Hedreich Nichols

Never Too Late

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Small Bites Friday Five 2-5-20

20-30m – Explore 3 Steps to Civil Discourse in this 8-page socialstudies.org document containing strategies for grades 4-12. It’s intended for older students but many of the strategies can be adapted for younger classes. Begin with the first strategy, start with yourself.

15-20m – Read this Kristy Louden guest blog from Cult of Pedagogy on teaching argument, early, often, across content.

10-15m – Prepare lessons 2 and 3 from Naomi Drew and Christa Tinari’s Create a Culture of Kindness in Middle School document. Again, the lessons can be adapted for older and younger students.

5-10m – Prepare lesson 8 from the above document.

0-5m – Make a list of the 3 worst case scenarios and outcomes in case a discussion gets off track. Consider the actual probability of them happening and how you can prepare for each.

If you teach littles, it’s fairly easy to navigate the daily strife and disagreements of primary school life. Be kind, say you’re sorry, hug it out, or these days, air high five.

If you teach middles or above, the waters are murkier. Hormones and hatred seem to bloom, with “kindness matters” giving way to toxic online–and even f2f–behaviors. Getting students to buy into the whole “cool to be kind” thing is not an easy task, especially if you didn’t build strong class culture early on.

Still, as the Pinterest poster says, “we do hard things”. Difficult is not the same as impossible. Whether you require a talking stick, arguing only the argument you are personally against or writing in silence when topics are fraught with conflict, it’s never too late to remind students that citizenship, respect, civil disagreement are what keep groups strong. I tell my middles, “school is hard enough without making each other’s life more difficult. Only small people want to be responsible for someone else’s pain” It’s a start.

The impeachment trial is starting and it is imperative that you use the opportunity to teach students to respect each other’s right to have a different opinion. That starts with setting ground rules and being an active, but neutral facilitator.

We all know the adage about opinions; we all have them and they don’t always need to be heard. Students can learn to voice their own opinions without offering commentary on the opinions of others. Then, you can build from there. Students need to learn how to talk about sensitive issues and since we are educators, we teach. If we want to prepare our students for a world full of conflict beyond the classroom walls, we have to be ready to teach them how to respectfully navigate the waters of conflict within them.