Education Week - January 13, 2021 - 17
riences are being centered in their own
education, " Lee said.
Some teachers experienced the
news breaking while they were in
class, forcing them to make sense of
the stunning events unfolding in real
time. In rural Kalona, Iowa, Marcus
Miller had turned on C-SPAN for his
12th grade government students to
watch some of the election certification hearings. As students watched,
the proceedings stopped, and Miller's
principal received a news alert that a
mob had stormed the Capitol.
Miller turned the station to ABC, and
students watched the live coverage of
the Capitol for the remaining 25 minutes of class. He occasionally muted
the coverage to answer students' questions. The school's student body is politically divided, with roughly half of
students' families supporting Trump
and the other half supporting Biden.
His students who follow politics were
anxious watching the coverage, Miller
said. One student asked if anything
like this had ever happened before.
" I said, 'Certainly not in recent
memory. We've always had a peaceful transition of power up until now-
that's one of the things our country
prides itself on, and this is not that,' "
He expected his students to bring
up what happened at the Capitol in
all of his classes the next day-even
in world history, where students were
discussing the French Revolution.
But Miller said he's still working to
make sense of the riot's implications.
" I think with all the chaos and the
anxiety around the election, one of
the things I tried to concentrate on
[the past couple months] is trying to
be as calm and rational as I can be
and try not to let my anxieties and
worries show to the students, " he
said. " We do have these documents
in place, and I try to trust that people
will follow them as best as possible.
[But] this is so out of the ordinary. "
Future Civics Classrooms
While extraordinary for the United
States, riots that accompany changes in
government aren't uncommon worldwide, Geremia noted, and a comparative government approach could be a
fruitful avenue for teachers looking to
discuss the events, he said.
His course has examined political
legitimization, political participation,
and political culture and socialization
in the nations of China, Iran, Mexico,
Nigeria, Russia, and the United Kingdom, and has encouraged many students to consider deeper questions
about the role of individuals in functioning democracies and how institutions like the media shape perceptions of government.
" My students at the beginning of
the year thought the chief characteristic of democracy was a [free and
fair] election. They've quickly realized that's not the only part of it, and
I think they're seeing in person right
now, " he said.
Thanks to their prior learning, Geremia's students will have other touch
points to draw from. Nigeria, in 2015,
established an important new norm
as it made a peaceful transition to
a new president. That's contrasted
Caring for Students in the Wake of a Traumatic News Event
By Evie Blad
As pro-Trump extremists stormed into the U.S. Capitol Jan.6, middle
school teacher Shawn Griffin traded messages with her peers about how
they would help their students process the unprecedented event.
" We are all like 'Oh my gosh. What are we going to do tomorrow?' " said
Griffin, who teaches 8th-grade English in Fairfax County, Va., about 20
miles from Capitol Hill.
Protests turned to violence in the nation's capital as rioters interrupted a
joint session of Congress held to certify the presidential election.
The resulting news footage would likely trouble some children as much
as it troubled the adults around them, educators said. And even students
who don't fully understand the events may feel a sense of instability as the
adults in their lives react to current events.
How should teachers address those emotions so that students can
continue learning, especially in a school environment already disrupted by
the COVID-19 crisis?
Experts on social-emotional learning say it's crucial for educators to help
students identify their own feelings, to understand the effects adults have
on students' emotional stability, and to recognize teachable moments on
tough news days.
" There are kids who are [going to be] legitimately coming in with
different perspectives that are associated with different feelings, " said
Marc Brackett, a psychologist and director of the Yale Center for Emotional
Intelligence. " What's important is not to tell people that they shouldn't be
angry or they can't be fearful. There's no judgment about the emotion ...
What you can try to unpack is the reasons for their feelings and the best way
to manage those feelings. "
Investigate Students' Emotions
Some school districts addressed the news the evening of the attack.
Denver, for example, said it would make counseling services available to
teachers and students.
It's key for educators not to assume they know how their students are
feeling and responding to events. Rather than interpreting behavior, like
a student who seems distracted or agitated, teachers should " investigate
feelings, " Brackett said. One student may look angry when they are
actually scared, and a student may seem defiant and disengaged when
they are actually overwhelmed.
The Yale Center developed a social-emotional learning program called
RULER, which teaches students to do daily check-ins, identifying the
energy level and pleasantness of their emotions on a color-coded " mood
Some teachers check in by allowing students to slap on various emojis
posted outside of their doors as they walk into class, or by making eye
contact and greeting students one-by-one to see how they respond.
Teachers have also adapted check-in strategies for remote environments
by asking students to share animated GIFs or key words or to use socialemotional learning apps.
Teachers who perform such check-ins regularly will have a ready tool to
gauge how their students are responding to big events, like political unrest,
natural disaster, or uncertainty in their own lives.
Provide Students Space to Share
Griffin, the Virginia teacher, planned to give her students opportunities
to share their responses to Wednesday's events and how their own
backgrounds and experiences may have shaped their perspectives.
" At my school, we have a lot of parents who work for the federal
government, " she said. " I teach everything from honors English students
who read the newspaper every day to students who are [newly arrived]
English-language learners, who in fact may have recently come from a
with an accelerating slide towards
autocracy in Russia, where President
Vladimir Putin recently spearheaded
the abolition of term limits, he noted.
And civics educators watching
from other countries offered a wry
welcome for American teachers just
now struggling with how and what to
teach about a dysfunctional transition of power.
" Every social studies teacher in
Latin America: aaawww ternurito,
bienvenido, " Ecuadorian educator
Luiza Daniela Miño tweeted, using a
phrase that loosely translated means:
" Welcome, sweetie pie. "
In the end, the events may also
have lasting implications for the
civics curriculum. Many Americans
have been resistant to recent national
conversations about poverty and rac-
conflict zone. The thing I can do for them that will be most helpful is just to
allow them to process what is happening. "
As a coronavirus precaution, Griffin has taught remotely this school
year. While whole-class discussions are sometimes difficult in digital
environments, writing offers a valuable tool for helping students share, she
Griffin plans to use writing prompts, like asking students to respond to
a photo of events at the Capitol. She also uses technology that allows her
students to share written responses to questions anonymously. Through
a Padlet, for example, they can answer questions and share insights their
peers might not have considered.
Another key strategy? Good old-fashioned patience, which Griffin has
employed as students process the ongoing effects of the coronavirus
" Some students are going to be on five minutes early. As soon as they
know that I'm there, they're going to send me a chat, " Griffin said. " But
a lot of other ones are going to kind of sit on the perimeter and wait to
Giving students space for vulnerability helps them develop voice in their
writing and makes them feel safer taking risks, which is key for learning,
Recognize How Adult Behavior Impacts Children
Even children who haven't followed the news or are too young to
understand it may absorb the stress of their parents or teachers through a
phenomenon called " emotional contagion, " Brackett said.
A child may feel stressed or distracted through observing and mimicking
the behavior of an adult, but they may not realize the source of those
emotions, he said.
In stressful times, teachers may want to take a moment to gather their
own emotions before stepping into a classroom or logging into a remotelearning platform.
And adults should understand that how parents and family members are
feeling about finances, the news, or the pandemic can spill over into their
children's lives, teachers said.
Sarah Plumitallo, who teaches English-language learners at an
elementary school in Woodbridge, Va., said she is accustomed to
discussing news events with her students, but she will use more caution
this week because many of their parents work in Washington.
" It's a different experience of teaching in-the-moment history because
it's personal, " she said.
Seize Teachable Moments
Educators shouldn't be afraid of difficult conversations that can
follow big news events, said David Adams, director of strategy at the
Urban Assembly, a group of public middle and high schools in New
Adams helped develop the schools' approach to social-emotional
learning, which emphasizes " perspective taking " and helping students
express and understand differing opinions.
Some students may be frustrated comparing the response of law
enforcement at the Capitol to police actions during racial justice protests
this summer, educators said. And some may be concerned about their role
in improving national divisions as they grow into adulthood.
" The legacy that our forefathers left us was a system of government that
emphasized cooperation, " Adams said. " The only way to make that system
of government work is for people to have faith in each other. "
Social-emotional learning strategies, like exercises that help students talk
through conflicts and academic assignments that help them unpack others'
viewpoints, can be helpful in times of stress or difficulty, he said.
" Our young people should feel empowered, " Adams said.
ism, let alone to newly emerging
challenges to America's system of
But young people today, at least
in some corners, are learning about
redlining, the Tulsa massacre, and
the legacy of anti-Black racism
through sources like the New York
Times' 1619 Project. And that will
ultimately mean discarding a longstanding theme in U.S. civics education, Geremia said.
" We're taught American exceptionalism, and that's the problem ...
it is pretty much drilled into us. What
it means to be American is to be exceptional, and it goes back to John
Winthrop's 'City on a Hill.'
" I don't think we are doing a service to the kids when we [continue
to portray that], " he said. " When you
and I were in school, we'd be shocked
by this. But I don't think our students
are today. "
EDUCATION WEEK | January 13, 2021 | www.edweek.org | 17
Education Week - January 13, 2021
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - January 13, 2021
Education Week - January 13, 2021
Teachers Are Already Getting COVID-19 Vaccines
High Risk for COVID-19 And Forced Back to Class
The High-Stakes Tests Facing Miguel Cardona
Where the Nominee Stands On Key K-12 Policy Issues
With Name Changes, Schools Transform Racial Reckoning Into Real-Life Civics Lessons
Should Schools Be Giving So Many Failing Grades This Year?
Millions of ELL Students Face In-Person, Federal Testing During COVID-19
DeVos Resigns a Day After Pro-Trump Mob Storms U.S. Capitol
Insurgency at the U.S. Capitol: A Dreaded, Real-Life Lesson Facing Teachers
Caring for Students in the Wake of a Traumatic News Event
Civil Rights for the New Administration
We Must Talk About Remote Student Absenteeism
Letters to the Editor
EdWeek Top School Jobs
Empty Promises Of Equity
Education Week - January 13, 2021 - Education Week - January 13, 2021
Education Week - January 13, 2021 - 2
Education Week - January 13, 2021 - Briefly Stated
Education Week - January 13, 2021 - 4
Education Week - January 13, 2021 - Teachers Are Already Getting COVID-19 Vaccines
Education Week - January 13, 2021 - High Risk for COVID-19 And Forced Back to Class
Education Week - January 13, 2021 - 7
Education Week - January 13, 2021 - Where the Nominee Stands On Key K-12 Policy Issues
Education Week - January 13, 2021 - 9
Education Week - January 13, 2021 - With Name Changes, Schools Transform Racial Reckoning Into Real-Life Civics Lessons
Education Week - January 13, 2021 - 11
Education Week - January 13, 2021 - Should Schools Be Giving So Many Failing Grades This Year?
Education Week - January 13, 2021 - 13
Education Week - January 13, 2021 - Millions of ELL Students Face In-Person, Federal Testing During COVID-19
Education Week - January 13, 2021 - DeVos Resigns a Day After Pro-Trump Mob Storms U.S. Capitol
Education Week - January 13, 2021 - Insurgency at the U.S. Capitol: A Dreaded, Real-Life Lesson Facing Teachers
Education Week - January 13, 2021 - Caring for Students in the Wake of a Traumatic News Event
Education Week - January 13, 2021 - Civil Rights for the New Administration
Education Week - January 13, 2021 - We Must Talk About Remote Student Absenteeism
Education Week - January 13, 2021 - Letters to the Editor
Education Week - January 13, 2021 - 21
Education Week - January 13, 2021 - 22
Education Week - January 13, 2021 - EdWeek Top School Jobs
Education Week - January 13, 2021 - Empty Promises Of Equity