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Friday, December 12, 2014


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Hello Matt! What an inspiring & thought-provoking two days it was & I love that you're keeping the conversation going! And to that end I want to try to clarify something and see what you think.

I don't want kids to reproduce the ideas in texts, but I do want them to consider them, which means that you might have to do a lot of thinking—and a lot of talking--about what you think the writer might be getting at. Readers, however, always have the last say. The text might give you a new insight or understanding of something you've already been thinking about; it could offer a brand new idea to you that you've never considered or encountered before; or you could reject what the author is saying because you're aware of its blindspots or biases or it simply doesn't resonate with you. All of these responses and more can be part of the meaning making process—and I think all will lead to the production of new ideas you might have about yourself, others and the world. And in that way we can see them as a provocation - something to spur and spark thinking, not to take on wholesale.

But I think doing that means you have to open yourself up to experience the text, just as you might open yourself up to other materials and experiences—unless you think the writer has some how broken his or her compact with you, in which case, if you're like me, you stop reading and look for something else.

So . . . does that change or clarify anything?

I'm most curious about this phrase: open yourself up to experience text -- what distinguishes an encounter with the written word from encounters with other kinds of "texts"? Is it that words are so slippery -- they slide through our minds as though they were our own, always the same words we mean when we say them -- when in reality, they aren't our words at all. So maybe it's harder to remember to stay open to the words a writer has put on a page because we forget that we need to. How do we develop and sustain a sensitivity between reader and writer so that we habitually lay down our assumptions and work to understand?

Hi, Vicki!
So great to read this post and your comment on my post. Opal School exists to stir up such conversations, and I love the doors this opens - it leaves me curious about so many things! I’ll touch base on some of the wonderings alive for me here in the hopes that it keeps the conversation going – and I’ll post this on both pages.
I'm so curious about the absence of comments on your post. One of the many things I love about To Make A Prairie is the community of readers that respond to your posts. I can’t think of many other posts that have generated so little response. I wonder: Why do you think that is?
I’m continuing to think about the role books play in the development of the critical thinking being described in your post. I absolutely agree that the depth of listening that both you and Lester describe is essential to supporting human qualities our world desperately craves. I share the belief that books are well situated to invite those dispositions. Does it shift our attention as teachers, though, to discuss that approach as one that we take to all of our interactions and trying to think about the conditions that support that inquiry – that pedagogy of listening? This reminds me of the turf wars I witnessed across the social studies between people who staked their emphasis on either History or Civics or Geography or Economics; it leaves me thinking about the transformation Ellin Keene made from Mosaic of Thought to To Understand.
I’m enraptured by those questions you asked at the workshop after observing Opal School in session and hearing the presentations by Caroline, Susan, and Kerry: Am I thinking big enough? Am I opening the doors wide enough? I’m wondering: What is the value in keeping those questions productively alive in our practice? How do we support that in each other, resisting the call of certainty?
I want to thank you, again, for coming to Portland and spending time with us. I hope that the trip plays a role in keeping those questions alive for you and for us. And I want to encourage your readers to come to Opal School to wake up those questions for themselves!
Warm wishes for restorative holidays,

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