The dog, thin and tired, walks in to the room and lies down with a sigh of contentment.  Its lightly breathing black and white body does not appear to distract any of the group of fifteen children seated in a circle around it.  The dog is quite comfortable on the hard concrete surface and the children are at ease sitting cross-legged on threadbare rugs.  The teacher sits among the children and at first I am not aware that she is there, as I try to maintain a relaxed position on the impossibly unforgiving ground.  The children are aged between thirteen and fourteen years, girls and boys sit together and some quietly chatter.  Then a silence, not one that is enforced neither one that comes instantly from some regimented reaction.  This silence is natural and brings an air of calm expectancy; certainly the dog is at ease as it stirs, in a fluid movement shifting position.

Despite the discomfort I am experiencing, I sit fascinated listening to the free flowing conversation amongst the children.  Occasionally there is laughter; from time to time there is quiet, neither awkward nor giving space to shuffling embarrassment.  The teacher interjects, questions, challenges, but she is not in control.  There is respect, trust and affection.  Some children switch off for a time; some whisper to each other, however, there is no disruption.  There is a silence at the end of the lesson that brings the children together, sitting straight backed, unforced and in good humour.  The teacher smiles, she thanks the children and they leave chattering and laughing.  Two children stay behind and sit next to the teacher, talking intensely in low voices.  She holds the boy’s hand, the girl rests her hand on the teacher’s arm; there is a different feeling here.

It is time for me to go.  I raise myself somewhat painfully from the rug; I am a sufferer from stiff joints and too much time sitting on chairs.  As I make my way to the heat outside to yet again be subjected to the burning sun, the dog yawns, stretches and effortlessly gets on to its feet.  It joins me with a wag of its tail and we walk together from the concrete to the hot sand.  There we say our goodbyes as I go for cup of chai and the dog goes in search of water.
 ‘While we want our students to internalise the ‘right’ principles, if we have any humility we also want them to be able to go beyond our values and develop their own moral sense.  One way to accomplish this is to make time for frequent and open dialogue among students and teachers, in an environment of trust and affection.  This guarantees nothing, of course!  Yet it seems only right that young people be given the opportunity to challenge adults and be challenged in return, and most school environments make this difficult, if not impossible.’              
‘In our schools and classrooms, we generally reward ability rather than effort, and most systems outside school function in a similar way.  If we believe it is worthwhile to question these deeply rooted practices, again it seems we need to engage our students in open dialogue about these issues.  Here, we as teachers are not giving them our rules; rather, we are sharing the complexity of human life in the hope that they can go beyond us.’   Kamala Mukunda  ‘ What Did You Ask At School Today?’ published in India in 2009 by Collins
I am working on a proposal to bring dialogue into education in the UK arising from my experience as a teacher, my observations and conversations in India and my connections with the work of J Krishnamurti and Rabindranath Tagore.  I am proposing to entitle this ‘Conversations on Living:  talking together with Young People’.  I shall be exploring further ideas in this area in future blogs and commenting on each step taken.