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  Workshop 7: Controversial Public Policy Issues  
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Workshop 7

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Teacher Perspectives: Advice to other teachers

JoEllen Ambrose: I don’t think it’s a very difficult lesson, so I don’t think you need a lot of advance work. Because it’s so flexible, you have to kind of flow with it. That structure itself should make anybody feel comfortable. You don’t need to do anything other than follow [it], but don’t be afraid to be flexible and let the argument go where it wants to go and let the stories come out that need to come out. I [also] would make sure those ground rules are there.

Set up the room so that you minimize how much everybody is on top of each other. In some groups, I’ve had them all stand up. Well, you can’t get 30 people standing close to each other without bumping, so that becomes a management issue. This minimized the management issue because they were sitting on desks. It didn’t become distracting.

When I first started doing process-oriented things, I had to give myself room to be flexible and permission to not get it right the first time. For example, when you’re doing a mock trial and all of a sudden the judge needs to make a ruling, [you need] to let go--it’s right or it’s wrong. Get the kids to think about why they made the ruling that they did [and] bring the argument out. Another example is when we did a political party convention. That was really terrifying because I don’t know all the Robert’s rules of order. [You need to ask,]“What’s the big picture?” The big picture is that they’re going to use some sort of structure to bring out different resolutions and they’re going to learn how to debate. It doesn’t have to be perfect. I don’t have to find the answer to the question before we can continue.

Sometimes I think that people hesitate because there’s so much unknown in a process-oriented lesson. You don’t know what the kids are going to say. You don’t know what the end result is going to be. You have to let it happen, trust that it will, and have your back-up plan. I always try to have a few questions or something that would get the process going if it’s really flailing.


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