Saturday, September 11, 2010

A Talk around Language, Culture and Disagreement

This is a comment I left on Bud's blog today. I invite you to read both, the post and its rich comment thread.

Bud asks,

How do you work to make sure that you stay kind, but avoid a case of the “yeah, yeahs” whenever disagreement arises? Who’s helping you to be thoughtful in word and deed while keeping you kind?

This is a question that sometimes lurks behind my writings in this blog. In my answer to Bud, I am probably reminding myself of how I deal with those choices. Or how I best try to.

Anyway, it is never easy to be an individual with ideas that touch other people's sensitivity. We are all passionate about our learning, what we consider best for our students, what makes sense, what is useful and worth trying. Expressing yourself in a widely networked context can become a challenging thing. Is this an unavoidable part of our teaching job?

My comment

Dear Bud,

I’ve been a bit offline lately and had missed the tweets you quote here. First, let me tell you those tweets sound kind enough in Argentina. I belong to a culture where an excess of kindness is taken as irony, so most people tend to fall off the cliff of rudeness. This takes long hours to explain to my students. I never get tired of insisting that even if they use correct structures and vocabulary, cultural codes need to be mastered at the same pace. However, I read you and I still believe you *are* kind enough. Maybe because I live in another culture and I cannot escape fully; not even with a lifetime of foreign language learning, or 4 years of blogging to ‘travel’ -as one of my close friends has described the purpose of my writings.

I’ve been reading your tweets in the last few months and I do notice a change in you. What I see is your learning is making you spot small differences. You seem to treat sentences or tweets as a detective. I say this in a positive sense. I feel like-minded and learn from your different style. After so much edu-talking, we all see people remaining in the high-sounding words and not posting about what actually happens in their classrooms or how they get from A to Z without a mention of a B. You are going deeper into meaning and that is part of your research spirit (I’m biased because I follow your writings, I know, but this is how I see you).

Now you obviously love a search for truth. There’s no such thing as ‘one’ truth, but authenticity to what you believe to be true in the light of your learning so far is important. You also care and respect. I understand you want to show consistent actions with these ideas. I think that the difference will be in what you decide will be proof of your succeeding in all this.

To me, truth is not always nice to hear, yet I prefer it. With family and close friends I value more being patient than disagreeing immediately. I simply will not risk hurting, let alone lose those people. At work, I want to innovate and to make things better in the ways I can. Resistance to the new is part of my reality and I accept it. I pull away when it stresses me too much and devise a strategie to come back to the healthy discussion. Sadly, I know I will lose some people on the way. Some temporarily, some for good. But when being authentic and consistent can suddenly go to second place on the value scale, I feel the earth trembling around me with mistrust.

I know I can try to be kinder. Outcomes and other people’s feelings are beyond my control.

Apologies for the length of this comment. Thank you for opening your mind and letting us in.

All very best,


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