One of the challenges of teaching is struggling to find time–the time you need to lesson plan and prepare for your classes, to cover material you’ve included on your course syllabi, to support students, create and grade assignments, and so on and on.
Teachers are pressed for time. This is hardly a new revelation. And yet, because the minutes we have in the classroom with our students are precious, I am writing here to argue for making time–for listening dyads (as the title of this post suggests), but also for what motivates them, a commitment to building an inclusive community in your classrooms that ensures everyone’s voices are heard.
In the Futures Initiative we discuss the importance of practices like this through the concept of structuring equality. It is an idea that recognizes the value hierarchies and conditions of social inequity that underwrite higher education and the broader material worlds in which we live. To enact meaningful transformation therefore requires more than good intentions; it entails actively building structures for equality and inclusion in our classrooms, the sites where we–as teachers–have the most immediate impact.
The listening dyad was a pedagogical practice I encountered as an undergraduate in Professor Roger Sedarat‘s “Postcolonial Literature” course at Queens College, CUNY. In every class session, he asked us to pair up and take turns acting as both speaker and listener in response to a specific prompt. Sometimes the questions he posed were related to our readings, but he often invited us to take part in creating prompts for the dyads as well. This meant that over the course of the semester we had a chance to share our favorite foods, embarrassing moments, vacation plans, and hobbies. As digressive as these topics might seem, they had the effect of creating a sense of community among us and it is a class I still remember today because we were able to get to know each other as people rather than just classmates.
In addition, while the prompts changed for every class session, the rules for the listening dyads remained the same:
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