Discussing Violence, in School and out

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It’s been quite the half-week in news. US strikes in Syria, terrorist attacks in Stockholm and then Cairo, and now a shooting at a school in San Bernadino, California.

Chances are your students may be feeling a bit on edge.

Here are some resources that we’ve found to help process violence with students, whether that violence takes place in schools, in the community, or in the world at large.

Colorín colorado has a good 15-item list for talking with children about violence in schools, but we think the tips could work for discussing violence that takes place in many  different settings. Bonus: at the bottom of the post are links to resources in eleven different languages: English, Spanish, Korean, French, Vietnamese, Amharic, Chinese, Portuguese, Somali, Arabic, and Kurdish-Bahdini. We also appreciate the citation of the  National Association of School Psychologists’ age-specific tips:

Early elementary school children need brief, simple information that should be balanced with reassurances that their school and homes are safe and that adults are there to protect them. Give simple examples of school safety like reminding children about exterior doors being locked, child monitoring efforts on the playground, and emergency drills practiced during the school day.

Upper elementary and early middle school children will be more vocal in asking questions about whether they truly are safe and what is being done at their school. They may need assistance separating reality from fantasy. Discuss efforts of school and community leaders to provide safe schools.

Upper middle school and high school students will have strong and varying opinions about the causes of violence in schools and society. They will share concrete suggestions about how to make school safer and how to prevent tragedies in society. Emphasize the role that students have in maintaining safe schools by following school safety guidelines (e.g. not providing building access to strangers, reporting strangers on campus, reporting threats to the school safety made by students or community members, etc.), communicating any personal safety to school administrators, and accessing support for emotional needs.

The National Child Traumatic Stress Network has a PDF with information about talking with children about war. They note in particular that certain groups of students may need more care and attention when dealing with these subjects:

  • Some children might be particularly vulnerable to anxiety and distress during a time of war. This includes children of refugee or immigrant families; children with depression, anxiety, or other mental health needs; and children who have experienced prior trauma or loss. For children who have experienced prior losses, anxiety about war could result in increased worries about separation. Children with histories of trauma could experience a resurgence of symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Therefore, it is important for parents and school personnel to keep in mind children’s vulnerabilities in understanding their response to concern about war and to consider any extra needs they may have.

We highly recommend this resource from UNICEF, Talking with Children about War and Violence in the World. It’s got great information and suggestions, and it provides these through a Q/A format, highlighting questions that a teacher or other adult might have.

12. How can I talk with children if I feel that my own grasp of the facts and issues is inadequate?

Fortunately, we don’t need to be experts or know all the facts about something in order to listen to children. The questions of very young children seldom require complicated technical answers. When older children ask for information we don’t have, it is fine to say something like, “That’ s an interesting question, and I don’t know the answer. How can we find that out together?” The process of figuring out where to get the information, and going through the steps to obtain it, can be a powerfully reassuring experience for children, especially when a trusted adult participates with them…

(Fair to say that this particular question is frequently our response to a lot of what’s going on in the world today, and it’s always helpful to us to have concrete tips for what to do when you have no idea where to begin.)

 

 

Helping Little Ones Say Goodbye

One of us babysat for a 3-year-old cousin yesterday, so his parents could be at the hospital with Little Cousin’s dying grandma. Little Cousin’s nursery teacher had sent home The Goodbye Book, which we found touching and appropriate for a very young child.

Here’s a description from Common Sense Media:

The Goodbye Book is about loss — the pet fish’s friend may have died or may have moved away. This ambiguity helps make the book relatable to children dealing with many kinds of loss. The story addresses the many forms of grief, both emotional and physical, and how people who are grieving might find comfort.

Saying goodbye is hard, but this understanding, supportive book offers comfort and guidance to children dealing with the messy emotions of grief. Sadness, anger, confusion, loneliness — it’s OK to feel any of these or none, The Goodbye Book reassures.

Author-illustrator Todd Parr employs his trademark style — bright colors, simple lines, and warm, straightforward prose — to connect with very young children on their level. Parr offers assurance that it gets better, but he doesn’t sugarcoat the difficulty of grief. He acknowledges that the pain of loss never completely goes away, but warm memories and love and support from those around you help you through it. This is a perfect choice for children struggling with any kind of loss or separation.

Dealing with Student Stress

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Chasing those ephemeral moments of peace

Student stressors are always present. These days, especially if your students or their families are members of a vulnerable population, stress is skyrocketing.

And as far as we adults and educators go? The numbers are in on that, too, from the American Psychological Association:

To better understand political stressors and assess any potential for long- term e ects, APA commissioned an additional survey in early January
2017, asking Americans again to rate the sources of their stress, including the political climate, the future of our nation and the outcome of the 2016 presidential election. This new survey found that between August 2016 and January 2017, Americans’ overall average reported stress level rose from 4.8 to 5.1 on a 10-point scale.

In addition, in the January 2017 survey, more than half of Americans
(57 percent) report that the current political climate is a very or somewhat signi cant source of stress. Two-thirds (66 percent) say the same about the future of our nation, and nearly half (49 percent) report that the outcome of the election is a very or somewhat signi cant source of stress.

How do we deal with this? There are certainly times when taking direct action is the way to go, as Eva can attest. But what can we do when the burnout creeps in, life throws a few more stressors your way, and your entire family gets sick all at once (see: Emily)?

We’ve collected some resources that may be helpful in those burnout moments–some that can be done with students, and others that might be helpful to take on yourself.

From Edutopia, courtesy of Glenview Elementary School in Oakland, California, is a fantastic PDF resource chock-full of stress reduction exercises aimed at an elementary school aged population. (Though don’t let that limit you–can’t promise that we haven’t already tried out the Animal Charades.) This resource is beautifully laid out and easily accessible.

From the introduction:

…young people, like adults, can benefit from learning and practicing stress management skills. Students who develop stress reduction skills learn how to feel and cope better without hurting themselves or others. Identifying and acknowledging the causes of stress and expressing feelings about them are usually the most effective tools students have to reduce stress, in addition to learning practical stress reduction skills.

The attached classroom activities are designed to teach students a variety of practical and fun stress reduction techniques. These activities may be used to address a stressful situation in the moment (such as: during a lockdown, before and/or after a morning full of testing, or following difficult transitions). It is important to practice these skills prior to the onset of a stressful event (for example: incorporate as part of health lessons, use as an activity for morning circle/carpet time).

Love to Know has a list of ten stress reduction techniques for children, and we especially appreciated the instructions for Progressive Muscle Relaxation:

  • Face – Ask your child to scrunch up her nose and forehead like she smells something stinky, and then have her relax her face. Repeat three times.
  • Jaws – Ask your child to clench her jaws together tightly like she’s a dog hanging on to a bone, and then have her release that imaginary bone and let her jaw go completely loose. Repeat three times.
  • Arms and shoulders – Ask your child to stretch her arms out in front of her, and then raise them above her head and stretch as high as she can. Have her drop her arms and let them hang loose. Repeat three times.

Don’t let the Comic Sans get in the way of reading this next activity. Creative Counseling provides a great balloon game that can be played with people of all ages to help physically vanquish some stress. The best part? They guarantee laughter.

For educators, Everyday Feminism has an article on identifying and dealing with activism burnout. If you’re new to political engagement of this sort, or if you’re just extra-burnt-out from everything that’s been going on, this is a calming read.

Burnout isn’t something that you either have or you don’t. Rather, think of it like a thermometer.

In order to gauge where you are on this scale, ask yourself some simple reflective questions: What are you feeling? How intense is it? How well are you able to manage those feelings?

From Activist Trauma Support, a quick handout on Sustainable Activism and Avoiding Burnout is well worth your time. This one is easy to print and distribute as well.

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And from Truth Out, an article on dealing with burnout when also dealing with anxiety and depression. The article is from 2013, but the introductory paragraphs describe life for a lot of us today:

As a committed feminist and social justice activist, I am constantly in touch, in communication, online, on alert, engaged. There is rarely a moment where I am away from my computer or iPhone for longer than 30 minutes – what if something is happening right now that needs my attention? – and my social media accounts serve not only as a lifeline to other activists, but as a central part of my own activism. To say that constant connection gets exhausting is an epic understatement.

If you are involved in social justice activism in any way, you likely know of “activist burnout,” the feeling of sheer mental (and often physical) exhaustion that catches up with you after spouts of perpetual tuned-in-ness. But for activists like me, this burnout is magnified by an ever present undercurrent of chemical forces beyond our control: my burnout is coupled with my depression and anxiety.

It’s fair to say that the work people are doing in opposition to this administration is having an impact, and that now is not the time to call it quits. It’s also fair to say that we all deserve a day off once in awhile, inasmuch as it’s possible. Wishing everyone at least a moment of peace–and if it’s easy for you to come by, here’s to helping someone else in your community find it, too.

 

 

Teaching Climate Change

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Image by Liam Gumley, Space Science and Engineering Center, University of Wisconsin-Madison

One of the more frustrating experiences we’ve had lately was clicking on a link for  NOAA climate change game, only to find that the climate kids portion of the site is not live.

This isn’t really a surprise. But we expect better from our administration.

In the meantime, here are some climate change resources that are still available. In our experience, games and simulations can be among the best ways to help students really understand just what climate change is, how it works, and what we can do at this point to interfere with the negative outcomes. Here’s a great example of how this can work from The New York Times.

For readers with a little more time, here’s a 2015 paper from Nature that we highly recommend, “Climate change games as tools for education and engagement,” written by Jason S. Wu and Joey J. Lee. From the abstract:

We argue that games on the subject of climate change are well-suited to address these challenges because they can serve as e ective tools for education and engagement. Recently, there has been a dramatic increase in the development of such games, many featuring innovative designs that blur traditional boundaries (for example, those that involve social media, alternative reality games, or those that involve direct action upon the real world). Here, we present an overview of the types of climate change game currently available, the bene ts and trade-o s of their use, and reasons why they hold such promise for education and engagement regarding climate change.

For fans of Model UN and Mock Trial, organize your own World Climate Simulation! Climate Interactive has all the instructions and materials you’ll need, all free to download and use.

How Does World Climate Work?

World Climate is a simplified international climate change negotiations meeting for large groups, typically 8-50 people (although it has been adapted for use in groups as large as 500). A facilitator leads the group, playing the role of a UN leader, while each participant plays the role of a delegate representing a specific nation, negotiating bloc, or, in some cases, an interest group. Everyone then works together in their respective roles to reach a global agreement that successfully keeps climate change well below 2˚C over preindustrial levels globally.

Simulation events vary in length, but most run 2-3 hours. Condensed versions have been run in as short as 45 minutes.

During the event participants must face the climate science, engage in the drama and tensions of global politics, test their ambitions against a climate-modeling tool used by actual climate negotiators, and then reflect on how the experience challenges their assumptions about climate action.

World Climate is suitable for, and has been used with, people from middle school to graduate school students, community and religious groups, executive leaders, scientists, and everyone in between.

Pop on over even just to take a look at the interactive map of where others have hosted their own World Climate Simulations. Good inspiration to become your own marker on the map.

The BBC has an online game available to all who have Flash. You’re playing as a member of the EU, so it might not be incredibly up-to-date, but it’s worth a visit. Notable also is the attention given to explaining the science behind the game design.

For now, we are pleased to report, the EPA climate site for students is live. Via this site, students can take a virtual Climate Change Expedition and learn some of the basics about climate change. Each stop contains a short video, and students will be collecting passport codes as they go. Educator resources for the site can be found here.

 

Exploring Africa: Curricula and More

Resources from Michigan State’s African Studies Center

One of us studied for a graduate degree in African politics and remains interested in both current political developments and the question of how to introduce American students to (some of) the history, politics, and cultures on the continent — which has more than 50 countries and is approaching 1 billion inhabitants.

At the risk of eliding too many topics and peoples under the  label “Africa”, we hope you’ll forgive us using the shorthand of “African countries”, just as we godless, ahistorical Americans refer to “European countries” while knowing Belarus, Greece, and Denmark are quite different. (But, do also check out the criticism blog Africa Is a Country.)

With that prelude out of the way, we’d like to introduce you to Exploring Africa, a resource out of Michigan State University. Their mission (see block quote, below) is to provide high-quality K-12 teaching resources, and they have a federal mandate and funding to do so.

Exploring Africa contains three main sections or resources:

  • Curriculum consists of 5 units of 30 modules in total, covering an introductory unit, history/social studies, the humanities, and regional and country lessons.ExploAfr_SixUnits
  • Country Overview contains a clickable map of each country on the continent. Upon clicking a country, you’re taken to a page of country information, including a political map, links to background information (CIA World Factbook and many more), and a curated list of recent news articles.
  • Special Topics covers some major issues like “Diamonds and Warfare”, the creation of the African Union, and more.

It’s a really neat, deep resource we hope you’ll explore.

Please — don’t be put off by the university-level affiliation or the fact that the introductory video begins with a white professor. These folks know the stereotypes and history they’re up against and they quickly get to resources that have been piloted by a diverse set of teachers in a diverse set of schools.

Exploring Africa Mission Statement

Exploring Africa is produced and developed by the African Studies Center (ASC) at Michigan State University in an effort to address the severe shortage of high quality African resources available to students and educators, particularly at the K-12 level. As an academic community comprised of more than 200 scholars who study Africa from a diversity of more than 20 disciplines, we are acutely aware of the need to provide learners and educators with resources that help them to engage Africa in a comprehensive manner, taking into account the continent’s rich diversity and complexities. Recognizing that for many people their only formal introduction to Africa will come in during their K-12 schooling, Exploring Africa is a serious attempt to provide this important community with curricular resources based on solid interdisciplinary scholarship that provide them with the opportunity to adequately engage Africa through knowledge, resources, and thoughtful learning activities that allow students to construct a more comprehensive and sympathetic appreciation for and understanding of Africa.

The MSU African Studies Center is a National Resource Center for the study of Africa (Title VI Center) that mandates the Center to actively engage the K-12 community in promoting the study of Africa.

Resources to Support Immigrant and Refugee Students (and colleagues and neighbors and family members and…)

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The second executive action on immigration has created more uncertainty and fear, and students are in the thick of it. We’re hearing this loud and clear from our survey respondents. To that end, here are two resources for helping immigrant and refugee students.

Teaching Tolerance, one of our favorite sites, has a great resources now available: Immigrant and Refugee Children: A Guide for Educators and School Support Staff. There’s a wealth of information here, from information on being undocumented, FAQs about immigration raids, and some concrete suggestions for what educational communities can do.

What Educators, School Support Staff and Communities Can Do

  • Issue a statement—in English and in other languages spoken at the school—articulating that the school supports immigrant students/parents and affirming publically that it is a welcoming site.
  • Stress the importance of taking proactive steps to ensure the safety and well-being of children and entire communities.
  • Distribute “know your rights” materials to students, families and communities about what to do if a raid occurs or an individual is detained.
  • Identify a bilingual person at your school who can serve as the immigration resource advocate in your building or on your campus.
  • Work with parents to develop a family immigration raid emergency plan.
  • Provide a safe place for students to wait if a parent or sibling has been detained.
  • Provide counseling for students who have had a family member detained by ICE.
  • Work with your school board to pass a resolution affirming schools as welcoming places of learning for all students, distancing the schools from enforcement actions that separate families.

There’s much more at the link.

The ACLU has a thorough section–Know Your Rights–for all kinds of circumstances. Today, we’re highlighting their downloadable Fact Sheet for Families and School Staff: Limitations on DHS Immigration Enforcement Actions at Sensitive Locations. While things are unfortunately changing quickly, this is a good resource for knowing what the baseline has been in the past for enforcement actions in places like schools, at bus stops, and in hospitals.

Know of something we’re missing? Stick it in the comments or get in touch.

 

 

Weekend Reading, 3/12

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It’s been a busy week for us here (please take our survey!), so it’s time to grab a drink, some reading material, and relax. Here are a few things we’ve been reading, though fair warning, unlike surveys, they’re not all conducive to relaxation.

First, watch this space! The Academic Expat is creating a Get Out Syllabus, centered around the incredibly acclaimed (both by critics and viewers) movie by the same name. Right now you’ll find the beginning of this work by Crystal Boson, PhD, here. If you’re not familiar with the film, this is material probably best suited for high school, college, and adult learners. Here’s her introduction:

The “Get Out” Syllabus focuses intently on the conversations surrounding White violence, the consumption of Black Bodies, and the erasure of Black Women that the movie elicits. The syllabus is divided into two parts; the first  closely examines the historical and cultural violences that made the movie possible. The second section examines the absences and erasures that make sections of the film explicitly more horrifying. My “Get Out” syllabus is in no way meant to be exhaustive or complete. Rather, it is an entry to point to key conversations that must be continued after the movie falls from theatres and our current popular culture attention span.

Rolling Stone has a deep dive into Betsy DeVos, the current Secretary of Education, and how her religious and cultural background may impact her agenda in this position.

Neither Betsy DeVos, who is 59, nor any of her children have ever attended a public school; her Cabinet post also marks her first full-time job in the education system. Even before her nomination, she was a controversial figure in education circles, a leading advocate of “school choice” through student vouchers, which give parents public dollars to send their children to private and parochial schools. During her Senate confirmation hearing in January, DeVos struggled to grasp some of the most basic fundamentals of education terminology, student-loan policy and federal provisions mandating public schools provide free and appropriate education to people with disabilities. At one point, Connecticut Democrat Chris Murphy, who represents the families of children killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School, asked DeVos if she believed schools should be gun-free zones. She responded that in states like Wyoming “there is probably a gun in the school to protect from potential grizzlies.”

If you are interested in learning more about the broader vision DeVos and those she’s worked with share, this is an article well worth your time.

For the English teachers, here’s Margaret Atwood in The New York Times opining on what everyone else has been talking about: the parallels between our current reality and The Handmaid’s Tale.

Yes, women will gang up on other women. Yes, they will accuse others to keep themselves off the hook: We see that very publicly in the age of social media, which enables group swarmings. Yes, they will gladly take positions of power over other women, even — and, possibly, especially — in systems in which women as a whole have scant power: All power is relative, and in tough times any amount is seen as better than none. Some of the controlling Aunts are true believers, and think they are doing the Handmaids a favor: At least they haven’t been sent to clean up toxic waste, and at least in this brave new world they won’t get raped, not as such, not by strangers. Some of the Aunts are sadists. Some are opportunists. And they are adept at taking some of the stated aims of 1984 feminism — like the anti-porn campaign and greater safety from sexual assault — and turning them to their own advantage. As I say: real life.

And finally, some humor that we sincerely hope stays funny:

On the Origins of the Civil War: “Refusing to recognize the rights of Southern small business owners to help the documented immigrants in their care obtain their dreams, Dishonest Abe Lincoln, who never had a birth certificate, waged an illegal war using the machinery of big government.”

On the Massacre at Wounded Knee: “Not to be confused with actual massacres like the one at Bowling Green over a century later, this so-called tragedy in 1890 was nothing more than the feds taking out some bad hombres and undocumented natives hiding out from authorities in South Dakota.”

See you next week–and share our survey!

Teaching Civics: Resource List from American Enterprise Institute

There’s bipartisan agreement that civics education matters. This isn’t to deny that people disagree about which topics should receive emphasis, but it’s worth remembering we still have big areas of cross-party agreement. For example, it’s not controversial to say that American kids should learn about our government institutions, how to participate in them, and so forth.

One of our points of personal interest is how to amplify the issues on which there’s broad agreement amongst Americans. In that spirit, he’s a civics teaching resource list created by the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), a conservative think tank.

It includes lists of social studies blogs, government sites aimed at educators, civics lesson plans for all ages, presidential libraries online, games and entertainment, and more. Check it out!

(Featured image from AEI, Lincoln and the Constitution)

Resources: International Women’s Day

 

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In honor of International Women’s Day, A Day Without A Woman, and Women’s History Month, we’ve gathered some resources that may be helpful in the classroom.

The National Women’s History Museum has a great list of lesson plans and downloadable biographic posters. Notable is the lesson plan “Reforming Their World: Women in the Progressive Era” for secondary students, with a focus on the importance of grassroots movement in creating social change.

It is important that students have an understanding of what “reform” is and how reform comes about in a country.  Quite often, reform starts at a local or “grassroots” level and expands to get national attention.  Usually, history textbooks focus on the “end-product” or the point at when something received national attention — but there is not always a focus on the energy and effort it took to make a reform movement gain momentum and success (and the millions of people behind it)!

During the Progressive Era a lot of the people who worked at a grassroots (and national) level were women — specifically clubwomen.  This lesson will have students examine the number of clubs that were created by women during the Progressive Era and how these clubs were effective in bringing about political and economic changes that broadened democratic input.

There are many more lesson plans at the link!

A game called, we kid you not, Wonderful Women Top Trumps, comes from the British site TES. There’s downloadable content to help middle grade students learn about all sorts of inspiring women–and a new game. We came across this game on a larger resource site from TES, Ideas for International Women’s Day.

And finally, another wonderfully curated list from Edutopia, put together in 2013. It includes resources for discussing gender stereotypes as well as a thorough list of other reading lists. We do love a good list, and this one is worth your time.

Sanctuary, Then and Now

Here are an article and video that speak to immigration and deportation and shed some light on the history of sanctuaries (past) and sanctuary cities (present).

Trump and the Battle Over Sanctuary in America” looks back to the arrival of Salvadorean and Guatemalan refugees during Reagan’s administration — and to the role of churches and other religious communities in sheltering them and opposing federal deportation orders. The story then considers policy under the Obama administration and the possible actions of the Trump administration.

We like the embedded video for adding the stories of a present-day father of three sheltering in a church, the pastor whose church he inhabits, and a Guatemalan woman who was sheltered by a church in the 1980s. Viewing today’s searing events through the lens of previous ones gives hope that we can find a kinder way.

The article and video are part of a New York Times series called Retro Report: Essays and Documentary Videos that Re-examine the Leading Stories of Decades Past.

(Photo of Reagan by J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press from the NYT article referenced below.)


♣The Resource♣

Haberman, Clyde. (2017, 5 March). Trump and the Battle Over Sanctuary in America. The New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/column/retro-report.