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February 18, 2022 Friday 12:46:28 PM IST

How to Tackle Sensitive Topics in Class?

All teachers will inevitably teach about sensitive topics. These topics may range from racism, forced labour, or slavery to bullying, sexual orientation, and gender biases — and may be completely unexpected. Any topic of a sensitive nature may make even the best of teachers uncomfortable when exploring the topic with students. Our natural reaction is often to shy away from difficult or controversial topics, or to approach them from a superficial, strained, or halfhearted standpoint. But many times these topics are crucially important to students’ awareness of the world and its social, moral, political, and civic underpinnings.

Set the stage for difficult conversations by assessing student readiness based on realistic, non-biased expectations. Set the stage by creating a supportive environment based on respect.

Enable and facilitate the discussion of ideas, not people. The teacher must support students and enhance their opportunities to grow in the discussion

Never allow your personal biases and opinions to influence the facts or get in the way of opportunities for students to examine diverse perspectives.


Seek out age- and grade-level appropriate digital media, readings, and other materials that allow students to begin with baseline knowledge and that will be the basis of discussions

Interpersonal classroom activities that involve discussing sensitive or controversial issues should be complemented with intrapersonal activities like self-reflection and personal awareness.

The act of summarizing conversations, either orally or in writing provides students with a chance to recall new or interesting information, and review what was said and how it fits or conflicts with personally held thoughts and opinions.

Invite disagreement. Encourage students to speak up with different opinions — while still maintaining decorum.


Value the diversity of your students as an asset. Teach your students to do the same. Your actions affect the culture and climate of your classroom

Emotional and tense moments may arise during discussions about sensitive issues. Be prepared to help students work through them.


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