It’s funny how the weather can set the precedent for an entire day. From inside my dorm looking out, the sky is a heavy gray, tree branches are bending from the wind and raindrops are violently pelting my window pane. And yet, when I’ve taken the opportunity to be outside, I find that the weather is not so menacing and is, in fact, warm and inviting. As I walk between classes the wind brushes my face while the rain cools me down as I sweat in an attempt to not be late for class. Little did I know that a today’s seemingly harsh weather would complement the mood of my class discussion in The Rhetorics of Silence of the Women in Walled 360.
In this particular class, my peers and I either squirmed about or loved the idea of using silence as a means to evaluate the actual silencing of incarcerated women. In doing so, immediately after our silent “Do Nows,” we ironically engaged in a lot of discussion—“excessive noise”—as if to compensate for the 10-15 minutes we spent quiet at the start of each class. In the need to share our voices, we often silenced each other by unknowingly tuning each other out as we prepared to contribute and share soon after a comment was said. Aside from the irony of being in a class focused on women being silenced, in our haste to be heard, the only people hearing ourselves…was ourselves. I began to wonder: What about silence did we fear? Why the urgency to speak? Why the need to sound academic and prep ourselves formally for informal discussions? How could we talk “deeply” about the heavy and charged concepts of silence in the context of incarceration and education if we rarely brought our own experiences to the table? This pretense, similar to the “harshness” of the today’s weather, was scary to me and I often felt like there would never be an opportunity for me to be real and bank on my personal experiences, and that of others, as a learning experience.
All of this changed today in class when my peers and I were given the space to voice concerns over our own “Silenced Dialogue” (a reading written by Lisa Delpit) in a fish bowl activity. A fish bowl activity is similar to a Socratic seminar, but less formal. One group at a time sits in the center of a circle while their peers look on and listen to them discuss and share their thoughts. If an observer is moved by what is being said and wishes to join the conversation, he or she taps a person out to replace him or her in the conversation. I do not wish to divulge what was discussed because that would invade the privacy of my peers but I got what I had been yearning for and more. I was moved by how my peers and I took a reading about the lack of explicitness for low-income, young people of color in education and gave life to the words through our own lives. I left class feeling like my 360 had seized an opportunity to become closer, more personal, and had used silence, an awkward medium at times, to do so. Like the “horrible” weather outside, my 360 and I had addressed a “gloom” that hung over our interactions in the class. In the midst of our “gloom,” similar to the change of my original perception of today’s weather, I saw that my 360 could also be inviting to one another and feel safe doing it. I now see that the issues we struggle with and have, somewhat, overcome does not symbolize the passing of a storm. Instead, I now like to think that when the storm comes, we seek comfort in its grayness.