday season begins to rise, be alert for the times when the long conversation is needed.  It’s what future generations deserve.

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