- Addressing tough issues in a staff meeting is challenging but well worth the effort, educator and coaching consultant Elena Aguilar writes for Edutopia, recommending a plan that allows staff members to discuss the “undiscuss-ables.”
- The first step is to acknowledge there is a problem by just coming right out and saying it, with the discussion leader addressing his or her fears of the conversation while remaining confident that the problem can be addressed and a solution can be found.
- The leader should also seek input from others about how the problem is affecting them, ask what they believe is happening and how it could be addressed, and then listen to responses while also reminding participants that undiscussed issues tend to only get bigger over time.
Having a protocol in place to address sensitive topics in staff meetings, such as race and equity issues, for example, takes some of the unknown out of the equation and gives participants hope that problems can be solved through positive discourse. The administrator, or lead faculty member, can set the tone for the conversation by stating a clear purpose from the beginning.
Difficult discussions are not always confined to faculty meetings, either — they're taking place in the classroom, in hallways and in neighborhoods. However, teachers can be discouraged from having, or are too intimidated to have, contentious political discourse in the classroom. Rather than avoiding polarized issues, teachers can develop a controlled format for expressing opposing views, and this is something school leaders should encourage.
Teachers face the potential of facilitating these difficult discussions after current events, particularly those involving police brutality, mass shootings, ICE raids, elections, the passage of restrictive abortion laws and more. A recent study even suggested today's students are ready to have such complex conversations, a ripe opportunity for educators to tap into.
To ease the sting of sensitive social topics, educators can include current event discussions into unit plans that show how modern issues are similar to historical ones. Discussing how people in the past dealt with social injustices can allow students to absorb these topics from a distance, which eliminates the sense of urgency. Once the students draw the parallels they may be able to better understand opposing views.