After racist violence left one person dead in Charlottesville, Virginia last weekend, we asked educators for their best advice about handling students’ questions — and starting conversations of their own.
We know some teachers are veterans when it comes to tricky conversations. Others have found resources through #CharlottesvilleCurriculum, a Twitter hashtag that culminated in a crowdsourced list of anti-racism resources for educators.
Here’s what several of you told us about your plans. Readers, you can still add your tips or experiences here; we’ll continue to update this so others can learn from your work.
“I’ve learned that not all students are ready to talk about highly emotional topics and that it’s best to wait until they are ready to talk about it to [go] into an in-depth conversation. I’ve also learned that it helps to have students write about it first so that they can gather their thoughts.”
– J.S., ninth-grade special education teacher in Aurora, Colorado
“We began today’s lesson by analyzing photos from the weekend. Specifically, my freshmen practiced a) citing evidence in order make claims about each image and b) writing an extended caption that effectively summarized one of the images.
I’ve learned that I don’t need to have all the answers (and I let my students know that, too). I’ve also learned that reading and discussing high-interest, culturally relevant texts like “All American Boys” and “The Hate U Give” with my students makes it easier for us to have the hard but necessary conversations.
[The conversation was] difficult at times, but so worth it. Our students are extremely kind and empathetic, and because of them, I left school this afternoon feeling more hopeful than I did driving in this morning.”
– Jarred Amato, high school English teacher in Nashville
“There is no one way to facilitate and it’s better to start then to be silent. I think it’s critical to actively listen and to ensure no one voice or position monopolizes. I also think it’s important to allow silence at times.”
– Jen, teacher-educator in New York
“It went well. I was able to connect the event to the Confederate era statues here in Memphis to get the students thinking about the local connections.”
– Kyle, 12th-grade social studies teacher in Memphis
“My students have worked on social justice theatre pieces for the past three years and this is, unfortunately, not the first time we have had to have such difficult conversations. I’m reminded of the fears discussed following the Michael Brown case and again after the presidential election. Somehow these brave kids have found a way to vent their frustrations in a positive way.”
– Jen Wood-Bowien, high school teacher in Memphis
“There will be questions you can’t answer. There will be kids you don’t reach.”
– Teacher, Southeast Colorado
“I’m surprised at how open the students can be and how we lose this humanity as we grow up.”
– Social studies teacher, Denver