In this podcast interview I asked five educators the following questions.
1. How can a teacher facilitate a classroom in which students feel safe to share differing opinions?
2. Please share a memory when you shared a differing opinion in class. How did your teacher and classmates react, and how did you feel?
Listen to the interview through the streaming services below.
Jeanne Mastriano - 10th grade English teacher, Lower Merion High School, retired
Linda Patterson & Claire Yoo - 1st grade co-teachers, Friends Select School
Michael Gary - Head of School, Friends Select School
Barbara Given - Special Education teacher and reading specialist, retired
Whether you're a current or former teacher or student, I'd love to post your written answers to the interview questions, below. Email them to me at [email protected].
*Let me know if you want to be named or anonymous.
Gary Watson - April 2021
"I regularly taught courses such as 'philosophical issues in race and gender'...I would begin with the joking question, 'What’s a white guy doing teaching a course like this?'" Read More
1. I don’t think I was very good at handling these things. I regularly taught courses such as “philosophical issues in race and gender” and other controversies of public policy. I would begin with the joking question, “What’s a white guy doing teaching a course like this?” I think in the end the students appreciated the discussion, but I was never sure how to pitch things so that the Black students, e.g., didn’t feel offended by some of the depictions of racism that we discussed and analysed, or else (or in addition) feel put on the spot as representative Black people.
Anonymous - April 2021
"...give every person the opportunity to be listened to in a way that doesn't feel forced, so that the conversation isn't only had by the few who are more vocal." Read More
1. I think that it has a lot to do with the initial community you build with a class. If people feel comfortable around each other, I think they may be more inclined to be outspoken if they have an opinion that isn't the same with another person because there is less fear of judgment. I also think it's important to give every person the opportunity to be listened to in a way that doesn't feel forced, so that the conversation isn't only had by the few who are more vocal.
2. I remember once when I was a lot younger (probably around 7), I was at sunday school, and I said something about not thinking anyone goes to hell, and the teacher got really angry and called my mom to tell her to come speak to me. I think it's important that you continue to share your opinion even if the situation isn't comfortable, and I think that a teacher facilitating a place where it feels safe in a classroom can prepare people to feel confident to do it when the situation is less stable.
Anonymous - March 2021
"Where student opinion negatively affects other students, we work collectively to strive for transformation." Read More
1. Each student needs to be recognized, validated, and respected by the teacher. Where I teach, classrooms are becoming more and more diverse in terms of race, nationality, class, gender, creed, ability, knowledge, and outlook. So, as a teacher I need to recognize, acknowledge , and value this diversity. Diversity of background brings diversity of opinions. When a student feels like they are recognized, valued and respected they feel empowered and are eager to contribute. I try to encourage an environment of healthy debate where different opinions and perspectives are valued critically. Where student opinion negatively affects other students, we work collectively to strive for transformation.
2. As a teacher I always share opinions that some students do not agree with, which is good because it sparks debate. For instance, I have had students argue passionately against my idea of the ideological effects of video games such as Roblox. I think the debates are beneficial to the learning process.