When significant current events occur right as students come back to school, teachers' jobs get even trickier. Any first days back include getting to know students' names, setting up class structures, and laying a foundation for the community and learning that will happen all year long. Add on top of that an immediate need to address heightened emotional levels and critical understanding of complicated events, and it can feel overwhelming.
Yesterday we shared some general guidelines to think about with the current issues. Below are some examples of concrete lessons from our teachers, intertwining these discussions with the normal culture-building of back-to-school.
Sasha Guzman teaches High School US History
Today we began with a Polleverywhere to create a Word Cloud answering "What word/s comes to your mind when you read or watch the news today?" That facilitated a "what do we already know" discussion. Then we watched the "Legacies of Reconstruction" video which I stopped a couple of times to reiterate points made. They'll answer the questions for homework and we'll discuss in class.
Tomorrow we have an all day culture building day.
The next day,I'll go into details of what specifically happened over the weekend. Finish with what moral imperative WE have to continue fighting the "Unfinished Revolution" of The Reconstruction Era.
Leslie Smith teaches High School English/Language Arts and History
Today was our first day of school with culture building activities all day long. Tomorrow will be my first day of "real school" with my students for the year. The blog [posted yesterday] is really helpful as it both gives insights into how to deal with this madness and permission to be uncomfortable, while still forging ahead. I am still working out how I am going to address what's been going on. I do know that I start my year with an exploration of identity and choices, so this will fit it nicely (I don't think that's the correct word to use, in this case). Later in the week and early next, we will discuss how the legacy of the past influences the present. Initially, it seems that creating space in this context will lead to fruitful discussions and provide time to establish some norms within the class of how to share and disagree with statements made by people.
English/Language Arts Teacher Mark Davis gave this framing for an initial conversation
"Let’s avoid saying stuff without one of two things: one, a genuine desire to learn what happened in Virginia this weekend, how it happened, and why it happened; and/or two, you get as many of your questions answered as possible and leave here knowing that your voice was heard, if indeed you want to say anything at all. Feel free to say nothing if you’d like, and just listen."
And with that framing, they collected student thoughts and questions as the starting point of a KWL chart.
Keep sharing what you're doing to navigate both the building of classroom culture and the critical inquiry into news, and we'll keep sharing with our wider community.
Also check out this reflection on the role of teachers.