A Listening Session’s purpose is to discover each young person’s deepest knowing about how they would answer the question, “How do we educate young people to thrive in a world of possibility?”
On Thursday, November 15, 2012, Unboundary hosted Charles Kouns and Stella Humphries from Imagining Learning to facilitate a Listening Session for seven Atlanta high schoolers. Sophomore Tara Subramaniam initiated the opportunity with Charles Kouns and asked me to help her organize the event and invite a group of students from surrounding schools. What inspiring vision and determination from Tara.
The session unfolded in three stages. In stage 1, Charles explained the purpose of Imagining Learning’s U.S. tour of Listening Sessions, set some general guidelines, and opened the sharing with eight writing prompts to which the students responded.
For stage 2, the students wrote and shared a story about a seed of life wisdom that someone else had provided them during their lives. And during stage 3, students co-created a piece of original art to express what they imagined as their ideal learning journey.
As Charles’ partner Stella recollected at the closing circle of the session, “It was beautiful to watch and listen to you as your participation grew and crescendoed in energy and expression throughout the three hours.”
I assured Charles that I would not give away too much of the content and take-away from this session by way of this post. By traveling the country to listen to young people about what they imagine education could be, Charles and Stella, along with David Loitz, are conducting invaluable research – and to their credit, they are thoughtful and deliberate about how they gather their research. They don’t want sharers like me to overly taint the authenticity of future sessions.
Also of note, they are staying true to a fundamental tenet of design – start with empathy and a genuine desire to understand those for whom you are designing. Seek first to understand and then to be understood.
Combining these seven Atlanta voices with the hundreds of other student voices, Imagining Learning will contribute the collective wisdom of our young people to our national discussion about how to improve and enhance education – how to “educate young people to thrive in a world of possibility.”
As Stella and Charles departed, Charles did say he trusted me about what I would post immediately. And I just could not resist sharing this 60-second piece – hoping that Tara’s efforts and the information here might inspire you to organize a Listening Session yourself.
Many thanks to the seven young people who shared their profound wisdom about what school could be, and many thanks to their five schools who helped make it possible for them to attend and participate. And many thanks to Charles Kouns, Stella Humphries, David Loitz, and to Imagining Learning – for Listening.
If you want to learn more about Imagining Learning and the Listening Sessions, I highly recommend the following:
- Imagining Learning’s Website
- Imagining Learning on Facebook
- Charles Kouns’ TEDxKatuah talk: “Listening for the wisdom of young people”
- “Empathy. Listening Sessions. Imagining Learning.” (previous post on It’s About Learning)
To Tara, this Atlanta Listening Session cohort, and Imagining Learning. And to all of the invaluable voices of our young people – in both their individual strengths and in their collective power.