gstevensblog

Slice of Life 2013

Talking About Tough Topics

As I was driving in to school on Monday morning I kept thinking about all that had happened over the weekend in our country and if I could/should talk about it in my classroom. In the days since the election, many of my colleagues and I have been tip-toeing through the new political landscape, anxious not to step on toes yet strongly convicted to speak up about the issues that matter. This is not easy in a “red” state in the south.

I chatted with a few of my colleagues after I arrived at school, and they too felt that we needed to address it, but how? How do we even begin to address the chaos that is happening in our world today?

I opted to have the students respond to a prompt that I put up on the board. The prompt consisted of a statement about the executive order to ban Syrian refugees and the travel ban on the other majority-Muslim countries. I asked students to share their response to this event as well as ask any questions they had.

The response was lukewarm at best. Students either wrote “I heard something about a ban, but I am not sure what it’s about” or “I guess the president is just trying to keep us safe.” One student wrote that President Trump was just “doing what he promised” and he didn’t understand why people were so “surprised” by it.

I received the strongest reactions from my 2nd period ESL English II class. This class consists of immigrants from mostly Latin American countries, and one student who is a recent arrival from Syria. They wrote of confusion of why President Trump “hates” them and why he wants to send people back to countries where they might be killed. Their responses were heartbreaking. My student from Syria said he felt like the “luckiest person alive” since his family was one of the lucky ones to be able to come to this country, when many members of his family and friends were still stuck in Syria. He also shared that it took his family three years to complete the vetting process. Extreme vetting?  Talking about what is going on gave me and my co-teacher the opportunity to reassure our students that we are here for them and that we support them.

While most of my colleagues agree that we must talk to our students about what’s happening in our country today, none are really quite sure how to go about it.This is all new territory for most of us. I believe that the lukewarm response from my students is at best a reflection of their lack of engagement with the news. Students whose parents are vocal tend to have the most knowledge about what’s going on, but the students in my classroom today seem largely unaware of the seriousness of the rapidly changing political landscape.

How about you? Are you wanting to teach about the Muslim-ban, the “wall” or any of the other executive decisions coming down from Washington?

Here are a few resources I’ve found over the past few days that might help you:

Facing History

Pernille Ripp started a google doc with a multitude of resources: 

New York Times Learning Network 

I teach high school freshman, and I think about how they will be eligible to vote in the 2020 election. It is imperative that I help them to be informed and to learn to think critically about the issues facing our country today.

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Courage over Comfort

I’ve been reading some of the slices posted today by women who participated in the Women’s March this past Saturday. I also participated in the march here in Raleigh where organizers were expecting 3,000 women and ended up with an estimated 17,000+ marchers.

When I first heard about the March on Washington a few weeks ago, I remember texting my daughter to see if she would be participating since she lives in DC. She was on board from the start and was eagerly anticipating the event, not knowing what to expect.

When I discovered that there would be “sister marches” all over the country I quickly researched and found one right here in Raleigh. I knew it was where I needed to be.

Like many of you who marched, it was an overwhelmingly positive experience for me, my husband, and my daughter and her friends. We came away from the march even more committed to supporting the causes that are important to us and felt empowered to take action in the face of opposition. History was made that day and we were all a part of it.

In the days since the march, the trolls have been busy trying to discredit the legitimacy of the march, openly questioning why women marched in the first place, and posting memes and making comments ridiculing the women who marched. Even one of our NC senators took a shot at us on Twitter. You can read about it here.

This is just one example of the kind of negative responses many of us were confronted with after speaking out. I don’t know about you, but I am not big on criticism, especially this kind. I expect a lot of you feel the same way. What I suspect is that the people who are throwing stones at us for marching are hoping that this backlash will cause us to withdraw from the fight, to stop speaking out to avoid further criticism and attack. Appeals abound on Facebook and Twitter for “people to get over it” and “stop trying to divide our country even more.”

My nature tells me that if I continue to speak out and become more engaged in this fight I will have to face more of this and likely it will intensify as we make progress in the battle for human rights. Honestly, I’m tired and we are only a few days in!

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9) 

I am praying that I will not grow weary in the days ahead. That I will not give up but keep on fighting for what’s right. That all the women, men, and children who marched all over the world on Saturday will continue to speak out and it will make a difference.

brene-brown-quote

 

 

 

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