"The whole movement of life is learning" (Krishnamurti). "To be an act of knowing, then, the adult literacy process must engage the learners in the constant problematizing of their existential situations" (Freire). "Once you learn to read, you will be forever free" (Douglass). "I can learn anything I have the desire to learn" (White, S.G.).

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Reflecting on Discourse One Final Time; Yet Realizing the Changes In My Own Forever

I feel I must apologize (again?) before I even really begin, for many may be starting to wonder if I have learned anything else this semester outside of the concept of Discourse (with a capital D).  I also know that Dr. Muth is eager for us to share more about our projects through our blogs before the semester ends; but I am over eager to share a few recent reflections with all of you first.  Perhaps I am experiencing what Christine Woodcock would describe as embodied knowing?  For as I read chapter 5 of Belfiore, I nearly ran to my computer in an effort to write my thoughts down before the emotion I felt subsided…And I find myself equally as eager, of course, to hear your opinions about them….

As I find myself immersed in the Belfiore team's ethnographies once again,  I am struck by the similarities between  the reflections in this text and thoughts of my own during the interviews and compilation of this semester's project.  But my reference to a possible embodied knowing experience above, came as I read page 213.   On this page we find a portion of Sue Folinsbee's accounts regarding Janet, a trainer, with Texco.  In this particular example, Folinsbee mentions that Janet is describing a required form and how to fill it out.  Folinsbee notes that as the training goes on, the employees seem to visibly relax and the conversation to be more comfortable.  A different feel than when they had previously been reviewing documents with unfamiliar and complex language.  On the surface, this may not appear to be that much of an 'ah ha' moment; but I immediately wrote the words "use their Discourse" with emphasis next to this particular section due to an experience of my own just a few hours before.

As I sat in my office today, I was distracted slightly as I heard robust laughter coming through the closed door of one of our training rooms.   I found myself listening after that, eager to hear what may have caused such excitement in a training session that can usually have a somewhat serious undertone (conflict and management of difficult people).  I marveled at the skilled facilitator's ability to relate to his audience and entertain, while still instilling the knowledge and awareness that they sought and perhaps needed.  No true 'nuggets' of wisdom floated through the door frame after that, so I soon went back to my work.  At the conclusion of the session, I approached the facilitator eager to discover what secrets he may have for me.  But as I mentioned to him that it sounded as though it had gone well; he commented that although he felt it had, he had really had to work hard for it.  He must have noticed my quizzical look in response, because he went on to explain that his typical jokes and examples had fallen flat with this particular audience at first.  He typically had done this type of training with high-level managers with great success; so had not considered the difference he may find with a group outside of that Discourse.  After "bringing it down a level" and truly relaxing his style a bit more; the group began to relate more to him, share their stories and the session seemed to go a lot easier overall.

As he described all of this to me, I couldn't help but smile as I considered the stories that I had found within the pages of our text, Reading Work, and various other articles throughout the semester.  As I shared the potential word for what he had experienced, he smiled back (feeling justified in his approach perhaps?).  We continued a brief discussion about the complexities that we can find sometimes within our own organization.  A relatively good sized company made up of such a variety of individuals; a seemingly similar world on the outside, but one with such different needs when one really takes the time to look closely.

As a facilitator, I recognize that I may not always know what the Discourse of my audience may be.  And I may not even have the ability to recognize it each time and adapt when needed.  But for those times when I find myself among a sea of blank faces, I wonder if I will know now to try a different approach or consider my words more carefully. And will the documents that I produce or be presented with ever be viewed the same way?

Whether I am to simplify or professionalize my language, or to ensure that I use the correct jargon; I appreciate my newest lens and what it can provide for me.  For the text on a page is not as flat as the piece of paper it is on; a view my newest Discourse has thankfully granted me.


  1. Hi Holly - I enjoyed reading your post, especially your words "I nearly ran to my computer in an effort to write my thoughts down before the emotion I felt subsided..". I've had a few of those experiences myself. Isn't it interesting that our first inclination is to write it down? For me, it's as if I want to capture and preserve the actual moment of learning. I think learning is about making connections from the abstract to the concrete. Perhaps the act of writing it down is making the connection complete by allowing us to reflect on the a-ha moment. One of my take-aways from this program is the value of reflective writing (journaling, blogging, whatever). I've actually had a few of those a-ha moments while writing and thinking through complex material. I've also come to realize that, like you said "And I find myself equally as eager, of course, to hear your opinions about them…" I've developed a need for feedback. Perhaps the element of audience (imagined or otherwise) that we experience in this public blog format provides that feedback (or did it create the need?) Maybe we are just extroverts who need to connect with others! So, this is me saying to you, "I get it!" Thx! Susan

  2. I agree with Susan, that the blog can be an awesome space for ZPD and "teachable moments." I am so please with how this thing has worked as a canvass for playing with & working out ideas! Holly, as always, your passion is contagious and makes your posts so rewarding to read. And being sensitive to classroom Discourses is huge....It's lucky, in a way, that your facilitator was able to make those discursive adjustments and win over the class. There are so many aspects of Discourse that can be beyond our control, at least beyond our ability to change on the fly. For instance, in addition to the spoken tone of the presenter, there are the accents and dialects, written texts and clothing, hair styles, furniture, positions of desks, nature of the content, lighting, seating arrangements, not to mention the stuff on the horizon beyond the Discourse: histories of each person in the room, past experiences with taking the course, expectations, figured worlds, and on and on....Sorry! didn't mean to turn this into a recap of the course. I am just jazzed that you take this stuff in sooo deeply and then are always on the look out for it in the world out there. Thank you, and all of your classmates for making this course so much fun to be a part of.


Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts on this post. Diverse opinions are welcomed.