The Lesson of Every Conversation: Encouraging Teens to Have Meaningful Interactions

Nothing is worse than not having a driver’s license as a teen. Other than having to wait around for your mom to pick you up. Which is my life right now. Waiting. Watching every other jerk get picked up from driver’s training. They’ve all been scooped up by their timely parents. All except me. And, John, some other kid I barely know. Maybe I can talk to him to kill time.

* * * *

The desks are lined up in three columns facing forward – each column with two desks, side-by-side. The lights are dropped low. The music is mellow and somber.

Students are floating in. They look at me in that typical, quizzical “What-weirdness-do-we-have-today?” Their biggest concern is where they are supposed to sit – “Wherever we want!? Please!?”

It doesn’t matter where they start. In a couple minutes I will mix them up – pair them with someone they do not know well. Today’s lesson is all about conversation – principles of creating good, even life-changing, conversations with anyone.

* * * *

John is the character left out in books and movies and history. He is not an athlete – nor a musician – nor any image of the “high profile” teen. If anything, he contributes to the homeostasis of high school : a target of more than a few aggressors. He doesn’t fit a mold. He doesn’t “look like us.” And, here I am with John with nothing but barren hallways and time.

* * * *

Projected, sober and thick, on the wall is a quotation.

Men often hate each other because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don’t know each other; they don’t know each other because they cannot communicate; they cannot communicate because they are separated.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Students look for a personal meaning in the quotation. Whereas MLK Jr. was speaking of literal separations through segregations, we create our own walls called “assumed difference,” seeds of silence that grow into forests of fear and hate.

Now, it’s time for the task.

For the next hour, you have one goal: Understand the person next to you using conversation.” Students are waiting for the “academic” objective. They will find none.

(Read the rest via


4 Comments Add yours

  1. Reblogged this on Conversations I Wish I Had and commented:
    Amazing. Every teacher should do this. Even in university and grad school… Not sure we know how to interact and converse anymore, even as adults.

  2. I am not sure how I received this article–but I love it. So thank you, Universe at large? Please reach out to us via We have purpose. We are global. We are a youth collaboration #YouthUnitingNations No politics. No religion. No socio-demographic segregation. We would like to connect to you. To Young adults & children. To Teachers. And to Schools. Thank you! Cynthia English. Founder/CEO Global Scribes™

  3. Noah Weiss says:

    Wonderful, even if this is only an excerpt! After reading the full article, I find that I spend most of my conversations in Level 2.

  4. where we are says:

    Reblogged this on Happy Teaches Happy and commented:
    Love this. People tend to cluster with others who are like mirrors of themselves. We all need to branch out. And as teachers we have more influence than anybody. Let’s help break down the walls!

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