Living Room Conversations has partnered with AllSides to offer the Relationships First class conversation as a way to give students both an intellectual and experiential understanding of the value of listening, respect and holding the tension of our differences.
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How we treat each other is the difference between a great place to live and a bad place to live. We shape our world through relationships. Most people agree we want communities where all people have dignity and respect. Yet respectful interactions are often not what we see modeled in the media and in politics. And far too many people feel disrespected in their lives. What is our role in these dynamics? This component was designed to create a space to talk about our experiences and shared aspirations. This is an adaptation that includes three rounds of questions instead of five.
The Relationships First materials were developed to create a foundation for the AllSides for Schools critical thinking curriculum. Science reveals that feelings are more influential in decision making than facts. We also know that once people care about each other they hear things in a very different way. Grounding students in the power of respectful engagement and valuing differences sets them up with a refresher in relationship skills that will serve them well when working together in class and outside of class.
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What to Expect
The Relationships First offering is designed to span 2 class sessions. Students are introduced to the conversation agreements and participate in the conversation in the initial session. The second session is an intellectual debrief and reflections on the conversations they had. Some of the conversation questions the students may respond to include:
- Have you ever seen or been in a conversation where people were not listening to each other? How did that turn out?
- Have you ever taken a position or voiced an idea that was very different from the group you are part of? How did that feel? OR… Have you ever decided against speaking out because it just wasn’t worth the repercussions?
- Can you remember a time when you and a friend interpreted the same information very differently? Why do you think that happened?
- When have you used respect and listening to resolve a problem? Did it work?
First 5-10 minutes
Hand out the Relationships First materials. Read the introductory paragraph for the Relationships First conversation and the conversation agreements. (Option: let different students read each agreement aloud.) Talk briefly about how you will spend the next 50 minutes (please adapt for whatever time period you have.)
We have 30 minutes to have a structured conversation about relationships. I’m going to mix you up into groups of 5. (The more differences in a group the better. Probably best to break up cliques.) I’ll let you know when 10 minutes and 20 minutes have passed. At 30 minutes I’ll suggest you wrap up your conversation and then you will have a few minutes to fill out your feedback forms.
Round one of this conversation should take you about five minutes. Remember when answering the questions – you choose to answer one or more questions. You don’t need to answer them all. You want to be sure that there is time for everyone to talk.
Round two is longer -take 10 to 15 minutes to answer one or two of the questions. Pick the questions that interest you the most.
Round three takes 5 to 10 minutes.
Remember – Take responsibility for the quality of your participation and the quality of the conversation by noticing what’s happening and actively support getting yourself and others back “on purpose” when needed.
- Everyone shares responsibility for guiding the conversation and is invited to help keep the conversation on track.
- If an area of interest has arisen that has taken the group off topic, ask the group if they would like to set aside the new topic for a separate conversation.
- If someone is dominating, disruptive or has found their soapbox, respectfully interrupt the situation, refer to the conversation agreements and invite everyone to get back on track with the current question so the group can complete the current conversation.
End of class – You might encourage students to read the Head / Heart handout and suggest they think about what aspect of the conversation they had fits with the ideas shared in the handout.
This is a great time to have an open discussion about the concepts in the Head/Heart handout and how those dynamics impact student’s lives, civic life and other aspects of the curriculum being taught.