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Facilitating the Difficult Dialogue: Role Plays
activity requires 60-90 minutes.
Teachers often are hesitant to raise topics such as racism, sexism, economic injustice,
and heterosexism in the classroom because their training has not prepared
them to handle the issues and exchanges that may result. This activity
provides participants an opportunity to share stories about when discussions
about these topics took an unexpected turn they were unprepared to handle,
then to share ideas about how to address these circumstances in the
participants into groups of four or five. Prepare enough space in the
room for small groups to perform skits.
will be most effective if you already have engaged in a discussion about
the importance of dealing with issues of social justice in the classroom.
participants to share a story about a time when they participated
in, or facilitated, a discussion on racism, sexism, economic injustice, heterosexism,
or another form of oppression that took an unexpected turn and caused
conflict that was never resolved. The situation may have ended in
shouting or hard feelings or may have even deepened the tension being
discussed. If participants have completed, or are in the process of
completing, student teaching or a related practicum, you might ask
them to try to remember a story from that experience.
questions to guide the discussion related to these stories:
went wrong in the situation you shared?
did the facilitator or educator or participants try to address
about the tension felt unresolvable?
did the conversation end?
could the discussion have been more fruitful?
each group to choose one story to role play for the rest of the class.
Some people are less comfortable "performing" in front of the class,
so encourage them and mention that everybody will have an opportunity
to participate in a role play. Role plays should last no longer than
providing time for small groups to plan their role plays, ask for
groups to volunteer to perform their role play for the class.
each role play, use or adapt the following questions to tease out
the issues and strategies for addressing them:
are the primary issues introduced by this situation?
are the dangers of continuing a dialogue in response to the situation?
are the educational opportunities introduced by the situation?
are some strategies for managing the situation without immediately
ending the conversation?
each role play, process the activity by asking participants
whether they noticed any parallels in the stories.
always important when activities call for participants to share their
own stories and make themselves vulnerable to remind the group about
active listening. Consider starting the activity by sharing a story
from your own experience to ease the tension.
also consider following this activity with one in which participants
are encouraged to take turns facilitating conversations about issues
of oppression for the other participants. Consider using "plants" who
are prepared to introduce difficult situations into the experience.
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