Two-Space: Dialogic as a Process of Transformation

Movement is ineffably tied to the principle of two.  Day becomes night becomes day.  In an important way neither could exist without the other.  I suppose there could be perennial light but temporality might be forfeit as we understand it.

The natural world is full of such complements.  Electrons we are told move around corresponding protons.  The earth spindles around its poles.  Sound is made by a measurable vibration with amplitude and pitch.

In human terms we walk on two feet shifting our weight in order to go.  Not only are our thumbs opposable but our hands are too.  This allows us to climb a rope, grasp a ball, clap.  Our blood pulses thru our veins in rhythmic contraction/expansion.  Our vision is binocular and perceives depth with subtle shifting of focus.  With two ears we can locate where a sound comes from.

There is also movement in a figurative, attentional sense.  When we speak of becoming conscious, we are referring to movement from a meditative state more operational levels of mind.  Robert Ornstein in The Nature of Human Consciousness remarks that we are two-brained and capable of switching from a receptive, impressionable, imagistic dimension to an expressive, verbal, active one.  In dialogic terms it allows one person to listen while the other talks.

And then there’s gender.  Nothing in my experience is quite as odd as the two classes in eighth grade — one male and one female. Perhaps modern socialization will alter this; perhaps not.

So what you might ask.  What does this have to do with teaching?  How should it affect the classroom and its practices?

On the one hand it suggests that the teacher as mentor not define her grading student papers as what is most nurturant in response.  Instead try  marginal notes which ask questions, seek elaboration, point out possible next steps for the learner, or raise an alternative path not yet conceived. Make it responsive as though  a conversation.  Do not lead with judgment.  

On the other hand it also suggests that we encourage student pairings, prescribed partnerships around an activity.  Student response to another’s writing, perhaps.  Lab partners. Games in which two persons are engaged.  Below are some examples.

The Directions Game

(Purposed to improve the ability to communicate between two persons.)

Orally (or in writing,) give directions on where another student can find something not previously familiar to them.  

It could be someone’s house if you choose to meet up or a store, or a building, or somewhere interesting in town. How do I get to the library?  Where is an event taking place? Where do I go to apply for a drivers license?

Of course in modern times this must seem archaic.  We do google.  But the idea of actually hearing what another is saying remains critical.  It will take practice to  come to clarity and empathy.  

Where does your family come from?  

One person responds; the other writes what he got from the narrative.  (Aim for breadth, clarity, dimension)  Not just New York City but what life was like there. Not just rural Iowa, but the sound of the farms.  Practice listening. Don’t rush to interrupt.

Getting to know you.

Create a list of questions that you’d like to ask a stranger in the class.

When you are ready proceed with the interview.  Take notes.  Afterwards write what you have learned.  Have the person review what you have written to check for accuracy.  Resolve any dispute.

Pin the Tail:  A Blind Navigation

In the classroom move chairs out of the way as best you can.  Provide a blindfold or a few.  One person is chosen to tape the goal up somewhere in the room (or for adventurous folks just a bit outside.  The blindfold is put on, and the volunteer begins to walk, navigated by his partner’s directions.  (If uncomfortable the searcher can be directed to cross his arms as he moves.)

Afterwards each can comment on the experience.  As usual no one has to participate. There is a role for observers. But of course the learning comes most directly from the commitment.

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