When I was first starting out as a teacher, I thought that I just taught math. As I’ve moved along, I learned I teach people mathematics, I explain the difference here. We are working with human beings and all the complexities that accompany that work. We can’t ignore students’ feelings, if we do we ignore their humanity. We also can’t teach as though we are in a vacuum completely detached from the events around us. Terrible things happen, and as they do we should open space to discuss them. However, many teachers find it difficult to know how to start because many teacher preparation programs don’t address how to do this. I’ve compiled some resources to help open space to discuss events with students.
Resources for the Day After Horrible Events
Here are some resources that can help us navigate conversations the day after events occur. I am writing this in the wake of the terrible murders of Asian women in Georgia so I include some resources specifically related to addressing Anti-Asian racism.
How to Have Difficult Conversations with Students
- Teaching in the Wake of Violence (Facing History) – This article provides 5 strategies for engaging students with conversations about violent events in the news.
- Leading Conversations After Crisis (Learning for Justice) – This article focuses on the 2021 Capitol attack, but the strategies for discussing such events are relevant to other events as well.
- Caring for Students in the Wake of a Traumatic News Event (EducationWeek) – Again, this is framed around the attack on the Capitol but includes strategies for leading a conversation and caring for students that are applicable more broadly.
- Talking with Kids about School Violence and Trauma (Scholastic) – A Q&A with a trauma specialist around strategies to help students cope with trauma.
Addressing Anti-Asian Racism
- Combatting Anti-Asian Racism (Harvard GSE) – Article providing strategies based in restorative justice to counter stereotypes and discrimination.
- Addressing Anti-Asian Bias (Learning for Justice) – This article provides some historical information on Anti-Asian bias and resources to help combat bias with your students.
- Statement of Anti-Asian Racism (NCTM & other Math Ed Organizations) – A statement that condemns the rise in Anti-Asian Racism and also provides additional resources for addressing this issue with students.
I know it might seem hard or scary to make space for these conversations in your mathematics classroom, but we must commit to these conversations if we are teach mathematics humanely. The common aspects of advice across all the resources are to open space to discuss these events, allow students to share their thoughts and feelings, and bring in the facts and resources. Make sure to work with your colleagues (including counselors) for additional guidance and support; you don’t have to do this alone.