Guiding Principles for Facilitating Challenging Conversations

Challenging conversations are not limited to any particular setting or time; educators should strive to prepare learners to engage in these dialogues as a normal part of life. The principles detailed here are intended to support educators in facilitating challenging conversations and exposing learners to meaningful ways to engage with uncomfortable or controversial topics.

Israel educators have faced the challenge of navigating and organizing challenging conversations since long before October 7, but today the need for nuance and thoughtful discourse is more important than ever. While the principles outlined below are not exclusive to the post-October 7th educational space, they have been cultivated with the current Israel-Hamas war in mind.


– Make space for and identify learners’ personal connections to the topic at hand.

– Consider “where your learners are at.” This can help make the discussion feel natural, accessible, and learner centered.

Encourage learners to think deeply about the questions they and others are asking. Thinking in terms of questions—as opposed to answers or definitive statements—allows learners to:

– Engage with multiple perspectives and narratives;

– Cultivate comfort with an ongoing learning process;

– Appreciate the importance of context.

Encourage thoughtful and nuanced expressions of discomfort or criticism. This can be achieved by affirming two principles:

– How we use words matters (see more here).

– Unpack how and why words matter, and interrogate the various meanings and connotations of commonly used words.

– Thoughtful criticism is legitimate and welcome.
Foster engagement by validating respectful opposition. In doing so, we encourage critical thinking, including criticism, rather than leaning on widely—and often inaccurately—used terms.

Authentic voices are rooted in two types of authenticity:

What learners are feeling, experiencing, and thinking
Make space for learners to bring their authentic selves into the room by encouraging people to share their emotions, instinctive responses, experiences, and questions.

Israeli voices in the room
Introduce learners to Israelis—either through in-person and virtual interactions or through multimedia—so they can hear and engage with a range of authentic Israeli voices and experiences. Be aware of the choices you make in selecting the voices you bring to your setting.

– Elevate learners’ thinking and language by tying discussions of timely issues to timeless values.

– Explore with learners how people prioritize their values differently (even if they are similar values (see more here).

– Conversations concerning contemporary issues should not exist in a vacuum; invite history and other context into the dialogue and acknowledge the connectedness of past, present, and future.

– Difficult conversations should be grounded in pre-existing ongoing relationships. Encourage learners to remember that they are talking with a person about an issue, not just about an issue.

– Conversations grounded in relationships empower learners to be open to new ideas, to respect the person behind the ideas, and to feel comfortable sharing their own ideas.

תחנות יסוד קשורות בתחום החינוך לישראל

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