How do we deal with race, pandemic, international conflict, and other contemporary issues?


As we deal with contemporary issues such as race, global pandemic, international conflicts, displacement of people, and climate change, the need for redefining civility becomes all the more apparent and urgent.

Civility must always be considered in the context of the moment.

It is always a moving aspiration as it is influenced by present situations.

Amy Edmonson describes the need to create a psychologically safe space where humans can reveal their vulnerabilities and express their emotions instead of defending themselves. Normally, humans spend enormous energy managing the impression others have of them. Our desire to fit in with others means we don’t always say what we think. We may only express opinions that seem safe.

These need begins to drop away in more intimate relationships of collaboration, marriages, and partnerships. When developing a culture of civility, we can work to let go, reveal vulnerabilities, and bring our most authentic selves to one another.

For example, we will never solve the problem of racism until we can express to others our feelings, confusions, hesitations, our inadequacies.

Until I better understand, I need to have a psychological space to ask questions, share feelings, and listen more deeply to perspectives from situations that I haven’t experienced.

While there are countless stories, one particular article, written by a student, caught our attention from the New York Times. He advocates the need for safe spaces to confront racial bullying with the people who are directly involved.

This newsletter features a range of ideas and examples from across the country that reflect upon how we can find psychologically safe spaces to bring stories of our own cultural identities and memories to enlighten our collective whole.

  • Art Costa and Bob Garmston clarify that building a culture of civility is a journey of developing mutual respect as members reveal their convictions, successes, vulnerability, doubts,worries, and joys. They offer some advice on how to make that happen.
  • Giselle O. Martin-Kniep advocates for engaging students in conversations to search for the values and interests they hold and share rather than assuming that their positions are right and need to be defended. In this post, she offers a series of prompting questions to begin and deepen such conversations.
  • Frances Thompson and Allison Zmuda reminisce about the start of courageous conversations about race they participated in Virginia Beach City Public Schools ten years ago and why this is needed now more than ever as a bridge for understanding and perspective.
  • Bena Kallick and Allison Zmuda interview Dr. Greg Hutchings, Superintendent in Alexandria, VA. He discusses how he is leading his school community conversations and actions in order to provide an equitable, high quality education which is accessible and engaging to all students.
  • Sharon Brown shares a powerful experience from when she was a counselor at Furr High School, under the principal Dr. Bertie Simmons who was committed to Civility as central to working with an underserved population of students. Unfortunately, when the principal retired, the program was not continued. However, it is an actionable model that Sharon intends to take with her to her new school appointment.



Allison Zmuda
Twitter: @allison_zmuda
LinkedIn: Allison Zmuda
Bena Kallick
Twitter: @benakallick
LinkedIn: Bena Kallick
Art Costa


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