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Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Teaching Sensitive Content: Follow Up

I received great responses to my post "Teaching Sensitive Content." I'm compiling some of them here.

4th/5th grade Helena teacher Jodi Delaney wrote:
I have no problem with discussing racism, etc. in the classroom.  Those are often the issues that engage and interest students--my age range (4th/5th) is especially concerned with fairness and what is 'right'.  Showing them (carefully selected) examples of prejudice and discrimination really fires them up, and I always point out that such hate-filled ideas have not yet been completely wiped out.  It's their job to make sure such negativity isn't allowed to flourish again.  While I do not go into the nitty-gritty details of all the horrific things people have done, I do discuss many of these topics with more kid-friendly language.  We refer to comments like those you shared from the Anaconda Standard as being the voice of the 'bullies'.  Bullies are often in a position of power over their targets, and much of the injustices of the past (and present) fit into the definition of bullying disturbingly well.  Upper elementary students are a great age level to start these types of conversations because they really do care so deeply.  They can understand injustice and see how difficult it is to overcome a majority happily content to maintain their prejudice, and how brave people have to be to stand up to the bullies in order for change to happen.  If we engage in these discussions early, then by the time they get to middle and high school classrooms, they will have a desire and motivation to both learn more, but also to do something about the injustices they see around them today. 
Erik Holland, who deals with these issues in a museum setting, offered up some additional resources he created to train interpreters: an essay he wrote, "Sensitive Issues," and an accompanying worksheet, and a Prezi he created on the topic, 

Community member Jeri Dalbec of Miles City shared her perspective: She suggested creating a panel of students of mixed cultures, parents, and teachers, to discuss how to deal with tough issues--including whether they should be taught in depth. She concludes: "I am totally supportive of Public Schools and one of the things they yell about in an effort to get the Public money for Charter, et al,, schools is that parents do not have input. Well ... let's include them in this endeavor."

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