Serendip is an independent site partnering with faculty at multiple colleges and universities around the world. Happy exploring!

Notes Towards Day 4 (Thurs, Sept. 13): Talking in Class

Anne Dalke's picture

I. From Prison Mindfulness Institute: Integral Transformational Justice--
Walking Meditation:
You spend a good part of your life moving. Walking meditation is a way to practice mindfulness while you’re moving. During walking meditation you put your attention on your feet rather than your breath. When you notice you are thinking or distracted, simply bring your attention back to your feet and their movement—
up and down.
You don’t need to look at your feet—just simply be aware of how your feet feel one step at a time as they lift and move through the air. Heel, sole, toe, heel, sole, toe. In particular, pay attention to the point the foot touches the ground, and the sensations of contacting the earth. Remember to feel each step, not just think about it or visualize it. Keep your posture upright, alert, and relaxed. You can hold your hands at your sides, or clasped in front or behind. Keep your eyes open, cast down, and slightly ahead. Experiment with how fast you walk, perhaps slowly or at a more regular speed. Find the pace where you feel most present and aware.
You are here, walking on the earth. It’s good to be alive.
Try walking in silence for a few minutes now.

II. coursekeeping

* sign up to take turns in leading our exercises in silence (15 minutes total;
could be split between beginning and ending of class, as long as I have a heads up!)

* this weekend, I'll comment on all your essays
(I did a "sustained silent reading" last weekend,
but wanted to wait before "speaking back" to what you'd written,
since prof's comments often silence further reflection....)

* I remind you that you also have a posting due on Serendip by 5 p.m. this/every Sunday evening: a paragraph or two reflecting on our week's conversation, alternating between "stand-alone" postings, and those written in response to your classmates' reflections....I mostly will not give prompts, but want to use this space for you to let the rest of us know what you've been pondering...

* Sarah re: some Serendip "issues"?

* for next Tuesday's class, "On Being Silenced,"
please read Lisa Delpit's classic 1988 essay on "The Silenced Dialogue: Power and Pedagogy in Educating Other People's Children"--and ONE of the chapters from the more recent (2005) collection, by Michelle Fine and Lois Wise, called Beyond Silenced Voices.

I've put up a pdf in our password protected file, under "Wise and Fine," that includes both essays: one called "Speech and Silence: an Analysis of the Cultural Practice of Talking," and another one on "Popular Culture, Pedagogy and Urban Youth: Beyond Silenced Voices"--pick one of these to read, and I'll figure out a way for
us to have a conversation "between" them....

* any questions, comments, feedback on course expectations...?

III. we didn't read any ED poems together on Tuesday--do you want to?
(one of my "subsidiary" hopes of the semester is to entice you into a little poetry appreciation,
make you less scared of all that space on the page ;)

IV. today I asked you to read Tompkins' short piece on
"Talking in Class," along with my longer one on silence in the classroom
(hand out missing pp. 108-109)
cf. book covers! (can you find what's "silenced" on mine...!?)

Tompkins is the prob'ly the most famous graduate of the BMC English Dept;
she's had a distinguished career in American studies, and did a lot to open up the canon
(brought in Uncle Tom's Cabin, and other texts by popular 19th female sentimental writers)

she came to speak here when her book came out,
to talk about how her excellent education "in a purely academic sense,
had a retardant effect on her development as a whole being"
BECAUSE of that excellence, she said, she had very little
self-knowledge, and her relations w/ other people were not so good
she was an "exemplary product of our education system, not doing so well in living...."
educated away from listening to/knowing self, as own best authority

thesis: educational system ignores the knowing self,
teaches us not to trust our experience
knowledge essential to conduct of human life is w/out standing in the curriculum
purpose of education: "give them skills to handle the things that are coming up in their lives" (xiv)

When we read this essay in ESem last year, I'd just gotten
an e-mail from a former student, diagnosed with a serious disease
and being urged to have major surgery:
Even though I just graduated from one of the best colleges in the country,
I feel ill-equipped to deal with this particular challenge.

why is this dimension of our lives left out of school?
per Tompkins, "school, by definition: others who know better than we do"
give up own judgment in favor of authority;
this militates against development of the individual
I'm more interested in the collaborative process, of groups making things together...

V. getting "me" and Tompkins to talk to one another:
what do we have to say to one another?
how do our ideas challenge and extend each other?
what do you have to say to each/both of us?

count off by 6's...
lay alongside one another Tompkins', mine and your own stories about
talking in class, and about being silenced/chosing silence there ...

I thought we might try writing this conversation out, as a short script,
w/ lines from both texts interspersed w/ our own...
(and plenty of silence inbetween....)

for ex:
Tompkins: "...borne up by the audience's attention, my existence is guaranteed."
Dalke: [But!] "Silence [can be] a form of active resistance...the politics of absenting."
Anne: I don't buy it. What happens to me, to my self, if others aren't listening, and so affirming it?
Tompkins: " give up the burden of performance [is} an inexpressible relief....
to perform in order to survive existentially is backbreaking work."
Anne: But then you shift the burden of performance on to me!
Dalke: "Coming to voice leaves out...being heard, by a listener who understands."
Anne: I'm not convinced that that kind of understanding is really possible....
Tompkins: "I became aware of my own power to enslave another in the flow of language--always a person subordinate to me...driven by the need to register my existence on the retina of another human soul."
Anne: I'm tired of listening to you, reflecting you back to yourself...what about ME?!?

...we'll return in 20 minutes to read to one another, dialogically, w/ different voices...
and then discuss what arises...