In an effort to create a culture within my classroom where students feel safe sharing the intimacies of their own silences, I have four core principles posted on the board that sits in the front of my class, which every student signs at the beginning of the year: read critically, write consciously, speak clearly, tell your truth. – Clint Smith
I’ve been musing about this idea that people’s voices need to be heard – that you have to get a diverse set of views and input from people to make the right kind of difference.
In that case, do you think your voice matters. Do you think you get heard? Or are the voices that speak the loudest the ones that get the attention? Or is it the ones that are lucky? What creates the mix that we listen to?
The fact is that we have a limited rate of information transfer – we can only take in so much and have to divide our attention between the things we deem most important. I, for example, will either read or watch a programme I like and that’s the source of the material that I learn or enjoy any given day. That’s a quiet way of doing things. I write – about whatever is on my mind – but I don’t expect write it for a reader. What I’m doing is making thinking visible to myself, to start with.
I learned recently that what we think of as “thinking” is really an inner conversation, a dialogue we have with ourselves. Try this – think of a concept. If it’s a thing – like a pink elephant – you’ll have an image come to mind. If it’s “thinking” – like thinking back to how your day went – don’t you find yourself talking it out in your head – verbalising it?
This ability to verbalise, then, is at the heart of the thinking process and it’s also the way we get what we think across to everyone else. That’s obvious, you say – that’s what talk is all about – but how many of us think one thing with words in our head and say something completely different with the words that come out? Do you find yourself as fluent in actual speech as you are with the thoughts that always circulate in your head?
I think this matters because increasingly what we need in the world is the truth – the straightforward, no-nonsense stating of things as they are. But, of course, there isn’t one version of the truth – there is instead the straightforward, no-nonsense stating of your point of view. Which someone else might disagree with.
So, what are you left with?
Well, if you don’t put your point of view across you’re letting the ones that are willing to say what they think be the only ones that are heard. Fortunately, I suppose, there is no shortage of people on every side of any issue who want to get up and speak. And there are people who don’t want to speak but will do it because someone has to do it – and there is no one else but them.
Now, here’s the thing. Just because some people do it one way doesn’t mean you have to do that as well. Some people are brilliant on video. Some people like writing. Some make cartoons. What you have to find is the way you like to speak – and then you’ll find that saying your thing is easier to do. But, of course, people have to find your work.
For example, I was thinking about a bird name from decades ago – a bulbul is a songbird that I used to see in the forests around me growing up. But Bulbul is also a cartoonist with a style and a voice and a point of view that I discovered by accident but will read with interest.
The good news for us is that if you do want to say something it’s easier than ever to do so. The bad news, of course, is that no one might be around to listen. But that isn’t why you’re doing it anyway, is it?