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Communication?: a Self-Reflection

Hummingbird's picture

This semester has been undeniably difficult for me, in more ways than one. I came into this cluster with a lot of expectations, and despite my best efforts to put those expectations out of mind, I kept returning to them. Having taken a 360º before, having familiarity with Anne’s teaching style, having the privilege of age and experience as a senior all contributed to the expectations I had coming into this 360º – and when things were in fact very different from my expectations because of our own class dynamics, I wasn’t sure how to hold these two experiences together.

I realized in our meeting today that I came into this class with a lot of privilege around how I speak in the classroom. This is something I’ve thought about before; 360ºs have a way of bringing this privilege into light for me. Two years ago, I wrote:

“… I had never thought about white privilege (or class privilege) in the context of my classroom interactions. I had spent my entire life attributing my sense of comfort in the classroom to personality. To have it re-attributed to an entitlement stemming from privilege, to have it re-attributed to an assumption that I will add to the classroom and that my addition will be valued because I have shared it in the right way, was paralyzing for me.”

What happened differently in our 360º was that my contributions in class weren’t taken up in the way I expected – no matter how I shared them. I had been used to disagreeing with people, and then having them understand my perspective even if they continued to disagree (what privilege!). Here, I felt as though when I disagreed, my peers didn’t understand my disagreement or didn’t take up my analysis. All of a sudden I questioned my intellect. And I questioned my ability to communicate.

Not too long after we discussed deafness and Deaf culture in Kristin’s class, I dreamt that I had become entirely deaf. Friends and family members were speaking to me, but I couldn’t understand what they were saying. In the dream, this deafness had occurred months before and I’d been taking a sign-language class in response. But when I tried to communicate with my family and friends with my elementary level sign language, I couldn’t fully express my feelings. When I spoke aloud, they told me I sounded entirely different and couldn’t understand me. I could think clearly what I wanted to express, but I had no way of expressing it. I felt entirely cut-off from the people I loved.

I woke up deeply shaken, but not able to process the dream. When I tried to tell peers in the class about the dream, conversation quickly transitioned into dreams the group had recently had. What I understand now is that this dream was simply an expression of the instability I was feeling this semester. I struggled to communicate and when I did speak up, I felt my words taking on meanings I didn’t intend. And of course, this was all compounded by the cloudiness I felt with my concussion. I’m still working on understanding what I’ve learned from feeling this kind of instability, but I think if all I take away is a questioning and greater awareness of my privilege, then I’ve gained something. As I said in a self-reflection for my other 360º: “It’s interested to see that I keep coming back to this topic; privilege is something I think I will continue to think on and sit with for a very long time.” I didn't know then how true that would remain.

Ultimately, the semester was not all bad. I felt a level of comfort and self-assuredness at Camphill that I had not felt all semester. I remembered both that I like talking to people, and that I'm (relatively) good at it. I got to know the names of a number of the villagers and I loved how quickly I felt part of the community. Leaving was difficult. As I think about what my plans are for next year, I can envision myself joining the Camphill Kimberton Village community as a co-worker, and am thinking more seriously about that as an option. 

Finally, the listening workshop was life changing for me. Not only was the listening conversation I had with Rhett and Katie one of the best moments of the semester for me, but I feel I’ve gained so many listening skills that I can take forward from this course. And I feel the language Monsoon and Benaifer gave us about bowls and holding a story have so impacted my ability to express the way I’m listening and how able I am to listen. This is something I will forever be grateful for. 

To this cluster: I have yet to see fully how, but you've all changed me. Thank you for bringing your fullest selves to our space.