Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Let's Agree to Disagree

Do people know how to have a conversation anymore?

One of the first conversations I will have with my students is how to have a conversation.  By the time my students leave my classroom, it is not uncommon to hear them speaking to one another in a manner that shows greater skill than some adults I have spoken with.  By mid-year, I am beaming with pride when I hear one of my students say "I respectfully disagree with what you are saying."  It doesn't have quite the panache as "Yo' Mama" jokes but it does reflect a lot of hard work and modeling.  

In this age of internet conversation, I often wonder if people are losing their sense of courtesy.  Obviously it is easier to be mean when you don't have to see the "whites of their eyes," but I want to take it a step further.  

If you are obviously passionate about something and a person is willing to publicly call you out, disagree, or challenge your belief, what is the goal of the conversation that is about to ensue should you reply?  

Now, as I tell my students, I think that in that type of conversation, the goal should be to inform.  If each party is knowledgeable, passionate, and willing, great learning can take place.  The key is that in order to have this conversation, you have to come prepared.  If you didn't put in the time, act like a mime.  Turn your voice off.  What's great about that is... you can still listen!  And, you have two ears so you are working hard! 

However...  what I see happening at this point, in my classroom and on the internet, is that it suddenly goes from a conversation to a verbal lashing and disagreement of epic proportions.  The goal is no longer to inform but to WIN>! And, really, that's not what it should be about.  

I wonder what the adults in their lives are modeling?  I grew up in a house where there wasn't yelling.  I am 100% sure that my parents disagreed on things.  My mom was a hippie and my dad was military.  They were basically Dharma & Greg but they looked like normal people.  I was raised to feel like my opinion mattered but taught to listen to what other people thought as well.  I'm not sure that many of my students have this.  

So, it falls on the teachers. Again.  You know what though, that's ok.  There are a lot of things that I will teach them that they won't remember.  This is something that I think can influence the rest of their life.  Instead of anger and emotions that run out of control, how great would it be if the kids that came through my room got up, shook hands, and said "Let's agree to disagree," and walked off.  We need more of that. At least, that's what I think.  


  1. Great thoughts and bravo to you for teaching students how to dialogue. Another great thing to teach them is a solid handshake. Check out my post The Awkward Turtle on my Pushing the Practice education blog on Wordpress for my thoughts. (shameless plug) - Joshua C.

  2. Great Post!

    I think it is an important skill that needs to be re-enforced and modeled as well. We are so caught up in the texts and tweets that we rarely have a face to face conversations anymore. I am also guilty since most of my contacts are online as well.
    I also think this has affected the way people right and I often have to catch myself at times when writting an email to write YOU and not U
    Thanks for sharing