The subject of communication came to mind a couple of times this week. As artists we work in communication all the time, non-verbal communication. This is what we do, what we are best at. But, in a meeting of visual arts teachers, I found it interesting to watch and listen to these teachers discussing their bulleted points to the finest degree. It was very enlightening to hear all of them have pretty much the same issues, joys and celebrations. The teachers were bouncing information back and forth, taking notes, making important connections, and actually learning from one another.
The other time I became acutely aware of heavy communication was when we were riding on a school bus on a field trip. There were 5th and 6th grade students on this field trip. Not a lot of students so there was room to spread out on the bus. But I was listening to a conversation behind me between four or five girls. I found the conversation extremely interesting. They were discussing what if this or that was a different way, how would their lives be different. Not at all what you would expect to hear from 5th grade girls. These kids, though, were GATE students so they don’t think quite like your normal 5th grade kids. The conversation went on a good half hour before we got back to school.
Classroom teachers are really good at conversations. We have to repeat several times what we want our students to remember, actually all people need this. Some catch on quicker than others, but you still have to repeat and remind people, not just students, of the rules excessively for those who don’t. Those of us with children of our own know exactly what this means.
The” not getting it” part of this can be connected to a lot of reasons. Perhaps the kids just don’t listen well, that is a skill learned. Thinking about something else, or talking themselves and missing instruction and detail. This problem isn’t reserved for just the students. Adults are guilty of the same thing. It is tricky to engage any whole group who should be listening and hold their interest.
The youth of today are almost entirely focused on the phone or computer. This is changing the way people respond and interact with one another, and how their own behavior is changing. Technology is a great thing, but it is getting to a dangerous point when young people would rather be on their phones than talking and communing with their friends in person. Some even have trouble looking people in the eye when they do talk with them. The whole social structure of our population is in a mode of change because of this. Not only this problem but now with Covid the rules have changed again. Looking at how students suffered from peer isolation during online instruction is a good example of this. If this is an example of the new normal, I don’t want any part of it.
I don’t mean for this to sound like just a bunch of complaining. I just value the common sense that comes from communication, REAL communication. Maybe someday that good old-fashioned form of speaking and listening will make a turn-around. We can only hope.