Yesterday in our 7th-grade classroom I gave a workshop on body language, active listening skills, and conflict mediation. What started off as many points jotted down and enthusiastically explained on the whiteboard quickly turned into a riotous time of skits, partner work, and dynamic learning as we explored new territory on how to be more effective (and compassionate) communicators.
We touched on the fact that body language, tone of voice and facial expression constitute the large majority of communication (whereas the actual words spoken account for a small percentage of the overall message conveyed) in addition to explaining the difference between an active and passive listener, open as opposed to closed body language, the importance of allowing the other person to speak first, how to diffuse a potentially explosive situation, conflict mediation, etc. Miss Ligia and Miss Isis, our secondary and primary teachers, even participated in the workshop in order to learn more about a topic very few Honduran schools ever touch on.
In Honduras where the majority of people – even educated adults – don’t employ basic active listening skills and many people struggle to maintain eye contact in a conversation or group setting, the workshop proved to be not only fun but also extremely important in our students’ development as equipped instruments in God’s hands.
Many youth and adults in this country suffer from a very deep sense of what they call ‘shame’, limiting them in their self-expression and initiative, and completely incapacitating them in the more difficult arenas of public speaking and conflict mediation. Many of our students have been very reluctant to read out loud, pray in front of others, voice an opinion, or have to stand in front of their peers and give any kind of presentation, so our dynamic activity yesterday – standing up to read the different points elaborated on the whiteboard, going to the front of the classroom with a partner to act out different silly skits, etc – constituted a huge step for all of our students in being able to freely and lovingly express themselves without wilting under that dark cloud of constant shame.
At the beginning of our time together everyone – even the teachers! – were nervous about having to ‘put themselves out there’ in a potentially embarrassing skit, but as our time progressed everyone – even the shyest students who typically fade too easily into the background – were laughing hysterically, participating in numerous skits, trying on the different wigs and hats I had brought with me, etc.
As we have witnessed (especially in these last few months), many people in this nation problem-solve by way of violence. You said something I didn’t like, so I’ll go and kill you. You look like someone who belongs to the gang I’m against, so I’m gonna kidnap you. You stole from me, so I’ll shoot you. Learning alongside our students yesterday how to problem-solve by way of loving confrontation, humble listening, and asking/granting forgiveness rather than by resorting to violence may save lives long-term. What a privilege to be involved in this process!
We wrote across the whiteboard in large letters, each person taking their turn to stand up and read aloud: “…Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry,” — James 1:19
The lighting in several of the photos came out poorly, but I hope you enjoy them and the riotous joy they contain! Praise God for this huge step of teaching young Hondurans how to be more effective, loving communicators for God’s glory!
Amen! Glory to God!