Listen to our interview here: https://goo.gl/hqYrFY
A transcript of the talk is below.
Victoria Fedorets (VF): Hello, Dr. Peyton, Thank you for joining us today. We are very excited to welcome you here at our school, and we appreciate your time and involvement in our Voices from the Field and for spending some time with us away from your busy schedule.
Joy Kreeft Peyton (JP): Thank you for having me. I am very excited to be with you.
VF: I am going to introduce you quickly, and then we can go into the discussion.
JP: OK. Sure.
VF: Joy Kreeft Peyton is a Senior Fellow at the Center for Applied Linguistics, in Washington, DC, where she served as Vice President for 16 years. She holds a Ph.D. in sociolinguistics from Georgetown University. She has over 35 years of experience working in the field of language, linguistics, and culture in education. Her work includes working with teachers and program leaders in K-12 and adult education settings in the United States and other countries (including Ethiopia, Nepal, and the Gambia) to improve their instructional practices and study the implementation and outcomes of research-based practices. Her work includes implementing and studying approaches to writing that facilitate engagement and learning and promote academic and professional success. She is a Senior Advisor for the EU-SPEAK project (Newcastle University), whose mission is to enhance the knowledge and skills of teachers of adult immigrants who have limited education and literacy in their native language. She is a member of the Advisory Board for SIL LEAD, an NGO that specializes in mother tongue literacy education for young children in many countries around the world.
Tell us a little about yourself, please, including how the topic of your talk is important to you.
JP: You have mentioned I have degree in linguistics from Georgetown University and dual degrees in Spanish and Linguistics. While I was studying Linguistics, particularly in the Sociolinguistics program at Georgetown with Roger Shuy, Deborah Tannen, Ralph Fasold, and Walt Wolfram — people whose names are probably familiar among this group — I became fascinated with and passionate about the use of language. All of these professors and colleagues focus their entire attention on the ways that language is used. In fact, the Georgetown Linguistics department has a t-shirt that they use to give out; and on the back it says, “Analyzing your every utterance since 1949.” Structures and uses of language are absolutely fascinating. Roger Shuy used to say, “Everywhere you go, you have data, data; language data is everywhere,” and that’s true. So, I have been completely interested in and engaged with noticing what people say, how they say it, why they say it, in what ways, to whom, at what times; how what they say is received by the other person, how they are received by the other person based on what they have said and the way they have said it. That has been a passion of mine for very long time.
Over the years, this has included language use and development in educational settings (English; languages other than English learned as a “foreign,” “world,” or “heritage” language; “mother tongue” languages in schools in other countries; American Sign Language; and native American/indigenous languages) and uses of language in communities and the larger society.
Then, several years ago, a colleague of mine at the Center for Applied Linguistics said to me, “There is a group I think you would like to learn about,” who focus on nonviolent communication (NVC), and they give workshops. He told me about an upcoming workshop. I went to the workshop, and it was the one focused on Marshall Rosenberg’s work in nonviolent communication, speaking in ways that promote peace, connection, joy, and life, rather than ways that result in separation, running away, or conflict, saying, “I’m gonna win here.” I kept going to workshops, getting my husband and our daughters to go, and have been very engaged with this group since then.
VF: That’s amazing. Thank you so much for everything you do, for all your devotion to languages. Could you give us a brief preview of your talk please, which is going to be held on Thursday, November 2, 2017?
JP: The talk focuses on speaking the language of peace. We want peace in many areas of our lives – in our families, in our communities, in our education settings, and in our world. There are so many areas in which we can think about our language. Actually, we can start with ourselves: “How am I thinking? What language am I using to describe this particular event, this thing that I just heard, or this thing that I just said? What stories about myself, about life, about the world, have influenced the way I am living, the way I am speaking, the way I am interacting?” Then it moves outward to our families, to our communities, to our country, to our nation, and then to the way we think about and interact with those people and with people from other countries.
There are, as you know, many calls for peace, many publications about building peace, and many peacebuilding efforts across the globe, in many different ways: The Alliance for Peacebuilding does a lot of work in the United States and around the world. Rebecca Oxford wrote a book about peacemaking efforts in other countries (The Language of Peace: Communicating to Create Harmony); Mark Gopan at George Washington University has done a lot of work on peacemaking in many different countries and written the book, Healing the Heart of Conflict: 8 Crucial Steps to Making Peace With Yourself and Others. These are just a few examples of a wide and far-reaching desire to build peace. But as we can see in our own lives, wherever we are and particularly in all the news that we read and see these days, we very often find ourselves in conflict; and often, if we take a look at it, a lot of this conflict revolves around the language that’s being used, the names that we are calling people, the labels that we are placing on them. We see this every day. And while there are groups leading demonstrations and protests, sometimes the people who want to promote peace use terms like “Resist! Fight Back!” So we find ourselves, even though we are desiring peace, using language that isn’t really all that connecting, all that that peaceful. We find ourselves adding to the division and separation that we don’t like.
That’s what I am going to talk about.
Then I am going to describe the components of Marshall Rosenberg’s principles of non-violent communication. He wrote the book, Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life, and founded the Center of Nonviolent Communication. He has developed a set of four components of the language that we use and the ways that we think that can actually change our world, change our interactions, change our view of the world. It would take a while to describe all four components, so I’ll just say a few words about the first one, Observe. Much of our language involves using labels to describe others and even ourselves. Let’s just say something simple, “She is so selfish.” I think, all of us have either said that or heard it. Instead, we can observe … think about, What actually just happened? Turn our labels, judgements, and blame into a consideration and a description of what actually happened, what she actually said or did that we are interpreting as selfish.How can I switch my labels and blames into an observation that is clear, simple, and factual? I can go from there to think or talk about, “How am I feeling about that? What am I needing that’s driving these feelings? And then, what kind of request would I like to make of myself or of the other person?” It sounds like an extremely simple process. It’s nots. It takes quite a lot of thinking, talking, and practicing to do it, but it is worth it. M. Rosenberg said, “What we say next can change our world,” and I can say from my own experience, that taking this path does change our world. I would add that what we say and think next, after we experience something, hear something, observe something –what we think and say next can change our world.
I am then going to talk about ways we can apply these four components in our own lives, in our communities, in our classrooms, and with our colleagues in whatever interactions we are engaged in.
VF: Thank you so much again. We are looking forward to your talk very much, Dr. Peyton, here at the VIU, not only our students, but also our members of educational communities to spread the word out there how to live in peace, how to remain peaceful in all the settings, in politics, in education, in the groups that we all care about and are engaged with — to drop all the misunderstandings and misconceptions and strive to bring peace to the community. Thank you very much, again.
VF: What do you hope that participants will get out of the talk? I know the time of the talk is very short, it is only one hour.
JP: I hope that the people who are there, and I, will have a clear understanding of the ways that language can promote peace and connection, or pain and separation; and we can think together about ways that we can use language no matter what we’ve heard or what we’ve seen, or what struggle we’re in at that moment, to promote peace and connection and bring life to the situations we are in. And then we can think together about what we can do next. I think it is very important to think in my context, “What do I want to do now?”
VF: Thank you so much. Are there any tangible, palpable misconceptions out there about the topic of your talk?
JP: This is a really, really good question. In considering this topic, some people say that language can’t solve all conflicts and situations. And this is true. Language can’t solve all conflicts. There are actions that need to be taken. But language plays a big part in conflict, and we will benefit from thinking about it. Also, when I talk about this topic, I make the statement, “We all want peace.” Recently, a friend of mine said: “That’s a little overstated. We do not all want peace.” There are people out there who don’t want peace. Those people are our enemies. So, this idea of enemies, is one challenge that has come up.
I still believe, that if we took the time to think through what are my beliefs, what are my opinions, what stories am I telling myself, how can I think and talk differently about this or that situation, about this group of people, about this event that just happened, about this difficult message that I just heard – if we take the time and effort to think through these in a new way, so we are not involved in this case of separation, and often even violence, we can then think very carefully about what the next steps might be and whether we can take next step together, rather than in conflict. Does it make sense?
VF: Yes, of course. Thank you for sharing with us, Dr. Peyton. What resources might you suggest for someone who wants to know more about your topic? Or, how do you stay informed on the topic of your talk? What would be your recommendations?
JP: The book that I was introduced to, and which outlines very clearly Marshall Rosenberg’s views on speaking peacefully is Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life. It really gives the major overview. Another book that he wrote, which fits what I have been saying here, is Speak Peace in a World of Conflict: What You Say Next Will Change Your World. There are a lot of resources on the website of the Center for Nonviolent Communication (http://www.cnvc.org), and they are continually updated. There are a lot of resources out there. They also announce events that they are holding. There is a newsletter that comes out every month, announcing workshops held in the Washington DC area, including Maryland and Virginia — http://capitalnvc.org.
For teachers, a couple of educators took Marshall Rosenberg’s ideas, thought about how to create relationship-based, peace-filled classrooms, and wrote The Compassionate Classroom: Relationship-based Teaching and Learning and The No-fault Classroom: Tools to Resolve Conflict and Foster Relationship Establishment.
VF: In general, are there any overarching principles that guide your own teaching/consulting/work philosophy? If so, what are they?
JP: Three guiding principles for me are love, respect, and listening. These can have a huge impact on everything we do. I have noticed when I worked in other countries — Ethiopia, Nepal, and the Gambia — when I can become completely engaged in something, I think that that is my thing to do. I was brought in as a consultant, I know what to do, and I can become so focused on my agenda, what it is that I am here to do, what knowledge am I bringing, what skills am I bringing, what outcomes we are trying to achieve, that I can forget about everything and everyone else. I am very grateful that pretty quickly I realized that if that’s the world we are going to live in together, we are not going to get very far. I could continue to push my agenda,and I could leave, and that would be the end of it. Very possibly nothing would be accomplished.
So, I noticed in those situations, that love, respect, and listening should be higher on my list of priorities than my accomplishing my agenda. Then we can start to do it together — loving, respecting, and listening, we are working together; no one is making demands, no one is saying “You are doing this, because this is the rule.” Instead we can say, “This is what we are going to do, because we work in collaboration.” I have found that to be a huge component of working effectively with others.
VF: Thank you for all your encouragement, Dr. Peyton, for all of us to strive for the best, to be able to focus on why and how we are able to reach listening and respect. In general, what is your source of motivation? How do you keep yourself motivated?
JP: It is easy now to keep myself motivated, particularly in the current environment, when almost every day we see another instance of separation, of division, and of pain. One thing that motivates me a lot right now is to watch or to be involved with people I respect. We all have our groups, that we feel part of. People that we respect. They have the same philosophy about life as we do. They have the same thoughts about how life runs, the same perspective. We are part of this group. And to see these people using language that looks a little bit confrontational and divisive. I often find myself thinking, “Wow, that was violent. That was confrontational and divisive.” Then I stop and think, OK, what about that did you find to be divisive and confrontational? Then, what I like to do is to rethink what I found not helpful, what I found to be a label or offensive, and ask myself, “How would say this so that it is that offensive?” That can keep a person pretty busy. As Roger Shuy said, “Data is everywhere, in all the language that we use and we see.” Yes, you just open the paper and there are data everywhere. That gets me interested, excited, and motivated. There is so much to think about together.
VF: How would do you design instruction so your classroom reflects the success of you would teach?
JP: I would like to create a sense of belonging for every student. Every student has the sense of identity, a sense of personal ability, and a future. I would want to create a classroom in which those dynamics would exist. I would also want every student to have a place, a voice, and a sense of value and contribution. I would also want every student to be heard, and I would want to create opportunities for the students to interact with each other in many, many ways, in writing and in presentations, an atmosphere of engagement.
VF: Thank you, Dr. Peyton, for your vigorous and brisk talk, for spreading peace. We are so much looking forward to your talk on November 2. Thank you for joining us on BlogTalkRadio. We are looking forward to seeing you here at VIU. Have a wonderful day.
JP: Thank you. You too.
VF: Thank you, Ma’am. Bye.