Q. As a school administrator, I am preparing for the emotional post-election conversations that our staff and students are expecting in the days ahead. As opportunities arise to discuss the outcomes, teachers are looking for guidance on the best ways to model mature and responsible behavior for one another and our children. What recommendations would you offer for educators around politically driven crucial conversations in the classroom?
A. We appreciate our educators and are grateful for the work you do to elevate the minds of our emerging voting citizens. 2020 has presented many unexpected challenges for educators, and with a 24-hour news cycle featuring a pandemic, protests, and political strife, classroom stress is at an all-time high. Regardless of the school or political affiliation, educators are facing tough questions from students concerned about their future. Whether in the hallways, cafeteria, or classroom, modeling behavior that reflects good intent, respect, and mutuality is more important than ever.
Below are some tips from our “How Do I Say That?” video series from VitalSmarts Master Traiers and Leadership about navigating political dialogue. We hope you’ll find them helpful as you address important conversations in the classroom and beyond.
Joseph Grenny, coauthor of Crucial Conversations, on how to disagree about politics without being disagreeable.
- First, get curious. Try to remain open and see what you can learn from the experiences of others. Start by asking questions.
- Resist the urge to change or fix others’ viewpoints. Listen sincerely and see if you can identify what led them to their conclusion or belief.
- Tell your story. Rather than respond to the views of others with opposing opinions or facts, simply share your experience of the subject in question. This will lay the foundation for a deeper conversation about similarities and shared interests.
Master Trainer and Speaker Justin Hale on checking your motive.
- Check your motive. Remember to Start with Heart at the beginning of any political conversation. Classrooms and school hallways can provide ample opportunities for pop-up conversations about politics and social issues. Pausing to assess your motive before responding will help guide the conversation. If your motive is off, you probably don’t need to have the conversation at all.
- Listen and learn. Staying curious and listening intently will help you respond in a way that validates rather than threatens the other.
Vice President of Delivery Operations Emily Gregory on helping kids manage stress related to political and social concerns.
- Listen to their concerns. Be an active listener for you students. Just like their adult counterparts, kids want to share their observations, experiences, and feelings. Be a role model who actively listens and show students the importance of thoughtful consideration. This will help them develop their own ability to master their stories.
- Affirm what they’re feeling. Let kids know that their emotions, fears, and concerns are valid and help them manage stress through safe discussions.
VitalSmarts Master Trainer Maria Moss offers tips for becoming a better listener.
- Appreciate others’ cultural experiences. You don’t need to experience what another has in order to appreciate their view. Staying curious and asking questions will help you develop an appreciation for the experiences of others.
- It’s okay to disagree. You can think differently and still be kind. When this is apparent, people feel safe to have difficult conversations and it ensures people feel heard and validated. When one feels validated, the need to debate and win is lessened, leaving a path for respectful disagreement.
We hope these skills help all people, regardless of age, education, political affiliation, race, gender, or cultural background, to approach one another in a spirit of curiosity and learning. We have a responsibility as adults to teach the upcoming generations how to communicate and respect one another. We know our educators are working hard to provide the best classroom experience for young minds across the globe and we thank you for your contribution and dedication in doing so. Keep up the good work!