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WE Talking points When creating a safe and inclusive space for students to share, the following tips may be helpful:  Seize the opportunity  Listen carefully and actively

to whoever is speaking  Show respect to the opinions,

beliefs and feelings of others  Don’t speak for others and avoid

generalising  “Oops!”/“Ouch!”- give

permission to young people to voice their feelings, eg: ‘Ouch that hurt!’ or ‘Oops! Can I please start that question again?’

experience to address these issues in a way that removes misconceptions and challenges stereotypes, rather than reinforces them. Equally important is the ability to instil in students an attitude of curiosity and openness, rather than fear and hostility, to cultural and religious difference. In order to equip young people with the skills for confident communication in an often complex and diverse world,

3FF trains volunteer speakers from a variety of backgrounds – including Jews, Christians, Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus, Buddhists, atheists and humanists – to go into schools and share a short snippet of their personal narrative. For the young people participating in the ‘encountering faiths and beliefs’ workshop, this may be the first time they have had an opportunity to meet and to ask a Jew, ‘what does it mean to be kosher?’ or to a Christian, ‘what are your views on sex before marriage?’ or indeed a humanist speaker about their views on life after death. A pile of dusty textbooks at the back of the classroom can’t do justice to these questions but a real-life encounter with somebody can. Young people can ask our speakers anything they like – no questions are off limits. We believe that even the most controversial questions often come from a place of genuine curiosity and have the potential to provide young people with great learning opportunities. Crucial to unlocking that potential is setting a ‘safe-space agreement’ and making people aware of the principle of ‘dialogue, not debate’, which encourages an attitude of understanding and curiosity rather than an adversarial interaction (see talking points, above). We also encourage our speakers to respond using ‘I’ statements, talking about what ‘I’ believe and do, and to avoid making generalisations about what ‘all Muslims’ or ‘Christians in general’ are like. We also teach speakers to include a spectrum of views in their answers, highlighting to young people the diversity that exists within traditions. Not all Jews, for instance, practise their faith the same way (if, indeed, they are religious at all). If we don’t highlight the human element, how people from a tradition relate to and practise their belief very differently, we may just end up E

NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2013 l LEADERSHIP FOCUS

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Leadership Focus Nov/Dec 2013  

The magazine for members of the NAHT

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