Learning with our Buddies: Communication is Key
By Audrey Brown
I am constantly amazed by the learning that goes on when we just communicate with another human being. When we take time to sincerely listen to what the other person is saying or doing, when we reflect upon our own words and actions, when we work through and develop that conversation, learning naturally occurs.
I believe that this is one of the reasons education has developed in the way that it has – a move towards deeper conversations about small and large concepts, a move towards sharing our thinking in all aspects of the curriculum and in all aspects of our interactions.
Communication is key. And yet, communication is not easy. We naturally want to be heard, or at least acknowledged, in some way. We often want to be "right." Listening to others is hard work as we often feel that our stance or method is the one that everyone should adopt or adhere to. This is why schools continue to develop methods and strategies that allow for collaboration – we need the practice!
Of the many methods and techniques that I have used to promote and nurture listening and the sharing of ideas, the class meeting and the collaborative practice of "pair-share" have been particularly instrumental in understanding how individual voices add to the collective construction of our knowledge.
Pair-share is when a group breaks into one-on-one pairs to tackle a particular topic or question more intimately. Each person in the pair is encouraged to be both a sharer and a listener. At times, pair-share breakouts can occur during a large class meeting which focusses on one speaker at a time.
My class of third graders recently had a meeting to discuss how things were going with their kindergartner learning buddies. The meeting began with students sitting on chairs, stools and the edges of the carpet, all in a circle, so that all voices and eyes could be seen, heard and valued – so that everyone would be able to have a chance to add to this construction of knowledge.
With the topic of learning and how things are going, our meeting moved towards the difficulties that occur when working with buddies who are younger than ourselves. Our conversations stretched from the challenges of remembering new names of new students to the challenges of communication "I can't really communicate with my buddy. When I want to do something, then she doesn't want to do something." In the end, through these group discussions and pair-share conversations, we were able to consider everyone's comments. The students considered the importance of communication and decided that during our next meeting with our buddies, we would try to listen to their thoughts about what works for them, and what doesn't work for them, and then move forward in how to make things better.
Communicating with our buddies – listening and learning with and through others - this is a constant part of our education, not just here at YIS, but in our daily lives. Whenever we communicate with another human being and truly make an effort to listen, share, and understand, growth occurs. That is when learning occurs. For when it comes to learning, when it comes to education, communication is key.