#USvsHate launches conversations. We want those conversations to go well and support learning.
Each Lesson page offers suggestions for setting dialogue norms with students before you start. Check out our Tools for Productive Group Dialogues for deeper resources on supporting students in conversation.
Invite sharing, but don’t force it. If students choose to share stories about themselves, value them, even if stories differ from your own.
Ask people to speak their own truths and experiences, but to take care with making claims about communities or experiences other than their own. Remember, it’s an educator’s job to request that all claims be based on evidence. And while I can speak from my own experience, it doesn’t mean others have experienced the same thing! You can always ask a speaker to rethink a statement about “other people,” asking for more factual evidence. (“Interesting, Joe, where have you learned that? Let’s keep learning and make sure our claims are based on evidence.”) If you know more about the subject, add facts to the dialogue. (“People who have spent a long time learning on this issue want us to know that xx.”)
Don’t “spotlight.” Let people speak as group members if they want to, but never pressure someone to represent a group. (If heads turn to Mohammad in a discussion of “Muslims,” you might say, “Mohammad doesn’t speak for all Muslims, and he shouldn’t be asked to. What do others think of this question?”) Everyone is a complex individual with membership in multiple communities.
Don’t let anyone disparage any “type of person” in the class, the community, or the nation without responding. (“We don’t use slurs in this school.” “We don’t want to say that here, because such language is harmful to others”; “our school community is about respecting all.”). (See Teaching Tolerance’s Speak Up at School for some more sentence starters.) Even a derogatory remark said with a laugh requires a response: “Those words hurt people”; “your comment has the effect of X.”
Speak up when somebody gets hurt. If someone says something hurtful or underinformed, we can:
- Point out that the comment hurts. (“That language is hurtful to others. Let’s make sure everyone is respected.”)
- Try challenging the script (the common but inaccurate thing said), not the speaker. (“In our society we sometimes hear people repeat that claim. But as we learn more about this issue, we realize that. . .”)
- Ask the speaker to act like a learner. (“We all have a lot to learn on this. Let’s pursue a more accurate understanding of this issue by learning more about xx.”)
- Commit on the spot to learning more, yourself. (“I want to go learn more about this issue and come back to class with more understanding.”)
- Follow up later if we think someone was hurt by something said.
See Schooltalk for many more suggestions for responding to people’s claims by requesting deeper learning.
Above all, act like a learner. Our quest is to learn about real lives. There will be questions you won’t be able to answer on the spot. Just commit publicly to learning! (Your answer can always be, “Let me learn more about that,” or “Let’s learn more about that together.”) Flag issues for further future learning, through local dialogues; readings or films; field trips to community settings; visits from community organizations; and learning experiences with all the organizations contributing lessons. Each organization offers webinars, in-person professional development trainings, tools for developing curriculum and programs, and listservs for sharing new resources. Sign up!
Stay connected to colleagues as you learn! #USvsHate teachers say they really value being part of a community of people tackling these issues together. We’ve included teacher stories [on the ongoing journey of trying #USvsHate lessons, and a comment section on each lesson page inviting you to discuss lessons with others trying them! You can also join the Teaching Tolerance and #Schooltalking online communities to talk more about how your lessons and dialogues are going.
Finally, here are some sample #USvsHate dialogue agreements. See what you think. As we say on every Lesson page[, the ideal process is to determine your own agreements and norms with your students if you don’t have such norms in place already!:
As adults and young people trying #USvsHate anti-hate lessons and messaging, we will support one another as we talk.
In our #USvsHate conversations,
- We will believe in each other’s equal human value and potential.
- We will show care and respect for others’ well being.
- We will not accept stereotypes about each other.
- We will not “spotlight” people (force them to represent “their group” in a conversation).
- We will keep learning to describe people more accurately, as individuals and as members of communities.
- We will consider how all people in our society deserve opportunities to live, learn, be safe, and be happy.
- We will think critically about ways to respond when people do not get these opportunities.
- We will stay committed to learning more about one another, our history, and our country — long after this lesson is done!