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Difficult Conversations

 

“Imagine the world and you are not in it.” This is how I began my recent lesson with our 4th grade French learners. I spent two days with the group discussing, what many consider a difficult topic: racism. While the end goal was for learners to understand how it isn’t just enough to NOT be racist, we must instead be Anti-Racist, the most important part of the lesson was the conversation that happened before the conclusion was reached. 

Often times, race and racism are looked at as taboo subjects in the classroom. Yet here at ISDenver, we feel that this conversation cannot start early enough. For our 4th graders to understand what the world would look like without them, we had to create a level of empathy, a place that they could go to in order to relate to a feeling of isolation. Sadly, it was simple to find this place, as we looked at Disney it was very easy for all our students to realize that children of color were not in this world. Combining these discussions and terms led to the conclusion of what it means to be anti-racist, to create a world where everyone’s story is shared. The tools they need to do so begin with difficult conversations. 

This experience was a small example of how we can manage difficult conversations in order to create meaningful dialogue in a culturally relevant and responsive way. It is a skill we hope to foster in our learners so that they can stand up for what they know is right, no matter how difficult the conversation may be. As tonight begins the first set of presidential debates, there will be a lot of difficult conversations both at school and at home. Words like integrity, compassion, and again, empathy, will hold more weight than they ever have. 

As you navigate these discussions at home, I ask you to use some of the same norms that we as a school hold invaluable. 

  • First, teach your children to speak from their own perspective, which is easily done by using the word “I.” They may share similar values and opinions as others, but what is important is how they view things individually. 
  • Always assume the best intentions, especially from others. While comments may not always come across right, it is our job to assume best intentions and ask questions for clarification. 
  • Be ready to apologize. If we can model how we learn from mistakes, it will influence those around us to do the same. 
  • Be mindful of body language. Empathy is shown best from nonverbal communication. 
  • Lastly, challenge the idea, not the person. Ignorance isn’t always bliss, and it is our job to challenge ignorance with facts and allow others the opportunity to grow. 

So as we continue to navigate new territory as a school, as a community, and as a nation, there will be plenty of opportunities for difficult conversations. But my hope is that as these conversations continue to happen they get easier, and instead, become labeled as just and fair conversations. 

 

Annie Barocas

G4-G8 Counselor

 

 

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