Tag: question

The Power of Discussion

In May, I spent most of the month working as the substitute teacher in the freshman global studies class at our local high school. My favorite days were the ones when we had discussion prompts and they voiced their opinions.

These days reminded me of the power inherent in discussion. Note, I’m not talking about arguments or one-sided lectures.

Discussion involves a sharing of multiple viewpoints.

I admit, I played the Devil’s Advocate when I could. I took portions of what they offered up in their claims and twisted it to represent the opposite viewpoint in a better light. Sound perspectives from early classes were used to foster discussion in later ones.

And it made me smile. The eight hours of constant interaction generally zap me. I leave the high school feeling like a zombie in need of a long hibernation.

But not on those discussion days. Because the brain-stimulating charge from the discussion kept the fatigue at bay. Powerful and empowering: discussion.

Power of Thought

Some topics are thought-provoking.  Other topics might not be all that interesting until presented in a way that speaks to the place a person lives.

In either case, discussion requires a brain to wake up and get to work.

Believe me when I tell you the youth I interact with in public school don’t do as much thinking as they should. Instead, they’re spoon fed information to regurgitate as test answers.

Not the case for a discussion. Although, I can tell you it was clear when students supplied a regurgitated answer. When asked questions about it or to give a logical path between the question and their answer, they were stumped.

Deep thinking requires analysis and evaluation. Information is input into our brain and when it comes out our mouths it’s been synthesized through our worldview, experiences, values and additional knowledge.

Power of Understanding

One of the biggest powers of discussion is its ability to impart understanding. This isn’t in the form of facts. It’s in the form of mind-expanding.

In a discussion, another side we hadn’t considered is presented. The reasoning behind that viewpoint is explained. A lightbulb goes on.

Even if we aren’t convinced by this shared information, we’re suddenly aware of where the “other side” comes from.

We understand their way of thinking, the process of their logic. Suddenly, there isn’t just a right way and a wrong way. Or even a my way and their way.

True understanding opens the avenue of compassion. This isn’t the road to tolerance or even acceptance. It’s a path that says, “You can get there a different way.” Even if it isn’t the shortest or fastest route, it isn’t wrong either. Just different.

And diversity should be appreciated.

Power to Compromise

Most things in the world don’t have to be one way. This is the biggest outcome to open discussion. Open discussion being that where everyone listens and everyone has input. People talk and their words are heard and considered as valuable.

Compromise is rarely the path of least resistance. Its very nature requires concessions from both sides.

As long as either side sticks with an unbending will, there can be no meeting in the middle.

However, compromise can agree to disagree. We don’t have to think exactly alike to be able to work together for a better world.

To work together, though, we’ll have to put a sock in our pride. We can’t look down our nose at the other side because that breeds contempt and resentment.

If I have the cure for cancer, does it matter if the cancer patient believes the same way I do about politics or religion or even the best way to administer the cure? Won’t it cure them no matter what they believe?

But if I withhold the cure to use as a “lever” to sway those other beliefs, I’m guilty of inhumanity.

What do you see as the powers of open discussion between people with various viewpoints?

Crazy Things Students Say

I’m a full-time author. At least two days each work week (when school is in session), I substitute teach at the local middle and high schools.
Due to a shortage of licensed substitutes, my state allows any person with a Bachelor’s Degree to go through the training and application process and attain what is called a Restricted Substitute License. Although I hold no teaching degree, I have more than a decade of experience in education.

Why would I subject myself to such a topsy-turvy schedule? Two reasons:

  1. It’s not conducive to creativity to spend everyday in an office without interacting with other people (and social media doesn’t replace actual human face-to-face contact)
  2. Most of my publishing contracts are “royalties only” and the schools give me a much more regular (and at this point, substantial) paycheck

Since my dream is to write fantasy novels for young adults, this subbing thing keeps me engaged with their worldview and voice.


Heard at the Middle School

“If you’re an author, why would you be a sub?”

Why indeed! I generally give them reason number two as outlined above. I have been known to use other reasons, as well, but not to the same student.
Yes, this is a common question. For some reason, they think a published author should be SO famous and well-paid that they wouldn’t submit themselves to the degradation of being a substitute. (I don’t find it degrading. I actually enjoy it…most days.)
“Are you the sub?” Isn’t this obvious? I’m always amazed by this question.
“YES!” I never know how to respond to this unabashed joy that they have a substitute. It would be ego-affirming if it was because they liked me so much, but the reality is much darker. Any sub is preferable to the regular teacher.
What does that mean? Is the teacher mean? Are subs easy? What?


Heard at the High School

“Do people ever call you Miss Texas?” (Do you need context for this? My last name is often mispronounced as Houston by students.) “I’m from Texas, and I’d like to call you Miss Texas.”
Well, thank you, freshman male student. Now I can feel like a beauty pageant contestant–for an hour of my life.
“At least I had a dad.” I’m not sure this one needs any explanation. FYI, the student was laughing in a pleasant manner when he said it. (And no, it wasn’t directed at me.)
“You look familiar” (and after I say I’ve subbed often in the building) “No that’s not it. I think it’s from Facebook.”
Just when I’m wondering if my author page is blowing up with my young adult audience, the bubble is burst.


“You were one of my suggested friends.” (What does that even mean? I know she meant FB suggested me as someone she might know, but what is a suggested friend?)
“Hey, I know you!” I’m squinting at the skinny junior boy at my old alma mater. I definitely know the kid in the back of the row beside him.
I try the, “I subbed here two weeks ago” response.
“No, that’s not it.” He gives his forehead an exaggerated pound. “The middle school. Right?”
“Are you sure you can remember that far back?” Three years is a lifetime for teenagers. But I smile and assure him that he’s nailed it. Too bad he doesn’t smile so proudly when I hand him the essay assignment a few minutes later.
There are priorities. Writing class is rarely one of them for high school students.
These teenagers offer me plenty of smiles. And eye rolls. But best of all, their vivacity contributes fodder for future fiction. (Yes, I do love my alliteration.)
So, I’m glad that the state hasn’t changed the substitute teaching requirements just yet. I’m on my way to being licensed for three more years of inspiration from the world of public school.
What’s the craziest thing you’ve heard lately?