Of the countless topics that could have been chosen for our valued professional development day in November, we chose to engage in a three-hour study around civil discourse.
Civil discourse is closely aligned to our mission and we all know it is so badly needed at this time. It aligns perfectly with our social-emotional curriculum, as well as with the habits of mind and heart. Our careful and intentional discourse enables us to practice empathy for others and their point of view, hear and listen to multiple perspectives, problem-solve and persevere through difficult conversations, and at the same time learn to maintain integrity and civility toward one another.
Through the outstanding leadership and expertise of Shira Deener and Staci Rosenthal of Facing History and Ourselves, faculty and staff were taken on a powerful journey of learning. The goal of the workshop was to begin the conversation; we would immerse ourselves, we would practice and explore and ultimately bring our learning to our students.
Shira and Staci spoke with us about listening, as well as about how we establish safe and brave spaces so that true conversation can take place. Through carefully structured exercises, we practiced silent conversations, were introduced to Harvard’s Project Zero approach to mapping messy controversies with reference to four facets: facts, interest, values and policies. Speaking of reparations, we examined each facet while exploring it from a standpoint of agreeing or disagreeing.
Though this was merely the beginning of the work, we certainly ended the session with new awareness, new skills and new learnings. We hope to have further training and will certainly bring our knowledge to our classrooms and to our students.
Glenda Speyer is the director of learning and teaching.
The School Sparks blog appears periodically by various writers among the JCDS educational team. Learn more about JCDS, Boston’s Jewish Community Day School.

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