The Dialogue Institute led a half-day dialogue training, May 9, 2017, for students and teachers at Friends' Central School (FCS), a coeducational, college-preparatory day school located just outside of Philadelphia.
Executive Director Rebecca Mays facilitated the training, which included an opening general assembly for all Upper School students and teachers, followed by separate break-out sessions for the 9th, 10th and 11th grade classes, as well as some seniors. The Dialogue Institute (DI) also trained selected students and teachers ahead of time to help facilitate small group discussions and role-play activities during the class sessions.
"The skills that students learned and the language they were offered to frame a positive, constructive approach to difficult conversations were very helpful," said Tom MacFarlane, Upper School Dean of Students. "It was useful to pause for a moment and reflect on how we enter our complicated interactions with others. Our students are always impatient to 'get to the tough stuff' and they needed to take the time to think deliberately and strategically about how to get the most out of such engagement."
The training grew out of some recent challenges at the school, particularly related to the Arab/Israeli conflict. In response to those issues, FCS formed a task force to help develop a clearer protocol for handling programs and speakers which address similarly contentious and complicated issues. Among other suggestions, the task force recommended inviting the DI "to work with students and teachers to promote 'intrareligious, interreligious and intercultural dialogue.'"