Let’s Talk About It: Resources for Addressing the Political Climate in the Classroom

As teachers, we have the power within us to impact the lives of our students forever. With the hustle and bustle of the school year, it’s easy for us to lose sight of our “why.” We owe it to our students to take a moment, stop and reflect on our “why” during the year, and summer can be the perfect opportunity to do so. As I kick off the summertime, as much as I try to take this time to rest and completely take a break from teaching, thoughts of curriculum and lesson improvements for the coming school year enter my brain at random times throughout the day. Let’s face it, teaching, it’s not our nine to five, teaching is part of our identity.

Before entering the classroom, when I envisioned myself teaching, I imagined diving deep into literature with my English students and discussing rhetorical devices and grammar. Never did I imagine that I would have to answer questions about immigrant children being ripped out of the arms of their parents, or about what to do when the rumored I.C.E. raids were occuring in our home communities. It has been a heartbreaking time nationally, and teachers have needed to provide skills and give resources that are not included in our state curriculum targets.

Teaching in our current political climate requires that we acknowledge these issues in our classrooms. Regardless of our discipline, we need to not ignore the fact that our students are scared and are looking to us for answers and messages of support. The following are some tips and resources about discussing current events with our students:

  • Address it. Our students do not live within a bubble, as much as we would hope this to be true, it’s not. As soon as they leave the four walls of our school, they can encounter hate speech, immigration raids, and some even live in constant fear of deportation. Teaching Tolerance has developed a great set of tools for teachers to use when discussing these challenging and sensitive topics.
  • Be honest. We owe it to our students to meet them with honesty, as they do every single day. It’s ok to not know all the answers, and it’s ok for students to know that you don’t. Even during the most challenging of times, being a listener and hearing our students out can go a long way. The Highly Effective Teacher has developed some great reminders on the importance of active listening.
  • Offer resources and support. We can also support in leading families in the right direction. The ACLU has developed a great Immigrant Services Directory to assist in finding resources for immigrant families, these are outlined by state to make sure people all across the U.S. are able to access services.  

Finally, let us all be sources of inspiration. This work is messy, and it’s important that we give up the need to be perfect. As teachers, we need to adapt to what shows up and acknowledge that our differences, similarities, and identities as a classroom learning community are valuable. If we model the tolerance and commitment this country needs, we are able to serve as sources of inspiration for our students. It’s important that we communicate our deep belief in our students so that they can serve as the future leaders of this country. After all, the impact of a single teacher can last forever.

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Daniela Felix

Daniela Felix

Daniela is a first generation college student who is heavily involved in education in her home district, West Contra Costa Unified. After becoming a mother at a young age, Daniela’s passion for education justice only intensified and she began to fight for an equitable education for all children, regardless of background or zip code. Daniela played a key role in organizing parents with the California Charter Schools Association and is a firm believer in school choice for all families. She is currently a Lead Organizer with Students for Education Reform, organizing college students around education justice issues in her home district. She was recently accepted into Teach for America and plans to continue impacting the lives of children in her hometown of Richmond, CA as a high school social studies teacher. Daniela is a UC Berkeley senior pursuing her B.A. in Legal Studies and Education along with her 4 year old daughter and husband. Daniela is a firm believer in that every single child is capable of meeting high expectations if given the correct support. Daniela hopes to be a provider of that support.

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