In response to a Social-Emotional Learning screener showing only 43% of Marshall students responded favorably in comfort talking about race, students had an Advisory lesson about difficult conversations.
A school wide equity team made up of staff and students that meets every month helped to create an effective Advisory lesson plan for all students, hoping to provide the fundamentals of having difficult conversations for students and teachers.
“I think the overall objective was to have students become aware of both the nature of the differences in the room around them, and that there are these topics that are happening, whether or not they necessarily connect or relate to them,” social studies and Advisory teacher Richard Resig said.
While he agreed with the content itself, Resig said he felt the lesson about difficult conversations fell short when it comes to the impact it had on students.
“If [the lesson] doesn’t have sort of the consistency or the development that you would expect, students are very keen to see through that kind of stuff,” Resig said. “The students are obviously mature enough and smart enough to get the sense of like, maybe we’re checking a box.”
“I feel like they’re not really useful and I feel like they’re forced,” senior Laura Crone said on why she doesn’t often participate in lessons.
The lesson was intended to improve school culture and to teach students to criticize the idea and not the person.
“I think it doesn’t really matter what I say or how I word it, someone’s always gonna be offended so I don’t really see the point in this activity,” Crone said.
Art teacher Patrick McDonough, a member of the Marshall Equity Team and Advisory co-lead, said he received some negative feedback in response to the lessons.
“I think the biggest challenge that has been communicated to us has been not feeling ready to have these sorts of conversations,” McDonough said.
“The question is kind of whether or not [students] are feeling comfortable enough to talk about them in front of their friends,” he said.
Crone says she believes having friends and students in the same grade in an Advisory would make the class more fun.
“[The lessons] make me feel like a child,” Crone said. “They make me feel like the staff thinks like I’m a kid and like I need to learn how to talk to people when I already know how to do that.”