I have been pondering the value of conversation lately. A collaborative group that I am involved in is currently reflecting on its future, and how it can operate productively. I won't mention the name of it here. There is no doubt at all that our efforts are worthwhile, but we are all very busy people, and we are too few, and there is just not enough time in each day. Late last year, we decided to do away with regular meetings, and instead communicate via email, until a clear purpose for a meeting arose. The work is still happening, in different ways, but it is the face-to-face conversations that I miss.
Don't get me wrong, most of the reflection into my teaching over the past five years has occurred through email conversations, but this isn't happening as much these days, and I don't think that the reason for this is that there is no longer a need for it. Blogging serves its purpose, but this is different again from how I write, and how openly I can write, when I am communicating directly with an audience that I trust. But I'm getting sidetracked...
What I am trying to say is that not even email is the same as face-to-face conversation. It just doesn't fill the same need, partly because it's not in 'real-time'. When I'm writing, the energy is in my fingertips, and it doesn't fill the whole room.
But it's more than this... it's not just 'face-to-face' conversation that matters, it's conversation with people who share similar philosophies. I get passionately involved in conversations during meetings at school, but that's partly because these meetings often feel like battlegrounds.
Really, it's about discourse. When I first started meeting with this group I often found myself struggling with the discourse- it was part of the everyday conversations of other people in the group but not of mine. Now, I miss it. I miss using the language that allows me to talk about education and writing in a richer, more nuanced way than I could otherwise. I miss having regular opportunities to speak with, and even more, to listen, to this language around a common table.