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Conversation Circles

In our classroom, we use a conversation circle. I use it as a time to clarify things from my perspective and allow students to speak about what they would like to do. At other times, we talk about upcoming events. Today in the conversation circle, each student introduced themselves to the group, which seems like a small thing, but sometimes goes unattended in classrooms.   I also asked the students about what they want for complementary courses. This is an outgrowth of the conversation circles we held last year. Students want a voice in their learning.

We use a ‘talking stick.’ The person with the ‘talking stick’ is the speaker and others listen. In an era of digital technologies, the stick reinforces a protocol of face-to-face conversation which we increasingly need in our world. The ‘talking stick’ was a gift from a parent last year. She is a member of a First Nation so it has some traditional meaning attached to its design.

The wood is driftwood which came from a local lake and reflects nature’s contributions to the circle. Someone carved a bear head into the top of the stick. In some traditions, the bear symbolizes courage, freedom, and power. The feather is from a hawk. Hawks are visionary and guide the person. The coloured ribbons represent the four directions in the circle. The parent attached a medicine bag. The medicine bag heals, guides and protects, and has materials or objects of value to its carrier.

About ivonprefontaine

In keeping with bell hooks and Noam Chomsky, I consider myself a public and dissident intellectual. Part of my work is to move beyond (transcend) institutional dogmas that bind me to defend freedom, raising my voice to be heard on behalf of those who seek equity and justice in all their forms. I completed my PhD in Philosophy of Leadership Studies at Gonzaga University, Spokane, WA. My dissertation and research was how teachers experience becoming teachers and their role as leaders. I focus on leading, communicating, and innovating in organizations. This includes mindfuful servant-leadership, World Cafe events, Appreciative Inquiry, and expressing one's self through creativity. I offer retreats, workshops, and presentations that can be tailored to your organzations specific needs. I published peer reviewed articles about schools as learning organizations, currere as an ethical pursuit, and hope as an essential element of adult eductaion. I published three poems and am currently preparing my poetry to publish as an anthology of poetry. I present on mindful leadership, servant leadership, schools as learning organizations, how teachers experience becoming teachers, assessement, and critical thinking. I facilitate mindfulness, hospitality retreats. and World Cafe Events using Appreciative Inquiry. I am writing and researching about various forms of leadership, how teachers inform and form their identity as a particular teacher, schools as learning organizations, hope and its anticipatory relationship with the future, and hope as an essential element in learning.

25 responses »

  1. sharing circles are a great idea….love it

    Reply
  2. Sure wish I would have had just 1 teacher like you. Or that my son could have been that lucky.

    Reply
    • Thank you Mike. I don’t know what it is. I had amazing teachers when I grew up. I knew they cared about me, but I also made a conscious choice to become a teacher and went back to school at 32 years old. My wife and sons supported me tremendously in this endeavour. I see it as a calling and not a job.

      Ivon

      Reply
  3. Hi Ivan, I have been in groups where we have used the talking stick, I think it is a valuable tool and possibly we should use it a bit more often. 🙂

    Reply
  4. The talking stick is a wonderful gift of the Native Americans to the rest of us. I’m sure that your conversation circles will be treasured by your students long after they leave school. Thank you for sharing this educational experience.

    Reply
    • I think they will treasure them. I find former students share much in the retrospective of what they learned. It is less about the knowledge and more about the sense of relationship.

      Thank you Shimon.

      Ivon

      Reply
  5. What a wonderful gift…! It (the symbology) speaks volumes…
    Oh, how I wish I could be in such a classroom.! 🙂

    Reply
  6. Now that’s a real talking stick – so beautiful, and lovely symbolism. What a privilege to talk with that in your hand!

    Reply
    • It is both lovely and a privilege. The students, even after several months of using the stick, still ask about its source and symbolism. It is an organic part of our talking circle.

      Thank you,

      Ivon

      Reply
  7. That is really cool Ivon. I really like the Conversation Circle and the use of the Talking stick with all the traditional symbols.

    Sent from my iPhone

    Reply
  8. How wonderful. Just the thought of all those kids respecting the talking stick and the circle…beautiful!

    Reply
  9. Nice. There is great power wherever someone puts their focused attention. Glad to have found you here.

    Reply
  10. I love the talking stick idea! My kids always used to talk over one another-they were elementary students.

    Reply
  11. A very beautiful talking stick! Conversation circles are important for everyone.

    Reply

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