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Real Life Lessons- AKA- How to get Through Class Today

By January 7, 2021News

This morning, my heart hurts. Yesterday’s surreal events at the Capitol brought another level of chaos and uncertainty into our homes and classrooms. I feel weary for my colleagues: teachers who are already being asked to stretch every skill they have to the brink will now be tasked with explaining, debriefing, and reflecting on an event that hasn’t happened in our country in over 200 years. 


There are days for acquisition, proficiency, and growth within specific content areas. Today is not one of those days. Today, I encourage you to focus on the more essential growth that our students need to be able to become the proactive, caring citizens that our country is begging for. Lean into the hard work that does not give immediate gratification, but instead bolsters a root system for global citizens and leaders. Here are some ways we can dive into uncertain conversations with students:


Emotions check- Take the time to allow each student to share out how they are feeling. Each of us is likely feeling more than one emotion at a time. Prompt for 2 emotions. They can share out orally using the activity “I’m In”, draw emojis on a post it note,  jamboard, or respond in the chat. Another possibility is to act out the emotions within the virtual circle. The essential piece to an emotions check is that each student’s emotions are validated and given space. This may be in a private chat message acknowledging that you see your student’s drawing, a shout out to each individual action, or saying “thank you” and “I see you” after each student shares. 


Free Write- A natural first instinct when unsettling events occur is to jump in and start talking about it. Single voices however, can overtake the space, prohibiting other students from forming and/or sharing their own opinions. After acknowledging what has occurred with a brief, non-judgmental synopsis (this could be your own words, a video of a news report, pictures) prompt your students to write for 5-10 minutes. Encourage them to move their pencil the entire time, even if they are only producing doodles. This provides each student their own time and space to process the information and contemplate it on their own. Use this time yourself to write as well! Modeling the strategy, and processing your own opinions on paper before sharing will help you to form and develop your own thoughts.


Pull in literacy- Depending on the age and maturity level of your students, the multiliteracies posted everywhere in the last 24 hours can be used to demonstrate different perspectives of the events:

  • Watch the statements of your congressional representatives.
  • Read tweets from world leaders.
  • Compare and contrast pictures from Capitol Riots to the Black Lives Matter protests.

Guided Conversations- Moments of uncertainty like this cause a plethora of emotions, experiences and realities for students. Guided conversations can be a constructive way to raise awareness, see and hear students’ points of view, and begin to deconstruct some of the more damaging systems that are revealed. Remind students that they only need to share what they feel comfortable talking about. Encourage students to find similarities with other students to underscore that they are not alone.

  • What are you feeling after yesterday’s events?
  • Were there moments that surprised, angered, saddened you?
  • What are you doing to step away and take care of yourself?
  • What is something we can do to give ourselves control in this situation?

These are difficult conversations to have. They are valuable and essential for our students, particularly students of color and other minority groups, to feel supported and validated, and are fundamental for educating other students as well. 


Self Care- Navigating days like today necessitates educators who have taken care of themselves; and continue to take care of themselves throughout the difficulties. Making sure your cup is full is essential to tending to those around us. If you’re looking for self care ideas, Emma shared some beautiful tools to help you manage. 


As we muddle through today, I leave you with this centering thought that was a part of my morning meditation: “I will take time each day to drop the stories, and rest in the silence of who I really am”. At some point today, drop the stories, the noise, and the chaos. Listen to your mind and body, breathe and release the pain that you’re feeling. Let go of any outcome and just be. Be gentle with yourself and your students today. We all need an extra dose of love.