Say This, Not That: A Guide to Navigating Uncomfortable Conversations About Teaching


Navigating uncomfortable conversations about teaching can be challenging for both teachers and non-educators alike. From discussing controversial topics in the classroom to addressing concerns about a teacher’s performance, it’s essential to approach these discussions with care and consideration. This guide is designed to help you handle these delicate conversations with grace and tact, while maintaining professionalism and focusing on the best interest of everyone involved.

1. Addressing Concerns About Teaching Methods:

When discussing concerns about teaching methods, it’s important not to blame or attack the educator. Instead, use language that focuses on understanding their point of view and approach.
Say This: “I’m curious about the decision to use this teaching method. Could you share your perspective on why you think it’s effective?”

Not That: “Why are you using that outdated teaching method? It’s clearly not working.

2. Discussing Controversial Topics:

When broaching controversial topics in or out of the classroom, ensure your language is inclusive and respectful.
Say This: “I understand that this topic may have different viewpoints. How can we ensure everyone feels heard during this conversation?”

Not That: “You’re wrong about that topic, and here’s why…”

3. Debating Educational Policies:

When discussing educational policies, remember that opinions may vary. Aim for respectful discourse rather than aggressive confrontation.

Say This: “I see how this policy might be intended to benefit students, but I have concerns about its implementation. May I share my thoughts?”

Not That: “This policy is ridiculous! How could you support such a thing?”

4. Addressing Performance Concerns:

When expressing concerns about a teacher’s performance, focus on specific actions rather than making general accusations.

Say This: “I’ve noticed some students struggling with the material, and I’m hoping we can brainstorm strategies to better support their learning.”

Not That: “You’re not doing a good job teaching because the students don’t understand the material.”

5. Discussing Inclusivity and Equal Opportunity:

When discussing inclusivity and equal opportunity in education, use language that highlights cooperation and shared goals.

Say This: “How can we work together to create a more inclusive learning environment for all our students?”

Not That: “You need to do a better job making sure everyone feels included.”


Navigating uncomfortable conversations about teaching requires empathy, openness, and the willingness to learn from each other. By approaching these discussions with respect, constructive language, and focusing on shared goals, you can foster a positive environment for both educators and students. Always remember that honest dialogue is essential to growth, as it allows us all to learn, adapt and ultimately provide the best possible education for our students.

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