Tips for Dealing with Hot Moments

Lee Warren, Derek Bok Center

Manage the Moment

I. Manage yourself

  • Stop! Breathe. Think. Hold Steady.
  • Prepare:
  • Know your own hot buttons/biases, and devise strategies in advance
  • Think ahead: know what to expect as much as possible
  • Don't personalize: self vs. role
  • Have partners
  • Defer if necessary

II. Manage your students -- so they can learn from the hot moment

  • Acknowledge the moment, name the elephant on the table
  • Make it safe for all students -- establish norms for behavior
  • Model respectful listening and engagement
  • Take the issue off the individual, make it general
  • Protect the lone outlier, regardless of his/her position
  • Acknowledge tears or breakdowns
  • See individuals after class, help them learn from the situation

Turn it into a Learning Opportunity

III. Read the situation

  • Get up on the balcony, off the dance floor
  • Listen for the song beneath the words
  • Check that you have heard/understood correctly -- restate
  • See how the hot moment reflects the topic under discussion or the initial event -- mirroring
  • Get off personalities: it's about issues, not character -- about factions, not individuals

IV. Find and create learning opportunities for your students

  • Know your Purpose and keep your eye on it
  • Find the part in the hot moment that can be used to further the discussion
  • Take the issue off the individual, put it on the table as a recognized, arguable position
  • Require students to understand each other's position -- listen, restate
  • Ask students to step back and think about what they can learn from the moment
  • Use the disruption as an opportunity to discuss the learning environment in the group
  • Go around the room and get all perspectives on the table
  • Ask students to write about the issue -- in class, at home
See also: Diversity