When the Byproduct of Reading Becomes Personal
Last school year, I embraced a discussion-based model of teaching in my classroom. It's a model that embraces the act of vulnerability at the table, both on the part of the teacher and the student. It is a model which requires that students (and teachers) both learn how to speak with intention and how to listen intently. It suggests the patience to persevere and the willingness to allow the conversation to be molded and shaped by the students (see "How You'll Learn").
In Brené Brown's book, Daring Greatly, she shares a CNN Money interview with Lululemon's CEO, Christine Day, in which Day addresses her transformation into becoming a great leader: "Her transformation came when she realized that getting people to engage and take ownership wasn't about 'the telling' but about letting them come into the idea in a purpose-led way, and that her job was creating the space for others to perform" (Brown, 2015, p. 209). In the same way, we work to build a similar atmosphere with purpose so that our students can perform, but that requires a willingness to let go and provide the opportunity for our students to drive their learning.
So, how do we do this without feeling like we have lost control? One of the first things we can do is present smaller opportunities for our students to a clearinghouse of their thoughts before opening the discussion up to the entire table, whether it be 12 students or 30 students. Smaller activities which engage the essential questions of the text can act as a guiding force for the direction of the conversation. Is there an overarching concept the reading presents? Offer the students a 3-5 minute pair-share to work out those thoughts. Is there a writing skill that the reading presents in which you would like them to grasp? Offer them a moment to journal about it.
It is in these small moments that we open the door for students to engage in the vulnerability which gives way to the confidence needed to perform to their greatest capacity. It is here that we allow them to embrace their own positions, not those of their peers. We are here to provide small spaces for engagement where students grapple with intention. It is in this space that we get to the heart of any text, where connection can begin to form because we have begun to create relationship and where students can begin to ask the questions "What do we want people to know about us and what do we need from them?" (Brown, 2015, p. 211). And, we, fellow colleagues, have been vulnerable enough to share our space with future greatness.
Source: Brown, B. (2015). Daring greatly: How the courage to be vulnerable transforms the way we live, love, parent, and lead. New York, NY: Avery.