Thursday, April 4, 2013

Dead Log Dialogue, Part II

 "To be open to others means you have the courage to come into this room and say, 'I hope to be different when I leave, not necessarily because I agree with you but because your thoughts have made me think differently.'"  
              -Carlina Rinaldi, "The Pedagogy of Listening," One Hundred Languages of Children

I came upon Rinaldi's quote after the following conversation. It helped me to realize that during the discussion, I had been more concerned with getting a 'plan' ready for the following day rather than listening fully to the children. Could there have been value in continuing the debate for as long as the children wanted to sustain it rather than searching for an easy solution? 

Having decided to invite the interested players to a “summit meeting” in which they can discuss the fate of the dead log, I arrange a time when 7 kindergarteners, 7 first graders and 3 second graders can meet in a conversation circle. I ask the  children to present their arguments for either keeping or deconstructing the tree. Each side presents multiple angles and reasons for their thinking. They respond to each other logically and respectfully.

N. explains the “specialness” of this particular tree.
J: There’s another log to climb.
N: But it doesn’t have chocolate on it.

O., T. and L. all want to deconstruct the log. They discuss what would be most “fair” for all involved.
O: Can’t we just compromise?
T: You get half and we get half to do something.
L: Actually, the people who have the flat part have more than us.

D., L. and O. offer alternatives—other trees to climb, other ways to use this log once it has been knocked down, and other construction projects that will please everyone. N. and S.B. aren't swayed by these offers. 
S.B: It’s not as high as the other [climbing tree], so if they don’t want to go high they can come down to this one.
S.S: Some people might be afraid to climb…
D: You don’t have to climb high on the other one.

D: [When it gets knocked over] you could stand on it and try to balance. Also you can see…that there’s a hole here [points to flat part of log in picture], underneath the log right there. And we’re gonna try to make it bigger and like make it lead to a secret passageway and you guys can go under it.

L: If we knock over this one, we can always get a lot of people to carry this [log] over here to make another climbing area.

O: We can help them build something else so they will have a fun time as well.

N. reminds the group of its responsibility to Nature.
N: Also there are bugs in [the log]. The bugs don’t like the racket, the bugs don’t like anything like that! Cause then they’ll just crawl out on our backs!

L. remarks on the danger of a half-deconstructed log. N. offers ways to make it safe again.
L: It’s too late because we’ve already dug under the main support. It’s too dangerous for people to climb anymore. So it’s too late to stop because if we try to climb it and they’ll hurt theirselves cause it’ll fall.
N: We could just find mud and stick it in the main support so people could walk on it.
L: We could just bust through it with sticks.

O. touts the benefits of an open mind.
O: You don’t know what it’s gonna be like when it’s knocked over. Maybe when it’s knocked over you’ll change your mind and think “Oh this is really fun! Man I wish I didn’t say that we didn’t wanna knock it over because now it’s really fun and now I’ve noticed that it’s really fun! Oh let’s play there!”

The children sit in conversation for 39 minutes...

(Their body language suggests that they need to leave circle, but by the time I finally bring the conversation to a close there are still children who want to continue, and even argue when I try to dismiss them.)

….without coming to an agreement, or reaching a plan of action. I am nervous about going into the forest again without some sort of understanding between each side, since most of the children involved are so passionate about their position. I throw my support behind a conventional compromise-- a vote. I am as stuck as the children are about how to proceed, and so when T. suggests a community-wide vote, I offer it up as a pleasing solution. Soon there is general consensus. Tomorrow, we’ll call all of the kindergarteners, first and second-graders together and ask them to vote on the fate of the log.

-Posted by Mauren Campbell

1 comment:

  1. Lovely post. I really appreciate reading about the struggles of the teacher re: how to proceed, how to support the children. We are so fortunate to have such thoughtful and responsive teachers in our children's lives, thank you. Looking forward to hearing about the "vote".