Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Week One #cyberPD: Creating Spaces for Safe Conversations

"We will give ourselves permission to create learning conditions where kids can ask questions they want to ask, muddle through how to say the things they are thinking, and have tough conversations (p. 23)."    - Sara K. Ahmed 
This is always the time of the year that I'm shifting my thinking to the new school year.  Each new year brings an opportunity for a fresh start with a new community.  This week's #cyberPD reading of Being the Change by Sara Ahmed, is perfect for thinking through those first six weeks as we shape our learning community together.

Her first two chapters, Exploring Our Identities and Listening with Love, help set the tone for the way a community will listen and take care of one another across the year.  In the first chapter, Exploring Our Identities, Sara shares ways students can get to know themselves better.  Of course, as students share about their identities it creates an opportunity for community members to learn about one another as well.  It is in understanding the stories of their friends that they will build the foundation for learning to listen with love.  The first weeks of school are the perfect time to, not only get to know one another but also, learn the strategies for discourse in the classroom.  These first careful steps can help to make our learning communities safe places for difficult conversation.

Three Take-Aways

  • Developing social comprehension helps us to move past the idea of a single story.  
  • It's important to be intentional about maintaining a stance of curiosity and open-mindedness. 
  • "We can develop skills and habits to help us comprehend social issues and participate in relevant, transparent conversations (p. 25)."  

Two Questions

  • In learning communities where students are of similar culture and background, what are some ways we can grow the understanding of those beyond our classroom? 
  • How does the thinking around social comprehension (Ahmed) align with our previous #cyberPD conversation of social imagery shared in Opening Minds by Peter Johnston?  (I want to go back and look at my old notes to think more about this.)

One Important Next Step

  • Grow my library of pictures books for building identity. 

More About #cyberPD
Want to know more about #cyberPD?  Stop by my previous post:  Are You Ready for #cyberPD?  


  1. I loved that this first activity starts with the teacher describing him/herself, then progresses to everyone describing a character, and THEN, after a fair bit of practice, the students describe themselves. It's such a natural, supportive progression.

  2. I love how you organized this post. It really gets at the heart of the issues. I might have to borrow this structure for a future week. I think there are so many similarities between Sara's language and Peter Johnston's language. They focus on different topics but the language all helps students reflect on what they say to promote a sense of inquiry and agency. Please share your notes. It will be an interesting comparison.

  3. Sometimes my pre-service teachers go into their practicum placements and make that comment that there is no diversity in their classroom. At the surface level, it looks like most of the students have had similar life experiences. But, as the semester progresses and they get to have one-on-one conversations with students, they realize that the students' life stories are unique and often very different from their own. I think in the rush to cover content and the pressure of CCSS etc. we (including myself) forget the importance of the daily conversations we can have with students. And, when I say conversation, it is more than talking at students, but like Sara highlights, actively listening to the students as much as we talk.

  4. Thanks again for the gift of #cyberPD. I wasn't going to do it this summer (even though I bought the book), but it only took a few pages to convince me.

    This is an amazing book. An important book. I hope it explodes like MOSAIC OF THOUGHT did.

  5. Love your format too, Cathy! I always enjoying seeing how everyone shares in different ways and avenues ... and how my brain works differently! :) The focus on community is clear, but then Sara takes it even deeper. I agree with your wondering about classrooms of similar culture and backgrounds ... but I was thinking more along the lines of myself as a monolingual teacher working with students in a dual language classroom of Mexican heritage. I read Suz's response to that and agree that each person has their own unique story and history! We just need to listen with more love! Thanks for sharing your thoughts!