by Maria Corse Conversation is the conduit in which all knowledge travels from one person to another. Cultural awareness, defined as learned behavior, is transferred through verbal means as well as gestures and body language. Each of us belongs to at least one particular culture, because, we understand and honor the rules and the traditions passed on through familial tales of our heritage. We can all tell at least a few old-time anecdotes relayed to us by Grandma or Grandpa. Here in the North Country they usually begin with, “well, ya know...” or “well, of course, you remember old ...”
Dialogue is the foundation for all these stories; the rhythm and cadence of voices raised in excitement, lowered for dramatic effect, accents and dialects, along with grand sweeping gestures, are adopted to provide authenticity to the plot and characters. Our ancient ancestors utilized dance, fables, and legends to transfer knowledge and important information. Humans are simply fascinated by storytelling. Our love affair with film and theater across the ages attests to that fact.
At DRC we embrace this phenomenon; our most engaging and appreciated classes involve real, honest, heartfelt, and, yes, theatric discussion which can only happen because we understand on a deep level that we are all equal players here. A teacher's point of view is no more important than their students; we can provide factual information about a particular subject, but realize that real comprehension comes when those details can be dissected and spoken about openly, honestly, and related to each of our lives.
Recently, in our Anthropology class, we were talking about primate characteristics and the specific traits that define us a human. I had a “cheat sheet” in front of me from the Human Origins class I had taken at SUNY Potsdam in 2002. We analyzed each attribute thoroughly, and, together, concluded that we did not agree with more than one-half of them. Yes, we actually tore that list apart and created our own based on our personal understanding of what it means to be human.
Two weeks ago two older teens from André's current events class sat in the St. Lawrence County courtroom when the judge handed down his decision in a controversial murder case. This past week they discussed their personal thoughts about the trial along with all of the local and national news coverage. After that class period, André stepped into the office to say goodbye, with a huge smile on his face and a glint of excitement in his eyes, all the while shaking his head in amazement and saying that was an awesome class. I could only conclude that the conversation had been enlightening.
We are so very fortunate to have the luxury of stepping back, as facilitators, and sharing responsibility with our students for the real life learning that is happening here. The classroom, however, is not the exclusive setting for these lessons. I will argue that the most important conversations occur while hanging out eating lunch, engaged in a mentoring session, canoeing down a river, walking through the woods, creating a piece of art, chilling on the beanbags, or sitting together on the couch reading a book aloud. Our role quite often transitions from teacher into a peer and performance artist, drawing the kids out with dramatic flare, generating excitement and interest through unique stories, which then permit us to make those intimate, one on one connections - sharing ideas, views, stories, and experiences, therefore, allowing those personal intersections to become the crossroads to real understanding, which, in reality, is the essence of everything we do.
Our relaxed attitudes and casual acceptance that knowledge is not absolute or linear, means I usually walk away from these chats with at least one concept to think about more deeply – recognizing that I have learned just as much, if not more, than my student.
We have received all of the items that we purchased through the Canton Community Fund Technology Grant. We are absolutely thrilled with the Kubi; stay tuned to learn more about the innovative and exciting ways we plan on using this amazing new distance learning tool.
Phantoms in the Park
All the little phantoms are welcome to walk back down to Deep Root Center from the Canton Village Park, October 29th, after the trick or treat parade to enjoy our age appropriate haunted house. This is a fundraiser for DRC organized and created by two Greek Houses at SUNY Canton. We are grateful for their leadership on this.
Deep Root Center is looking for someone(s) with building, carpentry, and technical skills to help install our workbench and to assist some of our students with their ideas for hands – on creations. One of our students wants to construct lockers for the center. She needs direct instruction for this project to source the materials and build them.