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Dialogue and Engaging our Hearts

At the first assembly of the year, I shared a St. Clement’s School Diversity Statement with our students and staff that highlights the importance of leveraging differences in order to enhance growth. The passage states:

St. Clement’s School believes in the importance of diversity. Our community values intellectual curiosity, courage and compassion and believes that our differences are our strengths. Being open to each other’s perspectives and experiences fosters individual and organizational growth and innovation.

The importance of fostering individual and organizational growth and innovation cannot be overestimated and while many know this, the manner in which we work to be open to others’ perspectives can be challenging. We have worked on this as a staff over the past year; however, I was recently reminded of the intricacies one can encounter and just how important open conversation that is free from judgement is.

Dr. Mizener, one of our Social Sciences faculty members, recommended a book for me last year entitled Dialogue and the Art of Thinking Together by William Isaacs, which I started on Friday. I was so thankful that I did.

The author’s premise is that dialogue, rather than discussion, allows for deeper learning and ‘engages the heart.’ While Isaacs does not condemn discussion, acknowledging that it is a ‘powerful mode of exchange,’ he does indicate that it can force one into ‘either/or’ thinking. His beliefs about dialogue and its ability to engage the heart are powerful. Isaacs says that “to listen respectfully to others, to cultivate and speak your own voice, to suspend your opinions about others- these bring out the intelligence that lives at the very center of ourselves- the intelligence that exists when we are alert to possibilities around us and thinking freshly. Through dialogue, we learn how to engage our hearts. Dialogue requires that we take responsibility for thinking, not merely reacting, lifting us into a more conscious state.”

In order to ensure that St. Clement’s School, its staff, students and broader community are continually growing and learning, we must remind ourselves that dialogue, rather than discussion, will foster far deeper interactions that will assist in achieving our desired goals.

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