Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Conferencing Complexity

I won’t re-iterate all the wonderful points of the Anderson and Barron articles already mentioned. A new connection I made was between the conferencing conversation and the mentoring conferences I have with teachers. The deep listening that Anderson describes in the first part of a conference is very much what we do as mentor/coaches. You listen intently to the person’s reflection so you can understand their decisions and validate their successes. At the same time, you listen “between the lines” for what s/he needs while trying to quiet down your own questions and thoughts. Listening at that level is hard work. Shutting down your own innate “fix-it” voice is even harder. Yet, you have to be present for that person so you can offer your full support while preparing how you will be gently guiding or teaching in the second part of the conference. For as simple as the structure of the conferencing conversation seems, it is a very complex process.

In the Barron article one odd point was his suggestion that teachers could let students pick their own writing groups. Not only is someone bound to be left out or to be the last one chosen, but how can we build equity that way? Writing groups offer a unique way for kids to really get to know someone different from themselves or their typical friends. Let’s burst the bubble! Mixing up students in those groups would promote equity through the empathy, rapport and trust that emerge from writing group collaboration. Barron says it himself later: “The diversity of skills available within the group is one of the major assets of peer response (p. 30).” I’d like to challenge him that it’s also diversity of background and culture.

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