One way or the other, things will probably get a bit more . . . hmm, interactive in your classrooms over the next few weeks. As final results from this fall’s midterm elections trickle in and mail-in ballots are counted, you will most likely have some students with questions, parents who may have concerns, and admins who’ll worry about all of the above. Possibly making class discussions difficult and uncomfortable.
And that sort of learning can be difficult. I get that. Throw the current anti-teacher atmosphere into the mix and I can’t think of a tougher time to be an educator. And you’re not alone in being concerned about taking on controversial topics.
Education Week survey data gathered back in 2017 suggested that many teachers find it difficult to talk about race, politics, and other controversial topics. Almost 30 percent expressly avoid it completely. Part of the problem is that many of us – 44 percent – don’t feel prepared to lead conversations that will probably get emotional.
So should you even try? And if you do decide to take on that challenge, what’s the best way to deal with those conversations?
Answer to the first question?
Current events have always been something that we as social studies teachers are acutely aware of. There are so many ways that we’re able to use them to connect past with present. But the last few weeks have been difficult. Ukrainian people are suffering. And it doesn’t seem like that will be ending anytime soon.
What’s the best way to integrate the events in Ukraine into our classrooms?
We all love Mister Rogers. Something he said once seems to fit here:
“Anything that’s human is mentionable, and anything that is mentionable can be more manageable. When we can talk about our feelings, they become less overwhelming, less upsetting and less scary.”
The more we talk, the manageable things become. Browse through this short list of resources that can help. And while the list is separated by grade level, don’t be afraid to cross-pollinate between the two.
A year ago, during final keynote of the 2020 NCSS national conference, author and actor George Takei shared his experience growing up in what he called an American concentration camp. As a five year old, he and his parents were forced into several different camps during World War II simply because of their racial ethnicity.
As he shared his experiences and connected them to contemporary issues, I flashed back to an earlier History Tech post highlighting the 75th anniversary of Executive Order 9066, FDR’s executive order legalizing the internment of thousands of American citizens like five year old George.
Takei’s session was a good reminder about the power of the Bill of Rights and what can happen when we ignore its principles. As you continue to plan your instruction for the rest of the year, don’t shy away from telling the story of America even when it makes you and your students uncomfortable.
One way to do that? Lean into using primary sources that document the topic – such as Takei’s personal story.
Takei shared a bit about his recent graphic memoir titled They Called Us Enemies. It’s a perfect (and powerful) way to begin a conversation around Executive Order 9066. Use the available teaching resources and discussion guides to hook your kids and get them asking the right sorts of questions.
Another way? Use photographs, like these taken by Dorothea Lange.
Let’s be honest.
Very few of us are poets. Very few of us probably even read a lot of poetry.
That might change after this morning’s recitation by National Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman at the 2021 Presidential Inauguration. Her poem titled “The Hill We Climb” resonated with a variety of themes from American history.
And hope. Read more
Maybe. Just maybe.
Maybe it’s not that our students are gullible. It’s that they’re too cynical. Maybe it’s not that our students don’t believe in the facts. It’s that they don’t know who to trust. Maybe it’s not that our students can’t think critically. It’s that perhaps they’re thinking deeply while interacting with the wrong resources.
I get it. The events of the last few weeks support the idea that we need more social studies. More civics. More difficult and controversial conversations. (Especially at the elementary level.) Couldn’t agree more. We do need more social studies.
But I’ve been in a lot of classrooms and know a lot of great educators. There is already amazing social studies instruction happening in lots of places. So maybe we need to step back, take a breath, stop talking about requiring civic exams in order to graduate, and be more intentional about building on the good stuff that we all know is already there.
What might that look like? Read more
I was busy online with a small group of elementary social studies teachers yesterday afternoon when my phone started buzzing. I ignored it for a bit but after a teacher in the group sent me a private message in my Zoom window, my attention shifted. And then, of course, was distracted until late last night and into this morning.
Your role as a social studies teachers has never been more important. Or more difficult.
I was able to take part in a special #sschat session last night and walked away amazed at the power of a social studies PLN. The topic?
“How do I teach tomorrow?”
So many incredible teachers and so many amazing conversations. Blew. Me. Away. There was so much conversation going on, I’m heading back to the chat archive this evening to catch up on all I missed.
(And if you haven’t been part of an #sschat or don’t follow the hashtag, head over to their chat archives and starting getting smarter. Not sure how to do that? Start here.)
One of the amazing things that developed during last night’s chat was the crowdsourced creation of a Google spreadsheet with tons of resources. If you’re looking for ways to talk with with your kids about the events of yesterday and the events that will be taking place over the next few weeks, you need to head over and check out the combined work of hundreds of teachers: Read more