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Sentence Starters for Courageous Conversations

Part of the Virtual Crew Collection

Student crew is only as strong as staff crew. To nurture staff belonging, school leaders are maintaining connections among staff and finding ways for teachers to process their own experience and emotions. To nurture staff purpose and agency, school leaders are helping staff lead Crew in the way students need now.

As you may have seen from other entries in this collection, we believe that part of nurturing staff and students' senses of purpose right now involves inviting them learn, talk, and think critically about the times we're in. That means discussing racism and xenophobia, the impact of governmental decisions, and how everything is affecting those already furthest from opportunity. Those topics are meaningful, and generate emotion, and it can be helpful to have some sentence starters to keep conversation going.

Sentence Starters for Meaningful Conversations

Adapted from “Respect Differences? Challenging the Common Guidelines in Social Justice Education,” Robin DiAngelo and Özlem Sensoy

  • I’m really nervous/scared/uncomfortable to say [X], but . . .
  • From my experience/perspective as [identity], . . .
  • I’m afraid I may offend someone, and please let me know if Ido, but . . .
  • It feels risky to say [X], but . . .
  • I’m not sure if this will make any sense, but . . .
  • I just felt something shift in the room. I’m wondering if anyone else did . . .
  • It seems like some people may have had a reaction to that. Can you help me understand why?
  • Can you help me understand whether what I’m thinking right now might be problematic?
  • This is what I understand you to be saying:. . . . Is that accurate?
  • I’ve been wondering about how we are using [term] in this discussion . . .
  • I have always heard that [X]. What are your thoughts on that?
  • The author is arguing that only [e.g., men can be sexist]. Can you help me understand that?
  • Is [X] a good example of what the author was saying?
  • How would you respond to [X] from a social justice framework?
  • I am having a “yeah, but” moment. Can you help me work through it?
  • Given the reality of inequitable power, would it be better if . . . ?
  • How does [X] effect relationships between [Y] and [Z]?
  • What is another example of [X]?
  • This perspective is new to me, but I’m wondering if it is accurate to say that . . . ?

Have an example to share? We are learning alongside you about what virtual crew can look like, and welcome your contributions. Use this form or email Sarah Norris at snorris@eleducation.org

And for treasure hunters out there, we are maintaining this public folder with everything we find. 


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