Currently I’m a member of the International Class 2007-2008 and had the privilege to learn and play with Carrie and teachers in the Developing Teachers Fellowship program during two trips to NY this past year. I came back to
A few days ago I was invited by the principle to give a talk to parents about the importance of communication in a school called 22 de Septiembre. In the past I’ve given talks before where I would prepare materials, a power point presentation, hand outs, and would basically go through the different topics and have conversation with parents. Introducing improved dramatically transformed this format.
While planning the talk I made an important decision, I did prepare by reading some materials regarding effective communication with young and older children, I reread some material about family therapy, and so on. Instead of writing a presentation full of information based on what I read I stayed open to see what games could illustrate similar points made by the texts. For example in one book it stressed the importance of non-verbal communication, so one of the games I though we could play was having a conversation in the language of Bla-bla-bla. At the end I ended up with a bunch of games and no formal talk.
When I arrived to the school's library there was a group of around 35 moms (no dads unfortunatly) who where sitting ready to receive a talk all facing forwards to a blackboard. It took as a few minutes to rearrange tables and seats to create a circle. We began with people getting in to pairs with someone they don’t know. They took turns for 3 minutes each to talk as much as they could about themselves. In the version I know of this activity people are then supposed to tell the group about their partner but given how large the group was that would take the whole session so I only asked for five volunteers. Not only did they shared what their partners said about themselves they said how wonderful it was to meet someone they see everyday when they pick up their children but never get a chance to chat. Next we continued with the Bla-bla-bla game in groups of five and had a nice conversation about non-verbal communication afterwards and how important it was with children who are in the process of learning language.
Out of Unscripted Learning I picked Silly Debate where the audience picks a silly topic for two volunteers to debate. The topic chosen was canola oil vs. corn oil for cooking enchiladas, then two moms volunteered and started debating. It so much fun hearing them debate, after a few minutes I stopped the scene and suggested they continue the debate but this time one of them playing the role of a wife and the other of her mother in law. In principle it was the same debate but it totally morphed into a debate with in a debate, on regarding cooking oil and the other who can please the husband-son better. It was hilarious. We then had another conversation about the very game of having a discussion and how sometimes it does not have to do with the information it self but about wining a debate and how this can get us into trouble with others including their children. We also talked about how people sometimes fight over something superficial in order to fight about some deeper issue (e.g. a mom said they were arguing about cooking oil as opposed to dealing with the mother-in-law distrust of the wife). In other words we addressed all the mayor themes from the texts I read with out actually talking about the concepts directly.
If this had been a talked in our centers I would not worry so much that the games did addressed specific topics but since the school wanted me to address them I chose games that suggested the topic of communication. The two hour talk was fun, full of participation and laughter but also deep conversations. A day later I heard many mothers had really liked the activity and felt the understood communication better and appreciated that I did not lecture. They said I had done a terrific job, but I can’t take all the credit since we all created the talk.