The Learning Edge

I worked on editing an interview, one single solitary interview, all. damn. day. And then I went to a community conversation about racism tonight, so today’s post ain’t gonna be funny.

When we enrolled Zoe in her current school last year, we were thrilled for her. We knew that she would have new opportunities, that she would be challenged, that she would be in an environment where all her friends don’t look like her and they go to different churches and have different cultural norms. We made the decision for her, and with her. She has been so happy there, which makes us happy.

What I realized today was how much I am getting out of her school. The parent education opportunities are amazing, and the series of community conversations about tough subjects are a gift. I went to several last year – couldn’t make it to all of them, unfortunately – and have been to the first two offered this year, the second of which was tonight. I am astounded yet again by how much I get out of listening to other parents talk about their experiences, their lives, their backgrounds. And I am grateful to the school for offering a place to safely talk about the hard things, and to the other parents for being so willing to share so much of themselves.

Our guest speaker tonight, who was following up on a presentation he delivered last month, showed a diagram with our comfort zones right in the center. There are various things spiking into the circle, pushing us around in different directions whether we like it or not. If we get too far out of the circle it’s bad, because we shut down. The key, he said, is to stay right on the edge. The learning edge, where you’re uncomfortable enough to know that things are different, but not so frightened as to be unable to listen and learn. Someone pointed out near the end that the people participating in these events are all hovering around the learning edge, and that the question is how to get others to join us there. I don’t know the answer, but it’s food for thought.

He taught us the LARA method of conversation, which stands for Listen (with an intent to understand), Affirm (the principals, issues, emotions or feelings expressed), Respond (to the issues raised and the underlying needs behind them), Add (to the conversation, and seek to be understood yourself). He challenged us to practice this by ourselves in the car, by listening to talk radio of the “other side,” and practicing LARA. We’re to wait until our blood is good and boiling (which happens for me about 45 seconds after Rush Limbaugh opens his pie-hole), then turn off the radio and think about the LARA steps. What a challenge. I honestly don’t know if I’m up to it, especially in today’s super-charged political environment.

This morning I heard on NPR (the talk radio station that doesn’t set my blood to boiling) about a museum I didn’t even know existed in St. Louis called The Griot Museum of Black History. A current exhibit is Eminent Domain/Displaced, which delves into the redlining that’s happened throughout St. Louis history. It’s only there for another week or so, and I desperately want to go.

In the meantime, my goal for myself is to try to stay there, on that edge. Try to talk to many different people and “converse to comprehend, not to convince,” as the students at Zoe’s school remind each other. And continue to be grateful for the amazing opportunities this school provides to all of us.

Powerful stuff.

#blog#daily life#observations#personal essay#St. Louis#writing

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