By: Mr. Lu
Conversations That Matter
“If you could be famous for something, what would it be?” asked Jiayi. It was the brief lull before morning classes began, that deadweight space where many zombify themselves before their phones, while others use those precious minutes to forge bonds and deepen relationship wells. I don’t recall my answer, but it was inane and insipid, such as a rock star or athlete. “I’d want to make a better pipette,” Jiayi said simply. “One that’s less wasteful and more environmentally friendly.” Then she went to class. Huh, I thought, that’s a pretty good answer.
I was arguing vociferously with Mr. Bohnen about phones. He talked about walking through the halls, peering into classes, and seeing nothing but heads down, phones in hand. I argued about the usefulness of phones, and he countered with their damaging effects on youth and adults alike. If the culture is like this, he expounded, then the school must be different, we must be better, so we can be something else. We ended in a bit of a muddle, but it was an honest and intense back and forth. Maybe, I thought, it’s because people don’t know how to talk anymore.
Maybe people don’t know the art of conversation. Maybe instead of talking, they feel the need to look for a meme, for a video, for a silly picture, for anything, because they don’t know what to talk about. Maybe they can’t enjoy just being together silently, happy to be side by side.
I thought about conversations that matter, and advisory reared its head again. During advisory, Mr. McCauley, shared intimately about his heritage, his search for who he was and how he got there, and the stories behind his tattoos. During advisory, Ms. Tovey shared about growing up on a farm, about a community with less than 100 people, about killing animals for food, and about some darker moments of the era. Students chimed in with questions and comments, and nary a phone was necessary. The end goal was the conversation, the substantive learning of each other.
I know, I know. Conversations can’t go deep all the time, we need head space, we need lightness in our day. And I think about those times when Mr. Butler throws out nuggets of music history, or when Mr. Morden postulates why this player is amazing, when Emma reads out her poetry, or when Luca discusses Clash decks. These conversations aren’t heady or philosophical, but they matter too. They get us talking, face to face, in each other’s presence. There is joy, not just in the words, but in the fact that another living being is here in front of me, and I am listening, and being listened to. This is an everyday miracle.
If I could go back and answer Jiayi’s question again, I would say this. I want to be a conversation sparker. Get people excited to talk to each other, on matters big and small. So, go begin with Jiayi. Ask about her pipette dream, and start a conversation.