Having Tough Conversations in Schools

Dana GoodierBlog, Connect Better, Reflect Better


  • We need to be more comfortable with having tough conversations in schools.
  • Diving deep into the uncomfortable is part of the job of an educator.

This year, my school is focusing on developing more equitable practices, which include equitable grading, incorporating equitable dialogue into our curriculum, and addressing behavior issues where students aren’t treating each other equitably or respecting each other. Equity has definitely become a hot-button word in today’s political climate, but as educators, we must strive to have our schools become places where all our students have equitable opportunities.

Equity often gets confused with equality. Many of us have seen this graphic which shows how to accommodate everyone. We must provide opportunities for everyone to succeed. This also means taking into account everyone’s situation so we can adjust our curriculum and grading practices accordingly.

Having Tough Conversations

What does this mean for educators in terms of having tough conversations? It means we have to be vigilant about how we approach students, both in the classroom and in the hallways, who aren’t treating others respectfully. It’s having conversations around phrases or terms that they may use “on the fly” without thinking and having a conversation with them about why using these terms or phrases are inappropriate.

Having tough conversations in schools is something we need to become more comfortable with. It comes with experience, but even novice teachers have the opportunity to take up some difficult topics with students.

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Learn From Your Mistakes

Principal Kafele, who wrote The Equity and Social Justice Education 50 and who I recently interviewed on the Out of the Trenches podcast, share some tips. Educators must strive to understand students’ reality by reading the room and analyzing the audience. It’s about having an equity mindset and being willing to make mistakes but learn and grow from them. When you meet students as they are and WHERE they are, you become a practitioner who practices equity. It’s about equity not just being something you do, but who you are.

Tough conversations also encompass many other topics such as navigating peer conflicts and setting expectations for interpersonal conduct when peers are unable to come to an amicable agreement. Sometimes a no-contact contract must be written.

It’s Part of the Job

Diving deep into the uncomfortable is part of the job of an educator. Becoming comfortable with the uncomfortable is something we can strive to be. When you are comfortable having conversations around issues that may require you to gain some prior knowledge, you’re continuing to grow and evolve as an educator. We’re all life-long learners and never stop learning and gaining knowledge from others.


Cartoon: equity[1].jpg (910×682) (bp.blogspot.com)

Principal Kafele Writes

About Dana Goodier

Dr. Dana Goodier has 23 years of experience in education. She has taught World Languages and English and worked as a middle school administrator. She completed her doctorate degree (Ed.D.) in Educational Leadership early 2020. For her dissertation, she researched reasons parents were opting their students out of high-stakes testing at middle schools and how that affected the district accreditation rating.

She often speaks at conferences, providing educators with techniques to minimize off-task behavior and to increase time on task. She is the host of the “Out of the Trenches” podcast, which features educators who share their stories of resiliency. She’s also the author of the book, “Out of the Trenches: Stories of Resilient Educators.”

Follow her on Twitter @danagoodier and visit her website at: www.danagoodier.com