Elephant in the Classroom

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Elephant in the Classroom: Facilitating Challenging Discussions

Registration closed.
Dates: Monday, July 10; Wednesday, July 12; and Thursday, July 13
Time: In-person from 12:30 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.
New Visions’ Fee: $25.00*
Related Materials: Syllabus
Related Course: The Art of Facilitation

The presidential election, proposed changes in immigration policy and police shootings have dominated headlines in recent months and left many students with a wide variety of questions and concerns. When students enter our classrooms, they do not leave these questions and concerns at the door. This presents teachers with a challenge: how do we address emotionally fraught and politically charged topics? How can we create safe conversations around these topics while also supporting a robust classroom community and promoting student learning?

During this three-day workshop, participants will learn practices that help teachers and their students engage in informed and respectful civic discourse even when discussing challenging topics.

This course builds on one of our most popular courses, The Art of Facilitation, in which participants engage in community-building exercises and enact protocols that can be modified across content areas and grade levels.

As a result of taking this course, teachers will be able to:

  • Facilitate challenging discussions in the classroom
  • Address challenging topics as they arise, whether out-of-school (e.g., changes in government policy, traumatic events, etc.) or in-school (e.g., a fight, a racial conflict, etc.)
  • Reflect on their own experiences facilitating challenging classroom conversations in order to determine individual areas of strength and areas where there is room for growth
  • Use strategies to help students process feelings

Course Expectations:

  • Attend three 4.5-hour in-person sessions
  • As a midterm, complete a draft facilitation plan for a challenging conversation in your classroom
  • Complete a final facilitation plan and written reflection
  • Provide and receive peer feedback on assignments with enthusiasm and an open mind
  • Attend all sessions and participate as an engaged, active listener in class discussions

This class will be taught by

Zoe Roben

Zoe has been an educator since 2003 and has taught at the elementary, high school, college and graduate levels. She currently teaches English and leads professional development at Harvest Collegiate, a NYCDOE High School. Zoe holds a Master of Arts in Teaching from Brown University and National Board Teaching Certification in English. She has trained in psychodynamic group leadership at The Center for Group Studies as a way to integrate the social, emotional and intellectual facets of classroom life. Zoe is committed to helping students develop tools to examine social issues and personal experiences in order to create a world that is more kind, more sustainable and more just.


Course Location

New Visions for Public Schools
205 E. 42nd Street, 4th FL
New York, NY 10017

Course Fees and Registration

*New Visions is covering the course fees for educators who work in a New Visions school (charter or district). If you do not have the registration code, please email microcert@newvisions.org. See our terms & conditions page for further information regarding registering with the DOE for P-credit and other details such as our refund policy.