More Teachers Share Their First Days

Posted by Mary Hendra on August 18, 2017


Earlier this week, we shared how three teachers interwove setting up their classes during the first days of school with creating space to grapple with current events. (Click here for that initial post.) We've continued to hear from teachers, including one who said poignantly, “basically, we need to teach Reconstruction as thoroughly/often as we teach the Bill of Rights, the writing of the Constitution."

Here are two more examples, one for a student classroom and one for bringing adults into conversation before they create discussion spaces with young people.

Ed Sugden teaches 12th grade government at a school which has Facing History and Ourselves curricula embedded in every grade level. He was inspired by a graduate’s posting on Facebook to rescreen “The Hangman,” a film all of his students saw in 10th grade. (“when you've taught for 22+ years, former students can give you the best lesson ideas!” Ed noted.)

We are starting the year with a project where they describe their political identity, based on handouts that teach them political values/opinions commonly held by left/liberals, moderates, and right/conservatives. 

“The Hangman” is part of a series of activities to promote active participation/civic-mindedness as a core value of government class. Along with the film, students will be asked to consider:

How does this film connect to politics in the U.S. today? …to your life today?

While LAUSD started with students this week, a number of other districts and independent schools are at the time of convening teachers. Alongside class rosters and new school policies, they are creating space for teachers. Here's one example of how those sessions are constructed:

  1. Teachers, too, need time to process the events, recognize their own feelings, and learn from their colleagues. A processing discussion that lets teachers share their response as individuals first might include a Think/Pair/Share to allow everyone to talk with just one person first.
  2. Provide for a learning space. The news is constant, and multiple channels means people may come in with different understanding of the events. In some cases, the school itself has taken a stand on one or more of the issues raised by recent events, and this is the time to let that be known. In some cases the goal might be developing a common understanding. In others it might be creating the opportunity to question our assumptions, delve deeper into the historical context for recent events, learn something new about the events themselves or our colleagues, and/or grow in our understanding of the world.
  3. Recognize that as adults in the lives of young people, when we create discussion spaces for youth we need to keep the focus on what they need, not what we need. What emotions are they bringing into this discussion? What questions do they have? What language or tools do they need to be able to learn?  


Keep sharing. We love hearing what you are doing with students and colleagues.

Topics: Back-To-School, current events

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This blog helps Southern California teachers connect directly with each other, share ideas, and learn about new resources and opportunities for those interested in or already implementing Facing History.

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