Can we talk? Three little words, but a huge question. Consider the possibilities with inflection alone: CAN we talk? Can we TALK? Can WE talk? Good communication doesn’t just happen by accident. We each contribute to it and must develop the skills necessary to make it happen. If we spend all of our time with people who think just like we do, we miss opportunities to grow. How can we reach out to and connect with others who might think, believe, or live differently, that we might expand our perspective and understanding of the world? This is the work and learning we are doing this year as part of our “Can We Talk” series: students of all ages practicing the art of dialogue.
Although the series is called “Can we TALK”, it is also about listening, really listening, to what others have to say, and trying to understand where they are coming from. We are learning how to balance the freedom we have to share our perspective with the respect each one of us deserves. And we are making room for more people to speak, especially those who are quieter at first or just learning to use their voices. None of this is easy, but as we make learning to communicate a priority, honesty, respect, and mutual understanding begin to grow.
What does this look like in daily life? “Can We Talk” exercises are short, specific, small group conversations where the topic is secondary to developing the skills of good communication: learning both to effectively listen to others and thoughtfully articulate our own ideas. In our most recent addition, on Tuesday, January 15, Upper School students and faculty joined 13 “Can We Talk” sessions on topics ranging from “The Ethics of Watching Football”, “College Admissions” and “Gender Stereotypes” to “Self-Care”, “Failure” and “Recycling”. Students were asked to select topics that interested them from a selection offered by faculty and staff facilitators. Each conversation gathered about 20 participants in a room for 45 minutes of planned dialogue, utilizing the group process tools offered by another new Moravian Academy initiative, Developmental Designs. Our hope is that as we develop our skills through these low-risk conversations, we prepare our community toward healthy dialogue when life and the world bring challenging and pressing topics to our collective table.
If this initiative intrigues you, stay tuned for combined student/faculty/staff/parent “Can we Talk” sessions coming to a group circle near you.