Thursday, 9 June 2016

Soundscapes and Listening

Wow! Day four of our CFE already. We can’t believe this first week is almost over! We’ve learned so much, and had a really incredible time doing it. Today we had a really interesting discussion on what ‘listening’ means to all of us. It’s interesting to step back and really analyze what listening truly is. Immediately you think, well, that’s easy! Listening is opening up your ears and taking in what’s going on around you… but our discussion highlighted some really interesting differences between listening, and hearing. So often in today’s world we are consumed with getting a message across, and getting it across as quickly and efficiently as possible. Often times, we use selective listening because we are so oversaturated with information from every angle, that we’ve gotten really good at seeming like we’re listening, without really hearing. We chatted about what listening looks like in our classrooms, and ways we can create more effective listeners in our students. Yes of course it can be frustrating to have to repeat instructions over and over again, so having effective listening in our classrooms is important in that sense, but we all agreed that effective listening goes so much further beyond that. Helping our students develop the ability to truly be engaged in a conversation and be able to develop relationships as they grow older is incredibly important. A comment was made that statistically deaf people are more sad than blind people, which is interesting because it begins to dissect the levels of exactly how important the power of hearing the voice of a loved one sooth you can be. 

After this very interesting discussion, Diana directed us in a game that involved everyone having their own (very different) walking stick. We stood in a circle, each with our own walking stick in front of us, and picked a leader who would tap their stick on the ground once or twice. One tap signalled everyone to move one stick over to the right, while two taps was the signal for everyone to move to the left. We played this game silently, repeating the number of taps all together and then moving in the appropriate direction. This sounds easy enough, but as everyone let go of their stick to move in the appropriate direction, it became difficult to catch the next one and move at the same time, especially because all the sticks were different shapes and sizes. Diana wisely reflected that this is very similar to the field of education. We must work with whatever we are given. Whether it’s a challenging group of kids, a lack of classroom resources, or red tape trying to start our own school garden, we will be faced with different challenges and the important thing is to remain focused, work together, and to not give up.

Dianna inspired us to increase our awareness of our sense of touch through an exercise focused on developing a connection to place.  In groups of two, one partner closed their eyes while the other led them to a spot in the garden.  The goal was to learn about the spot through touch so that you could later identify it visually.  My partner led me to a small plant.  This experience was surprisingly rich because I tend to rely on my other senses in daily life.  I became keenly aware of the thin, lacy leaves and their short ribbed stems as I tried to mentally visualize them.  I explored the land nearby to discover a landmark to remember the spot by, and quickly discovered a sharply pronged weed.  This exercise helped me to connect to the garden in a new way and I felt quite attached to the area of land I had explored.  This is the beginning of place-based education, a philosophy I am deeply interested in.  Through this philosophy, communities of learners interact with their local community, grounding themselves in its history, art, culture and ecology.  Engaging in local community projects through hands-on learning can result in valuable learning.

In the last activity we explored sound even further! We first did an individual activity where we listened to the sounds around us and drew a representation of them. We were encouraged to close our eyes at times. Many people had similar shapes for the same sounds and after we drew our sounds we split into two groups. In these groups we discussed our drawings and rationale. Then in our groups we worked collaboratively to create one large drawing of these sounds. They included nature sounds, human sounds and technology sounds. Specifically in our group, we started with a drawing of a treble clef and began with the technology and processed to the human and nature sounds. After, we made these sounds as a group with our hands and jackets and tools we had nearby. The two groups performed these to each other. This was our soundscape. The group listening closed their eyes and listened to the different sounds. We explored which sounds we liked and which we didn't like. Diana mentioned how optimistic our soundscape sounded because it ended with calming sounds. As a large group we discussed how we could incorporate this activity into our class and how we have incorporated sound into our previous lessons. This activity I would definitely use in my classroom. I think my students would feel more in tune with their environment.

After a lovely morning with Diana and John, we spent the afternoon working in the garden with Joyce. It was a really wonderful to get to slow things down a bit and continue to digest the wonderful experiences and discussions we had had a few hours previous. As we worked in the sunshine weeding, watering, and planting, it was nice to get to talk with teacher candidates from other cohorts and hear about their practicum experiences. After the last ten week whirlwind we all went through, it was nice to have time to just enjoy truly LISTENING to each other, and getting a chance to reflect and grow from not only our own experiences, but those of the other teacher candidates as well.

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