While traditionally schools focus on the “Three Rs” with academics as their main point of emphasis, at St. Francis, we are just as concerned with kids’ emotional intelligence. To that point, at our opening faculty meetings this summer, we decided that common language among the adults in the community around many topics was a wonderful strategy to ensure that our students hear the same approach and wording on important issues. A wonderful example of this is on the topic of having challenging conversations. And while we’ve always tried to help students in this area, we decided to research different developmental approaches for the various age groups and choose what makes the most sense for each.

At the Lower School level, it’s a continuation of an approach counselor Julie Marks has championed that is known to the kids as “Power Talk.” Students learn to use phrases with “I messages” to frame their exchanges. Such as: “I feel hurt when you won’t share the Legos and end up sad.” It turns the conversation into how each individual feels rather than focusing on “what you did wrong.” Both students in a conflict use this framework, guided by an adult, to hopefully solve their problems. You can view the framework we use here. At the Middle School level, we looked at what the High School had adopted and decided it was entirely appropriate for our students, too. Adapted from resources from Spalding University and the Teaching Tolerance website that Suzanne Gorman looked into, we rebranded our model, “How to Have Courageous Conversations” (because it does take courage to engage in this honest interplay!). This approach was rolled out to our middle schoolers at Morning Meeting this week, and their advisors will have further conversations about it during morning and flex time soon. In this model, kids must first ask themselves if they are ready to have an honest dialogue with another student about a problem they are having. The point is not about who “wins,” but about being able to listen to each other’s viewpoint with an open mind (and a little adult guidance). We also pointed out to the kids that this isn’t just for them — the adults in the community are having “Courageous Conversations” as well! Hopefully you might be able to use some “Power Talk” or have a “Courageous Conversation” with your child soon!