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Unity without Uniformity

Today, three students and I traveled to the University of Michigan - Ann Arbor to visit campus and hear Dr. Marc Lamont Hill. If you aren't familiar with his work, check out his website here.

I have to say that I chose those three students intentionally. They didn't know each other, they spanned grade levels, and they all had never been to the university. In the weeks ahead, I'm excited to continue talking to them about the experience and what we took away from Dr. Hill's speech.

Here are some of the words and phrases I scribbled in my notebook:

  • radical listening
  • contradictions
  • coalitions
  • dangerous truth-telling
  • complicating our narratives
  • succumbing to the analysis of others
  • paralysis of analysis
  • act bravely
  • obsession with remembering vs. willful forgetting
  • unity without uniformity 
Dr. Hill spoke about how there is so much talking but very little listening. He talked about the need to tell the truth and how the truth can isolate you and make others feel uncomfortable. He spoke about the need to act bravely, and that acting bravely means that you might be working alone. And on top of all of this, he spoke about the ability to unite without being the same. We need not conform in order to make change; we just have to see our common thread. 

Right now, I'm thinking about my classroom and education. I'm thinking about the needs of 32 diverse learners in every hour and uniting my students as readers, as writers, and thinkers. They don't need to share the same values, but I can help them see how their values, their goals, and their needs can connect. We can take risks, engage in meaningful dialogue and learning, and act bravely without the fear of retribution. 

I can listen radically to their needs and not to the prescriptions of others. I can radically listen to their interests in a world that would rather make those decisions for them. I can embark on a journey of dangerous truth-telling and share the complicated narratives--an idea that I'm thinking much about as I prepare a journey into Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird over the next few weeks. 

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